During this year's Two Sessions held in late May, some members of the 13th National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference proposed students begin learning abacus skills in primary-level mathematics classrooms across China. Currently, while abacus is taught in schools, students are not required to master abacus skills. In response to the proposal, the Ministry of Education said the group responsible for mathematics curriculum standards would decide whether abacus skills should become compulsory.
Supporters believe that learning abacus is not only a necessary platform for inheriting Chinese intangible cultural heritage but also a way to improve children's imagination and spatial thinking ability. Others believe learning abacus skills will have a detrimental effect on regular math learning, as the abacus uses a different set of mathematical rules.
Public discussion has been previously sparked by suggestions that other traditional cultural heritage, such as woodcarving and opera, be included in the national curriculum.
Discussions have centered around whether or not inclusion in the school curriculum is the best way to pass on Chinese culture, and whether students' academic burdens should be increased without their consent. The inclusion of abacus learning in the national curriculum should be the result of careful analysis by experts, as well as the result of public discussion.
This is an edited excerpt of an article originally published in Nanfang Daily on September 11
(Print Edition Title: Abacus Learning)