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Cautiously promoting humanism

A new Chinese school tries to promote ‘universal’ Confucian values


Charlotte Setijadi-Dunn

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   PaHoa proudly displays its name in Mandarin characters
   Charlotte Setijadi-Dunn

The new PaHoa School complex looks imposing against the flat and rather barren outer suburban landscape that surrounds it. Opened in 2008 and located within a new elite residential estate development in the Serpong area, about 30km outside of Jakarta, the private school already boasts more than 2400 students from kindergarten to high school.

At first glance, PaHoa School appears to be typical of exclusive multilingual schools that have sprung up around Jakarta and other major Indonesian cities in recent years. It offers a ‘National Plus’ curriculum taught in three languages (Indonesian, English and Mandarin), as well as state-of-the-art facilities like the latest computers, air-conditioned classrooms and a library that houses imported text books. Catering to the children of the very rich, these so-called ‘global’ schools have become popular among Indonesia’s middle to upper class families who desire an internationally focused education, prestige and security for their children.

But one thing makes the PaHoa School unique: it teaches its students Confucian moral values. The trustees say that the Confucian principles of hard work, mutual respect and filial piety are ‘universal’, and can therefore be used to teach tolerance to both Chinese and non-Chinese Indonesians.

Reviving a Chinese school

Just over a decade ago, the existence of a Mandarin-speaking, Confucian school like Pahoa would have been impossible. Although

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