Unfortunately, the situation of ethics education in China is still inadequate at all levels, while the times are already quite different now. Classes usually are huge in size, sometimes up to hundreds. Teachers have not received qualified training in ethics and teaching. Most of the ethics textbooks are very similar to each other, which do not include the related literature or updated theories and concepts, as compared with the respective international standards. Education of ethics is usually very far away from the practical problems and real-life situation. All of above leads to frustration on the teachers' side, and students regard ethics as being tedious, dry and meaningless.
The situation of ethics education in China should be changed in any senses. I would include the teaching of value and significance of traditional Chinese ethics, the principles and ideals from Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism in facing modern bioethical issues. The basic Confucian idea is ren, which means “loving people” The golden rule is: “What you do not wish for yourself do not do to others”, and “After establishing yourself, you should help others to establish themselves; after you develop yourself, you should help others to develop themselves”. This is consistent with the Western principle of “good”: “To do to others only what you wish others to do to you”. I would also include some classical and modern western theories, such as Marxism. Marxist theory teaches us the pursuit of a just and equal society.
In cooperation with the international project of “bioethics education for informed citizens across cultures” that initiated by Darryl Macer, a new approach of teaching bioethics has been introduced at both the high school and college levels in China since 2003. The students of all ages can reason about ethical dilemmas in every country. They are capable of critical reflection and ethical reasoning. However, teachers are not fully equipped with the necessary bioethics knowledge to meet the challenges of innovations of teaching in China. There is a need for bringing the teachers with recent discipline of bioethics. The inclusion of bioethics in classroom curricula is essentially important.
High school students are at the right age to consider bioethics issues. They want to know of the world around them, understand of political, social and cultural factors that influencing the development of science, and recognize the benefits and risks of new technologies. Lectures to high school students do not have to be long. However, it is important to give a broad view of the field. The main purpose is to arouse an interest in the problem area and let students to think more about it. In my lectures I would like to start with the familiar, and use what the students know to bring them to topics they want to learn more about. Discussion is a very important part of such course and very welcome by the students. Ask students to explain why your choice seems like the best one to you. What personal values are involved in making this decision? Are you satisfied with your finial decision? Why or why not? In particular, while teaching, I would feel obliged to raise the students’ awareness of the issues that directly related to the poor or disabled people. What are their rights? How should we respect and promote their rights? It is also important that the students get an introduction to the current debate in China as well as to the general international debate.
12 trials were conducted at the Middle School Attached to Beijing Normal University from September to December, 2003. The name of the course is bioethics, as one of the alternative courses of biology. The plenary teachers of the department of biology participated in this program, and there were 28 of the second year students attended the course voluntarily. 80 minutes for each class, and the materials are short chapters in English. The lectures that were given are: making choices, diversity and bioethics; genetic privacy and information; brain death; organ donation (heart transplant); ethical limits of animal use; ecotourism; lifestyle and fertility; assisted reproductive technology; genetically modified foods; telling the truth about terminal cancer; AIDS and bioethics and sustainable development.
The bioethics courses have different curricular goals, for students at different levels of education. Lectures were given to the university students too. They are 20-year old or so and have experienced more things than high school students. The medical and nurse students are generally very interested in ethical aspects of their specialty and future practice. I believe that teachers in medical schools carry a particular task of responsibility and have a privileged chance to promote a humane society.