The economic literacy among the Chinese high school students I.

Ancient Chinese Education

Written by Wu Xintian, Wang Yanglitao and Lu Tongzhong


In today’s society, mankind is at a turning point in the context of the fourth industrial revolution and changes in new technologies and production models, which is raising a higher requirement for the future labor. In this article, we look at the economic facets of basic education in China, since the mindset of young people is vital to developing a prosperous and better future civilization for mankind. The main topic of our paper is to analyze economic literary level of the average high school students to assume how they can react and make contribution to the coming fourth industrial revolution and the future civilization. The research relies on the materials of Chinese high school students’ actual textbooks related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and Economics, and the book The Future of Humanity: Global Civilization and China’s Rejuvenation by Professor Jin Zhouying. During the process of research, we found that, on the one hand, basic economics knowledge during the middle school period is helpful to students’ daily life. On the other hand, some of the economics knowledge learned by middle school students cannot catch up the trends and the texts are scattered in different subject textbooks. Therefore, due to innovative knowledge of youth the relevant high school economics textbooks should be more keeping up with the times and provide more systematic and professional economic knowledge.


Over the centuries, the industrial revolution has made an unparalleled contribution to the progress of human civilization. However, it has been neglected that soft technologies are the force that will ultimately drive the industrial revolution and “the engine of human social progress” (Zhouying, Jin, 2016). In today’s society, humanity is at a turning point in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the transformation of new technologies and production models. Following the previous three Industrial Revolutions, we realized that it is not enough to simply improve the growth of industries; we desperately need a great society in order to progress sustainably in the future, and to bring forward the best way to turn our civilization to a greater position, on the level of human civilization, and even on a global civilization. Taking China as an example, the country has now surpassed the global level in technological growth and is fast-developing country. As the representative of Eastern civilization, it offers a moral philosophy thinking that can be used to guide future civilization. The most profound change in society is dependent on people’s ideas and practices, because if we try to change the emergence of a civilized social environment, develop people’s civilized minds and spirits, or take a set of acts conducive to the future civilization, it all comes down to people. In this article, we will look at the economic facets of basic education in China, since the mindset of young people is vital to developing a prosperous and better future civilization for mankind. By taking a closer look at the current state of basic education, we need to come up with a unique model of basic education for them and prepare them to become more creative potential in the context of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

The main topic of our paper is to analyze economic literary level of the average high school students to assume how they can react and make contribution to the coming fourth industrial revolution and the future civilization. What is more, now we are at the turning point of making our way to the future civilization for both China and the global world. A connected global, sustainable and creative civilization is prospective and the education is a primary factor of promoting that great civilization to be achieved, thus, we need to dig into the economic life of the high school students who are the main labors and future makers in the fourth industrial revolution period.  Generally speaking, for young people, knowledge of economics is the main reason for classrooms in schools. Therefore, the economic teaching part of China’s basic education is extremely important to our research. In China’s basic education system, elementary schools account for six years, and junior high and high schools account for three years. On average, Chinese teenagers enter high school from the age of fifteen. The two compulsory subjects of Politics and History contain a lot of enlightenment knowledge in economics (the rest of other compulsory subjects in high school are Mandarin Verbal, Mathematics, English or Japanese depending on the language the students choose for college entrance examination, Geography, Physics, Chemistry and Biology). Due to the unified national college entrance examination, although the textbook versions are not completely the same in various regions in China, the overall knowledge system and framework tend to be consistent. In this paper, we will take the high school students in China as example to analyze their economic literacy to see if they will behave well in the coming turning point of the fourth industrial revolution and the sustainable future civilization.

In this article, we have used the textbooks of Chinese high school students studying history and politics as a basis, combined with the book The Future of Humanity: Global Civilization and China’s Rejuvenation by Professor Jin Zhouying, and searched for relevant data, news reports, and literature. Through the study, we found and demonstrated that the current literacy level of high school students, as future workers in China, about the economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution, in order to infer the future role of this group in promoting China’s sustainable development, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and the future global civilization. In addition, we envision the future of global civilization and call on people to achieve a great civilization through education, persuasion and other means. 


The research materials in this article are Chinese high school students and economics, actual textbooks related to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the book The Future of Humanity: Global Civilization and China’s Rejuvenation by Professor Jin Zhouying, and graph information related to China’s economic development. The research objects of this article are mainly ordinary high school students in China. Through the knowledge of economic knowledge and the degree of preparation for the fourth industrial revolution by ordinary high school students in China, we can speculate on China’s future labor in the fourth industrial revolution and future civilization Response and contribution. The research process of this paper is to evaluate the economic literacy of students by collecting the actual learning situation of students. Through the combination of Jin Zhouying’s book and the challenges in China’s economic development, achievements and future plans, he speculates on China’s attitude and blueprint for great civilization and future civilization. At the same time, future civilization is also inseparable from globalization. We will analyze the content of The Future of Humanity: Global Civilization and China’s Rejuvenation and related data to analyze the indispensable efforts we should use to achieve that great civilization and do well in the coming fourth industrial civilization. 

Chapter 1:basic information on Chinese economics learning in high school

Basic education in China is mainly composed of six-year elementary schools, three-year junior high schools and three-year high schools (divided into general high schools and vocational high schools). Among them, elementary and junior high schools belong to the nine-year compulsory education system. In 2020, the gross enrollment rate of high school in China was 91.2%, which was an increase of 4.2% compared with that rate in 2015. The main learning subjects of ordinary high schools are: Chinese, mathematics, English, physics, chemistry, biology, politics, history, geography, information technology, general technology, music, art, and physical education. At the same time, in the second year of high school, students can choose to major in liberal arts or science. The main learning subjects of ordinary high schools are: Chinese, Mathematics, foreign language, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Politics, History, Geography, Information Technology, General Technology[1], Music, Art, and Physical Education. At the same time, in the second year of high school, students can choose to major in Liberal Arts or Science. Among all the study subjects, the subjects closely related to economics are mainly Politics and History subjects. Politics and History subjects are the subjects that students are exposed to from junior high school. In high school, Politics and History have more space related to economic studies. A case in point, in Political subjects, a quarter of the learning content is economics knowledge, and students also have a textbook dedicated to economics. The main learning materials are official textbooks, teacher’s slides, related documentaries and recommended extracurricular books, such as The Economic Naturalist & Microeconomics and Behaviors (7th.) by Robert H Frank. The educational purpose of the basic knowledge of economics in the subject is to provide students with basic knowledge about market operation and provide a reference for value judgment. For example, let students understand the reasons behind price fluctuations and the choice of investment and financial management of stock funds.

Table 1:Course schedule for high school students in a regular high school[2]

Weekly schedule
Morning self-study time
Class 1PoliticsPhysicsChineseChemistryMathematics
Class 2ChemistryMathematicsMathematicsPhysicsChinese
Class 3P.E.foreign languageInformation TechnologyPoliticsforeign language
Class 4ChineseHistoryGeneral Technologyforeign languageGeography
Class 5MathematicsChineseMental health (optional)BiologyPhysics
Noon break
Class 6PhysicsChemistryforeign languageMathematicsBiology
Class 7foreign languageBiologyMusic MathematicsChemistry
Class 8GeographyResearch learningPhysicsHistoryPolitics
Class 9P.E.Research learningIndividual-electiveChineseHistory
Class 10Class meetingP.E.P.E.P.E.Class meeting

Data source:

At present, there are four versions of the history textbooks reviewed and approved by the Ministry of Education in Chinese high schools: 1. People’s Education Press; 2. People’s version; 3. Yuelu edition; and 4. Da Xiang Publishing version. Among them, the most widely applicable version is the People’s version. As for the political textbook in Chinese high school, except for Shanghai, where the Shanghai Education Press is used for high school politics textbooks, all high school students in the rest of China use the People’s Education Press.

Regarding to the history textbook, there are total eight chapters to illustrate the history of economics: the basic structure and characteristics of ancient Chinese economy, the tortuous development of modern Chinese capitalism, exploration of Cinna’s Socialist  construction road, changes in the life of modern Chinese historical society, Capitalist market going to the world, Roosevelt’s New Deal and contemporary Capitalism, experiences and lessons of Soviet Socialist construction, the globalization trend of today’s world economy; and here we focus on the world of economic globalization regards to Chapter 8. As for the contents in globalization part, we learned the establishment of the Bretton Woods system, the establishment of the direct link between the US dollar and gold, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank constitute the three pillars of the adjustment of world economy, and trade and finance. Also, it takes the European Union, the North American Free Trade Area and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Organization as examples to let us understand the development trend of global economic regional grouping, the origin and development of the World Trade Organization (WTO), and recognize its role in the globalization of the world economy.

As mentioned earlier, Chinese high school students learn economics mainly from the political textbook. Here, we will briefly describe what Chinese high school students can learn about economics in the political textbook. This political textbook can be divided into four chapters. In the first chapter, money and consumption, students basically understand the concepts of money and consumption, value and use value, commodities, the supply and demand theory, and the individual household budget. For the money part, new types of payment are mentioned such as scan to pay, unmanned supermarket, and so on. It’s one of the characteristics of hard technological part. And for the theoretical technology part, the public are encouraged to form correct consumption view. Students likewise learn about price theory, price elasticity and the theory of complementary goods and substitution, and bring economic theory into context by examining how changes in prices affect the production and operation of firms. In this chapter, the types of consumption and the structure of consumption are also studied. The main topics in Chapter 2 are the relationship between production and consumption, social reproduction, China’s basic economic system, the meaning of enterprise, enterprise mergers and bankruptcies, labor and employment, proper career choice and workers’ rights, savings and deposits and commercial banks, and financial investment methods (stocks, bonds, insurance). Here students learn some material about the development of personal financial culture, investment targets and risks, some basic entrepreneurial knowledge related to the economy. The third chapter teaches students about China’s distribution methods, the relationship between efficiency and equity, fiscal policy, taxation theory, and financial budget. Chapter 4 deals with China’s socialist market economy, and more importantly this chapter leads to economic globalization, international economic competition and cooperation (e.g., WTO).

[1] High school general technology (GT for short) refers to a technology other than information technology, which is relatively broad, reflects basic and versatility, and is different from professional technology. It is widely used in daily life and has a broad transfer value for the development of students. Technology. For example, using simple tools to make a simple design of building structure, or a learning platform based on computer technology, organic combination of mechanical transmission and the application of a single-chip computer to make a simple robot.

[2] In general, high schools in China, it usually runs from 7:30 in the morning to 6:30 in the evening, with a two-hour lunch break at noon and 45 hours at school. There are also most high schools that will add two to three classes of evening self-study after 7 pm on weekdays, or increase the time for supplementary lessons on Saturdays, but these arrangements are not mandatory by the Ministry of Education, and schools have the right to arrange additional supplementary lessons. (Generally speaking, students and parents will agree to the school’s reasonable supplementary lesson requirements).

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