In an effort that might be deemed a case of too little, too late, some Guangdong high schools are playing catch-up in teaching traditional Chinese culture by introducing textbooks from Taiwan. A pilot scheme at a handful of high schools in the city will see how well the imported textbooks fit in with local teaching of traditional Chinese studies, with a focus on the classics. It will also be the first time modern mainland schools study Confucian classics in a systematic manner. Traditional Chinese culture has not been a mainstay of mainland schooling, but experts say the move will help students narrow the knowledge gap with their Taiwan compatriots. Nanfang Daily reported recently that a modified version of an introductory course on Chinese traditional culture will be introduced in some Guangdong high schools. The two-part course, comprising 22 units, will focus on the Four Books of Confucianism: The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, Analects and Mencius. Zhu Ziping, principal of the Affiliated High School of South China Normal University (SCNU), said the school had offered Chinese studies as an elective subject for junior and high school students since the 1990s. But a lack of systematic textbooks had always been an issue, and students had to supplement their courses by going online to conduct research or find relevant texts. "This series of textbooks will fill a lot of blanks in [traditional Chinese studies education] on the mainland," Zhu said. Professor Chu Zhaohui , a researcher at the National Institute of Education Sciences, welcomed the initiative. "Taiwan has been outstanding in fostering Chinese studies. This will raise the mainland's level of education in this subject, and that is a good thing," he said. While some private publishers on the mainland have tried producing similar textbooks, they remain untested by large numbers of students and teachers, Chu said. "Taiwan, on the other hand, is very mature in this regard," he added. Chinese studies are currently being offered as part of the high school curriculum as an elective subject, but students are not tested on the subject in their university entrance exams. Chu said mainland schools were strictly managed by the government, and students were taught and drilled in patriotic political education that focused on loyalty to the party instead of the promotion of traditional Chinese culture. "Students are being taught to love the country without explaining the more intrinsic values of the culture," Chu said. "Studying Chinese classics will help put things into perspective as they explain one's relationship with the nation. For too long, these internal elements have been neglected." In the past decade, mainland parents have renewed their interest in traditional Chinese values, becoming more concerned about the lack of philosophical grounding in modern schooling. More parents in Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu are enrolling their children in alternative schools dedicated to ancient philosophical studies, including Confucius, Mencius, the Four Books and the Five Classics, to reverse a perceived moral decline blamed for numerous social ills. But it is felt that there are still serious pitfalls in how these are taught. The Taiwanese publisher, Chung Hwa, chose four Guangdong high schools to trial the teaching of Chinese traditional culture. They include the Affiliated High School of SCNU; Shenzhen Middle School; Xinfeng County Number One Middle School in Shaoguan, and the Shenzhen High School of Science. Commenting on the move, Dr Zhou Yun of South China University of Technology's school of political sciences, said the inadequacy of traditional Chinese cultural education on the mainland was "almost pathetic". "What does it say about how traditional culture is taught on the mainland when we have to borrow textbooks from Taiwan?" Zhou said. "Such inadequate teaching has left generations of mainlanders knowing next to nothing about their traditional culture," he said. Zhou said he believed that traditional cultural studies were imperative. "At a minimum, students should at least know where the Chinese come from and what their roots are," he said.