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Long-term orientation: Confucian values

March 19, 2008

Hello again,

Hofstede's fifth cultual dimension, long-term versus short-term orientation, is very much an east/west division. Confucianism looks at life in the long-term rather than the short-term. Confucian teaching...

... urges the obligations of relationships, family, virtuous behaviour towards others, and moderate living with individuals and societies husbanding resources. The family is the model for all social organizations, and older people have more authority than younger people, and men more than women. Relationships are of paramount importance. The Chinese term for interpersonal perseverance: guanxi, is the linking of people with highly developed relationships through mutual dependencies. In practice, guanxi places value on long-term relationships that combine practical needs with closeness.

For western teachers working in cultures with a long-term orientation, it can be quite difficult to find acceptance, as the newcomer clearly does not belong to any of these long fostered networks. Indeed, western cultures tend to be at the opposite end of the spectrum: promoting equal relationships, emphasizing individualism, and finding fulfillment through personal creativity and self-development. Asian cultures are oriented to practice and the search for virtuous behaviour while western cultures are oriented to belief and the search for truth. This can mean that the teacher experiences an extreme form of culture shock as all the values of the home culture are turned on their heads.

Teachers working in countries with long term orientation might emphasize the following in their lesson planning, teaching style and relationships with colleagues:
• choose content that is well tested and has real practical value--students are less likely to seek constant innovation
• cultivate relationships as a source of information and credibility--defer to elders and superiors in the hierarchy
• be patient in achieving results and goals--build good foundations slowly rather than try to achieve quick results.

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  1. Dominic Jermano Says:

    Thanks Brenda for your article in reminding us. Sometimes we Western teachers expect to much at times, due to how we were brought up and taught.

  1. craig b mckee, hong kong Says:

    HOney I don't know which ASIAN cultures you've been working in, but my experiences to date in China, Taiwan and Hong Kong lead me to believe that none of your "apologia" for Western mores adn attitudes is warranted. I have never seen such dishonest, backstabbing cutthroat practices all in the name of higher EXAM SCORES. Get a grip, girlfriend!

  1. Ann Says:

    Hi ! Brenda. This article reminds me of my Afro-Asian teacher who made me realize how beautiful the Confucian philosophies are...and understanding these tenets would really help teachers of differentiated cultures...

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