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The Firsts and Pioneers

Li Jianxun

 

 

Li Jianxun, also known as Xiangchen, was originally from Qingfeng County of Zhili (now Hebei) Province. He was a pioneer in the study of educational administration systems in China. There is a saying in the field of education that, “Tao is in the South and Li is in the North”, referring to the two major well-known educational figures in China, Tao Xingzhi and Li Jianxun.

 

Li Jianxun, was born in 1884, graduated from the Normal Class of Peiyang University in 1908, and then in the early years of the Republic of China, continued his studies in the Hiroshima Normal College in Japan He went to study in the United States in 1917. After he obtained his Master of Education from Columbia University, he returned to China and served as the Director of the Education Research Office at Peking Normal College, and then from October 1921 to January 1922, as president of Peking Normal College. In 1923, he went back to Columbia University to pursue a doctorate degree, and then on obtaining the degree, he returned to China and taught at Southeast University and Tsinghua University. He went to study in the United States in 1917. After he obtained his Master of Education from Columbia University, he returned to China and took up the position as Director of the Education Research Office at Peking Normal College. He was the President of Peking Normal College, from October 1921 to January 1922. In 1923, he returned to Columbia University to pursue a doctorate degree, and then on obtaining the degree, he returned to China and taught at Southeast University and Tsinghua University.

 

In 1929, Li Jianxun returned to Beijing Normal University and served as Chair of the Education Department, Dean of the Education College, and Director of Education Research Institute, and after the liberation, Vice President of Tianjin Normal College and Member of the Culture and History Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. In 1976, he passed away.

 

Li Jianxun devoted his life to the cause of education, and made immense contribution to the establishment of the system of “normal college education” in China. His ideology of “normal college education”, the training of teachers, was of practical significance. It could be fair to say that his students are all over the world.

 

Li Jianxun was born on April 11th, 1884 to an impoverished family in Qingfeng county of Zhili province. In 1893, his uncle introduced him to a Sishu (old- county of Zhili province. In 1893, his uncle introduced him to a Sishu (old-style private Chinese school) where he could treceive education for free. Later when the Qing government abolished the imperial examinations and started to adopt the western schooling system, Li was admitted by the Daming Middle School with the highest score. He was diligent in his studies and finished the four-year-course in two and a half years. In 1905, he was selected to study at Zhili High School, which later became the Preparatory school of Peiyang University, and enabled him to continue his studies in the “Normal Class”, teacher training, in Peiyang University. Upon his graduation in 1908, he was sent by the Education Department, to study abroad at Hiroshima Normal College in Japan.

 

In that time, the group of Chinese students lived, ate, and studied together with Japanese students and were often victims of discrimination and humiliation because of their low economic status. The pride of being a Chinese urged Li to dedicate himself to his studies, and surpass any of the Japanese students in all subjects. There was once a sumo wrestling match where he defeated seven or so opponents, leaving the Japanese students dumbfounded. During the time of his studies in Japan, he was determined that he would excel in his studies, return and devote himself to his home country. In 1915, he finished his studies and returned to China.

 

After returning to China, Li Jianxun served as Shixue (educational inspector) of Zhili Province. He spent a substantial time examining and inspecting all kinds of schools and at all levels. Li paid major emphasis to the idea that the key to building a good school rested with the principal and the teaching staff. A principal must be righteous, professionally competent and experienced in managing the school; teachers must be competent, well-trained professionally, and virtuous as well as be a role model for others. He placed importance on the cause of education, and in order to maintain the teaching quality he dismissed five principals and about twenty teachers, some of whom were his schoolmates and relatives of the Head of the Educational Department. The education system in Zhili province was, because of that, inspired and refreshed.

 

In 1917, recommended by Yan Fansun, Li Jianxun went on government funds to the Teachers College, Columbia University to study Education Administration, Education Statistics and Educational Affairs Investigation. He was diligent in his studies and obtained his bachelor degree in 1918, and a master degree in 1919. In the US he observed and studied the different types of schools, different levels of education, and all forms of educational administration and organizations.

 

Li Jianxun finished his studies and returned to China in 1921 and worked as the President of Peking Normal College (formerly Peking Normal University), Professor in the Education Department, and Director of Education Research Institute, and since then had made fundamental contribution to the development of “Normal Education”.

 

In August 1923, Li Jianxun resigned from his post as President of Peking Normal University and accepted the appointment as the Chinese representative to attend the World Education Conference in Los Angeles in US. After the conference, he went again to Columbia University to study and obtained his PhD in 1925. The dissertation Some Phases of Popular Control of Education in the United States was a scientific analysis and study of educational administration written by Li, as an international student from China.

 

Li Jianxun returned to China in 1925 and held teaching posts at Tsinghua University and Peking University. In 1929, he returned to Peking Normal University as Dean of the Education College, Chair of Education Department and Director of the Education Research Institute. Since then, he was dedicated to educational administration studies, emphasizing education legislation, and he first started the course “Educational Administration”. Li’s idea of educational administration is an important component of his education ideology, which included three aspects, promoting education legislation, the scientification, and the democratization of educational administration. His idea of educational administration provided a valuable reference to the educational system and reforms of today, as well as the development of education in China for the future.

 

Li Jianxun devoted his life to the cause of education in China. His had many very successful students, including Li Zheng, Yang Xiufeng, Chang Daozhi, Xu Shiju, Wu Xinzi and other well-known figures in the world of education. It could be fair to say that his students were all over the world.

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