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Tao Xingzhi (1891–1946) was one of the most influential educators in twentieth-century China. His theories (based on the ideas of the US education reformer John Dewey) evolved throughout his life, but his core ideology of national reconstruction through “life education” remained. Tao’s many accomplishments include the founding of Xiaozhuang School, Yucai School, and Chongqing Social University. “The great educator of the people” is the most widely studied modern educator in China today.
Tao Xingzhi 陶行知 (1891–1946) was one of the most creative and influential educators in twentieth-century China. He devoted his life and energy to working for national reconstruction in a China that was large and populous, but economically and educationally underdeveloped. Tao was an educational revolutionary who was very critical of both traditional and modern education, considering them elitist, impractical, ineffective, and alienating for individuals and the society at large. His major achievement was embodied in his theory and practice of “life education” (shēnghuó jiàoyù 生活教育), which aimed at making education practical, experience-based, and transformative—as well as available to all. Tao believed that a “life education” achieved by integrating the hands and mind of the individual, school and society, and education and life would turn individuals into productive and creative human beings, eliminate class divisions and social barriers, and rebuild society from the bottom up. The result would be working-and-learning communities whose members would work together, learn from each other, and care for and help each other.