Theses Doctoral

The History of the Teaching of English in Chinese Mission Schools from the Early 19th Century to 1949

Wu, Jinjin

It is well known that the Teaching of English (TOE) originated from mission schools in China. However, there has not been an exhaustive study on the evolution of the TOE in mission schools from the early 19th century to 1949. Only in recent years did missionaries’ contributions to Chinese society begin to catch more scholarly attention, but most extant studies lack enough academic scrutiny and thorough exploration. To make up for the lack of research in this area, this dissertation is intended to carry out a comprehensive study on the origination and evolution of the TOE in Chinese mission schools from the sociocultural perspective through the analysis of the curricula, textbooks, pedagogies and assessments of the TOE in mission schools at each historical period to explore its possible contributions to Chinese education and Chinese society.

Meanwhile, this study casts on a close examination on the relationship between the TOE in mission schools and the socio-historical contexts at each historical stage by positing it in the broader social and historical contexts of Chinese society to examine how the TOE in mission schools has become the unique product of the interplay of both Western Christian missions and the multi-fold sociocultural forces of Chinese society. Finally, despite the undeniable fact that the purpose for the TOE in mission schools is to expand the colonization of Western countries, the educational activities of Western missionaries including the TOE did contribute to the transformation and development of Chinese society in modern Chinese history.

Therefore, this study is intended to illustrate how the TOE in mission schools has become a constitutive part of the social progress of Chinese society and contributes to that social progress during the transitional period in the modern history of China.The originality of this research also lies in that it creatively applies the sociocultural theory of literacy to this study both as the theoretical underpinning and research methodology (in a limited way) to illustrate how the TOE in mission schools is shaped by both Western Christian Movements and the social, historical and political forces of Chinese society. The theoretical perspective informs the methodology of this study.

Due to the limitation of the data in this dissertation, this dissertation mainly employs a historical approach in the hope that the sociocultural perspectives on literacy can serve as working principles for the analysis of the complicated relationship between the TOE in mission schools and the specific contexts of Chinese society. The study is conducted from both the synchronic and diachronic perspectives at both macro- and micro-levels to demonstrate how the political upheavals, social changes and government’s education policies interacted with each other in the process of the shaping and reshaping the TOE in China.

Finally, in line with the sociocultural theory on literacy the future research will adopt the ethnographic approach entailed by the sociocultural theory to further examine how the individual experiences of the teachers and students in mission schools were shaped by the dominant historical, cultural and political contexts of Chinese society.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
English Education
Thesis Advisors
Vinz, Ruth
Blau, Sheridan
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
October 26, 2022