Authorities Ban First Shanghai Family School

August 2, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: August 2, 2006 12:00 am

TAIPEI — Shanghai authorities have banned a family school called Meng Mu Tang [*], or House of Mencius' Mother. It was the first family school in Shanghai.

The Shanghai Municipal Education Commission (SMEC) said on July 24 that Meng Mu Tang would be shut down because the school is unlawful, as it did not apply for a license from the local educational authority according to China's education law.

It also claimed Meng Mu Tang's unconventional teaching methods contravene the Compulsory Education Law of the country, and yet Meng Mu Tang was not authorized by China's price bureau to charge tuition fee.

A group of parents gave up on conventional elementary schools and sent their children to the Shanghai-based family school. Five teachers taught 12 students aged from four to 12. The courses did not include the text, English words or arithmetic as taught in the regular elementary schools. Students mainly learn through self-study and the recitation of classics, which accounts for 80 percent of the school curriculum. Teachers also gave fewer lectures.

The Shanghai-based newspaper Dongfang Daily quoted from the SMEC as saying that according to China's Compulsory Education Law, the initiators of Meng Mu Tang should follow the necessary procedures to get an approved permit from the local education bureau and register for the permit. Meng Mu Tang was regarded as illegal because it did not submit any application for approval.

The SMEC said Meng Mu Tang's teaching methods and curriculum highlighting classic texts was in violation of the education policy regulated by the Compulsory Education Law.

The Law requires that “In compulsory education, the state policy on education must be implemented to improve the quality of instruction and enable children and adolescents to achieve all-round development—morally, intellectually and physically—so as to lay the foundation for improving the quality of the entire nation and for cultivating well-educated and self-disciplined builders of socialism with high ideals and moral integrity.”

The SMEC adds that all school-aged children shall enroll in school and receive compulsory education for the prescribed number of years, regardless of sex, nationality or race. The parents did not send their children to the government approved school, which should be treated as unlawful.

The local authority of Shanghai's Shongjiang District said a decision would definitely be made before the new semester starts. They sent out a notice to Meng Mu Tang demanding that it close the school at once.

But Meng Mu Tang did not sign the notice and refused to close the school. The parents insisted they have the same opinion of education and choose the home school they feel is most appropriate for their children, instead of being offered only compulsory education choices. As guardians, parents are endowed with the right to arrange education for their children, so they feel they are not breaking the law.


* Meng Zi, known as Mencius (372-289 B.C.), is an ancient Chinese philosopher and the most famous Confucian after Confucius. Mu means a mother. Meng's mother was known for moving her home three times to avoid bad neighbors, and find a better study environment for Mengzi. Tang means a house.