Humility as a concept has recently received increasing scholarly attention in international scholarship. It has also been regarded as important for education traditionally in Chinese culture. However, no empirical research so far has examined Chinese people’s conceptualisations of humility in education and its cultivation in schools. Based on semi-structured interviews, this exploratory study examined urban teachers’ conceptions of humility and their experiences of cultivating humility in mainland Chinese schools. Our findings highlight the multiplicity and complexity of conceptualisations of humility and the challenges faced by the teachers in cultivating humility. The study also raises questions about the politics of practicing humility and the complex entanglements between moral values and social norms and relations, inviting more research to examine the complex implications of moral virtues that are promoted in schools and wider societies around the world. Despite their recognition of the potentially negative consequences of humility such as avoidance from competition and entailing emotional constraints, the teachers regarded humility as a predominantly positive moral concept important for learning, teaching, and teacher–student relationship. Meanwhile, they associated it with disciplinary dispositions such as being quiet, subtle, cautious, or dutiful. The teachers’ attempts to cultivate it among their students were highly contingent, however, due to various challenges, including a lack of teacher training and limited textbook contents on humility, the exam-orientedness of the Chinese education system, and the perceived individualistic dispositions of Chinese students. Copyright © 2022 Education Research Institute, Seoul National University.
CitationYing, J., Yan, F., Harrison, M. G., & Jackson, L. (2022). Humility and its cultivation in Chinese schools: An exploratory study into teachers’ perspectives. Asia Pacific Education Review. Advance online publication. doi: 10.1007/s12564-022-09800-6