Educational transfer is a world-wide process in the recent two centuries (Kertz-Welzel, 2014, p. 93). As a Chinese music student who loves history, I have learned and observed a lot of phenomena that are in conjunction with educational transfer in contemporary history of China. After I came to Canada, I started to realize that there are differences in various aspects between Chinese higher education system and Canadian counterpart, and I would like to share my personal learning experiences in this two systems.


When China adopted the western higher education system into China education system in 1910s (Sang, 1989), the content of Chinese traditional culture was reserved from within. In the aspect of music education, Chinese traditional music teaching and learning were put into this education system. In terms of education setting, there are either “Chinese Music Department” or “National Music Department” set in most of the music institutions in China. This approach borrows western higher education system and makes it fit into the Chinese contexts. Thanks to this educational transfer, western music is also used into Chinese music creation and performance. For example, a Chinese traditional piece Colorful Clouds Chasing the Moon was rearranged based on western compositional approach, which successfully combines Chinese pentatonic scale with the form of piano playing. In addition, piano is commonly used as the accompaniment of Chinese traditional music instruments playing, which brings the latter into more formal stage and academic research.

In the aspect of music theory learning, there is also a combination of western music and Chinese music. In his music theory learning textbook “Basic Music Theory”, Li (2005) compiles Chinese traditional modes analyzing approach into the modes analysis session. This approach borrows western music system to combine with analysis of Chinese pentatonic scales, six-tone scales, and seven-tone scales. For the students who are planning to study music as their major, mastering this modes analysis approach in Li’s book (2005) is required in the Chinese higher institutions music entrance exams. Borrowing ideas of western higher education system and western music system both benefit the development of Chinese traditional music education and research.


There are also obstacles in Chinese higher education system in the China’s context. To my point of view, some visible or invisible “hierarchy situations” exist due to many reasons. When I started to study in Canada, I was surprised by the course syllabi that I was shown in each course. It was because when I took undergraduate courses in China, I could not know the course procedures or which topics would be covered in the beginning of the semester. Besides that, almost every class in my undergraduate studies was simply taught in the lecture setting. Active learning and interaction among students were rarely valued in Chinese higher education. Students’ opinions on the professors’ and lecturers’ teaching styles did not matter. There were no things like course evaluation for the students at the end of every semester. In addition, some professors seemed to have very strong self-esteem on students’ attendance issues. For example, a professor who taught us Chinese ancient history course failed all the students in one department, because he believed that some students in that department absented his class several times. Things like that happened from time to time during my undergraduate period, which leave me the impression of the unorganized higher education teaching and the assessment system at that time.

All the obstacles discussed above result in the relative low efficiency on running Chinese higher education. In this context, students and students learning outcomes are under control of the superior – teaching staff and institutional leaders. Critical thinking and problematic methodology are not valued. The primary rule to evaluate a student is that whether he/she obeys the requirements of the superiors.

Higher Education’s Hierarchy

Grant (2000) mentions many Eastern European countries borrow Soviet Union’s educational ideas because of reasons like “political atmosphere” (p. 314). Similarly, politics profoundly impacts Chinese higher education, even though this kind of idea was not borrowed from other countries. A Chinese characteristic feature of Chinese higher education is that all the institutions are in charge of the China Communist Party. There always exists the Party Organization in every institution. Also, some research that are related to education democracy can hardly be put into effort. For example, when I intended to do a research that was relevant to administerization in my conservatory, my advisor suggest me not doing it. He said, “I’m afraid you cannot collect the data from our school because you are going to critically analyze them.”


Educational transfer is a complicated process when different contexts are taken into account. As Grant (2000) argues, “It is possible to examine one’s own system critically from the inside, but it is more difficult without a comparative perspective” (p. 315). On one hand, cultural and political reasons may hinder the development of Chinese higher education. On the other hand, there are also noticeable celebration in this process (Crossley, 2000). Thus, solutions that can be practically implemented are needed to the problematic situations of the contexts.


Crossley, M. (2000). Bridging cultures and traditions in the reconceptualisation of comparative and international education. Comparative Education, 36(3), 319-332. doi:10.1080/713656615.

Grant, N. (2000). Tasks for comparative education in the new millennium. Comparative Education, 36(3), Special number (23): Comparative education for the twenty-first century, 309-317.

Kertz-Welzel, A. (2014). The policy of educational transfer and international music education. In R. Gouzouasis (Ed.) Policy and media in and for a diverse global community (pp. 93-98). The Commission on Music Policy: Culture, Education, and Media for the International Society for Music Education in conjunction with the University of British Columbia. Retrieved from

Li, C. (2005). Basic music theory (1st edition). Beijing: Higher Education Publisher. (2011, April 13). “Lang Lang and Guo Gan — The Horse Race” [YouTube]. Project: Music. Retrieved from

Sang, B. (1989). The upsurge of establishing schools and social transition in the late Qing dynasty. History research, 6, 9111012.

Tracy Lee (2014, May 16). “Yundi Li – Colourful Clouds Chasing the Moon” [YouTube]. Project: Music. Retrieved from


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