This month we publish the landmark Bloomsbury Library of Educational Thought in paperback for the very first time. The series of 25 books covers the work of seminal thinkers from a variety of periods, disciplines and traditions, and asks what their significance is to educational thought today.
Charlene Tan is the author of the volume on Confucius and argues that he deserves to be remembered as a progressive educator, who challenged the social norms of his time and transformed the nature of teaching and learning in China and beyond.
We caught up with Charlene to find out a little more about herself and her work.
What particular areas of education interest you and why?
I'm interested in the philosophy of education and comparative education, with a special focus on China. My background as a philosophy major and a former high school teacher explains my twin interests in philosophy and education. I'm focusing on China because I think there's so much more the world can learn about China in terms of its history, traditions and practices. I hope that through my writing, I could foster greater East-West interaction, understanding and learning.
The paperback edition of Confucius was recently published with Bloomsbury. How would you describe your book in one sentence?
The book explores the essence of Confucius' teaching, and its application to life and education in the 21st century.
When did you start researching for this book?
I started in 2011. A highlight was my research visit to two Confucius Temples in Taiwan in 2012.
Which part of writing your book have you enjoyed most?
The entire writing process was enjoyable for me. I was brought up in a Confucian environment and I studied Confucianism at university, but it was not until I wrote this book that I truly appreciated Confucius' ideas and wisdom.
How did you celebrate finishing your book?
I had a good dinner with my husband!
Any tips for people reading the book?
The first tip is to simply enjoy reading the book! Plus, it'll be great if the reader finds Confucius' teachings applicable to their lives and especially to the education of our young in the modern world we live in.
Where will your research go from here?
I'm now researching other areas of ancient Chinese philosophy, such as the concepts of teaching and learning in the classic 'Xueji' (literally 'Record of Learning'). I'm also studying how the education policy in China borrows ideas from the West and synthesises them with local thoughts and practices.
If you could have dinner with one educationalist, living or dead, who would it be?
I think it would be Confucius himself! I'm curious to know what he has to say about the state of affairs in the world today, and what he thinks policymakers and educators should do.
If you became Secretary of State for Education for the day, what would you do first?
I would stress the need to promote a more values-driven education in schools - one that inculcates in students a strong sense of shared humanity, love for others and contributing towards the larger good. These values are essentially what Confucius advocates.