Thu, Oct 02, 2003 - Page 8 News List

New history guidelines a good choice

By Liao Long-sheng 廖隆盛

The new guidelines for senior-high school history education -- which will soon be published by the Ministry of Education -- have raised doubts from scholars concerned about history education. These scholars have said that the guidelines present a politicized view of history crafted by former president Lee Teng-hui's (李登輝) "special state-to-state" model of cross-strait relations. Based on my years of contact with history pedagogy and experience in guiding Taiwan's senior-high-school history education, I have several suggestions.

The first major change under the guidelines is to make Taiwan's history a separate text, making it the first volume of senior-high school history textbooks to be taught in the first semester of the first year. Generally, the principle of history pedagogy is to start from the modern and work backward to the ancient. For years, the content of Taiwanese history has been scattered in the chapters and sections related to Chinese his-tory. Such content has been simplified and lacks consistency and completeness. In view of this a single Taiwanese history textbook would be more progressive and reasonable.

The current textbook has five sections about Taiwan during the Qing dynasty, which account for as much as 30 percent of the entire book. The political and social changes and economic and cultural development of Taiwan have been intricate and rich for the more than half of a century since World War II. But there are only four sections on this period, which account for fewer than one fourth of the whole book. This does not tally with the principle of "simplifying the ancient times and detailing the modern times," and should therefore be adjusted.

The second major change is that ancient Chinese history from the ancient periods to the early Ming dynasty will be taught later in the second semester. But modern Chinese history -- from mid-Ming onward -- will be merged into modern world history to be taught in the second year.

This change has raised doubts from the pro-unification camp -- which has voiced its suspicion that it is a move to eliminate "reference to the Republic of China [ROC]" from history textbooks, a move that "equals desinicization," and may cause "identity confusion."

In fact, interconnectedness of the world's major regions has increased. In order to develop a healthy and complete international view among citizens, the academics who compiled the pedagological guidelines had tried to integrate Chinese and world history with the past. But they eventually gave up due to the difficulties encountered in trying to compile a textbook and then integrate the guidelines in actual classrooms.

This time, the ministry's guideline committee chose to integrate the modern histories of China and the world at large, so students can compare and contrast as they go and broaden their horizons. It's a reform that deserves our recognition. People should not worry about Chinese history melding into world history.

Apart from the first-year senior-high course "The History of Ancient China" and four sections about China in the second-year modern world history course, there are another five sections partly related to the topic in the second-year modern world history. In addition, there is an elective course called "The History of Chinese Culture" for third-year students. Thus, Chinese history will take a large portion of the entire senior-high history education. Negative comments such as "desinicization" and "identity confusion" are exaggerated.

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