Decoding Students Value Orientations
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Decoding Students Value Orientations in Contemporary China. Prof. Shu Yang China University of Mining and Technology China boasts the greatest number of EFL learners. Language learning --- culture learning A person’s mind is in a sense the centre of his identity.

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Decoding Students Value Orientations in Contemporary China

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Decoding Students Value Orientations

in Contemporary China

Prof. ShuYang

China University of Mining and Technology

China boasts the greatest number of EFL learners

Language learning --- culture learning

A person’s mind is in a sense the centre of his identity.

Therefore, western culture is assumed in a way to influence and change Chinese students’ value orientations.


A simple literature survey on CNKI by searching “student” and “value” can locate 151 papers in Chinese, many of which express a worry that Chinese students today are under the influence of western cultures, and some even call for people’s attention to “save” our young people from this influence.

CNKI: China national knowledge Internet, the biggest Chinese database for academic publications endnote

Values are assumed to be at the core of self-concept and to influence thought and action in many ways.

They are assumed to transcend specific attitudes toward objects and situations, provide standards or criteria to evaluate actions and outcomes, to justify opinions and behaviors, to plan and guide behavior, to decide between alternatives, to compare one's self with others, to engage in social interaction, and to present one's self to others.

1.1 Instruments

Rokeach Value Survey + a modified Chinese Value Survey

1. Research Method

Milton Rokeach: (1) a theoretical perspective on the nature of values in a cognitive framework, (2) a value-measurement instrument, both of which are widely used and accepted by psychologists, sociologists, economists, and others interested in understanding what values are, what people value, and what is the ultimate function or purpose of values.

RVS consists of 18 terminal and 18 instrumental values listed in alphabetical order.

Terminal values are concerned with "end states of existence", such as "a comfortable life (a prosperous life)" and "a world at peace (free of war and conflict)";

Instrumental values are concerned with "modes of conduct", e.g. being "ambitious” (hard-working, aspiring) and "honest” (sincere, truthful)

A Chinese Value Survey (CVS) used by Clyde A. Warden and Judy F. Chen (2005)

The CVS is designed to measure an individual's preference of certain Chinese specific values as important guiding principles in people’s life.

The task of the research participants is to arrange the terminal values and instrumental values in order of importance to him/her, or as guiding principles in his/her life.

1.2 Participants

students at China University of Mining and Technology (CUMT, January, 2008)

The total number of responses collected is 258, of which 253 are valid.

2. Results

Table 1: Chinese Value Survey Results (N=253)

Table 3: Bottom 10 “least” favoured values(N=253)

Table 2: Top 10 most favoured values(N=253)

3.1 Transformation of Value Orientation

In societies undergoing a dramatic transition like China, different value orientations will co-exist.

The top ten chosen terms show that the long cherished traditional Chinese values such as “filial piety”, “hardworking”, and so on, are upheld;

And the bottom ten reminds people of some obvious changes of young people’s value orientations (collective,thrift, authority, chastity in women,harmony etc.) .

3. Discussion

Most Chinese youth regard freedom, love, happiness, friendshipandself-respect as very important.

For the instrumental values, trustworthinesstakes first place, followed by filial piety, hardworking, family, knowledge/educationandfriendship,

Generally, male students tended to be more concerned with personal accomplishment, and competency related values; whereas female students were more attracted to family, moral, and more intrinsic kinds of values.

Males top 5

Females top 5

Table 6: Gender differentiated top 5 (English majors)

Two dimensions

(1) need-oriented.

(2) individualism versus collectivism.

Both pragmatism and realism are individualistically oriented, whereas the overwhelming Chinese idealism is collectivism and communism.

Underlying Structure of the Value Orientations







Physical needs

  • 3.2.1 Idealistic Value Orientation

  • In the present survey, of the top ten values (See table 2),happiness, freedom, equality, love, andtrustworthiness can be grouped under the category of spiritual needs: terminal values, while filial piety, hardworking, knowledge, self-respect and family belong to instrumental values.

Spirit needs

Instrumental values

However, if we look at them from a different angle, of the idealistic values, happiness, freedom, equality, love,self-respect and trustworthiness are all driven with individualistic motivations, that is, the pursuit of personal satisfaction.

Therefore, we might conclude that the most favoured values ticked by the Chinese students are geared towards individual development and pursuit.

3.2.2 Pragmatic Value Orientation

In the top ten chosen values, happiness, freedom, equality, love andself-respectare considered very individualistic, which were in the past regarded as the pursuit of personal interests, thus, seldom discussed in the public context.

At the same time, wealth (27.23%), a comfortable life(20.16%), and privacy(17.4%) (See the median 10 in Table 1) rank higher than the terms like collective(16.6%), power(9.49%) andauthority(0.79%) - see table 3 - also illustrate significantly that the students today are more oriented towards pragmatic values.

3.2.3 Realistic Value Orientation

Results of the present study echo the long-standing Confucian idea that filial piety is the basis which culturally defines the inter-generational relationships. These values surpass all others given ethics (65.22%, 94.83%). Filial piety as a core ethic has been continuously practised, taught and appreciated in behaviour, attitude, and belief throughout China.

3.2.4 Individualism vs Collectivism

On the one hand, the overall layout of the choices reflect a general picture of the long cherished Chinese traditional collective values;

On the other hand, some self-interest-driven motivations emerge among the most favoured values.

However, some of the values in the bottom ten are equally important to the Chinese people, the students value them at a relatively low level, such as collective (16.6%), power (9.49), authority (0.79%), harmony with others(10.67%), and respect for others(11.86%).

While the favoured top ten include values of personal attainment and subjectivity at one pole (freedom, love, happiness) and values of interrelationship dominate the other (collective, respect for others, harmony with others, power,authority) at the bottom.

1, young people’s subjective consciousness of value is awakening.

2, people’s value orientation has been shifted from uniformity to diversity, and from illusion to reality.

3, Chinese students today seem to be more individualistic, while simultaneously not forsaking their Confucian ideals.

3.3. Analysis of the Value Transformation

1. The introduction of western culture and the market economy has in a way changed people’s mind in terms of value orientation.

2. People today, esp. the university students, who are able to use English, have an easy access to a diversified range of information, such as the use of the Internet, exposure to a new culture, do show some changes in their value orientation.

4. Conclusion

3. Value priorities of the students in the survey help explain that there is a tendency for people to become more individualistically-oriented or pragmatically-oriented in outlook.

4. The study has found a weak difference between students of different majors in terms of the impact of foreign language learning on value orientations, which suggests that the change of value outlook is a complicated process in which many other factors function.


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