Last month, a 10-member assessment task force appointed by the Ministry of Education dominated the ministry’s so-called “minor adjustments” of the high-school curriculum guidelines for Chinese literature and social sciences as they carried out President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) “sinicization” instructions.
Among the 10 professors on the task force, one is a member of a pro-unification group, and one works for the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) think tank. Since political concerns might have outweighed expertise when they decided to adjust the curriculum guidelines, their decision could be in violation of both the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法) and the Educational Fundamental Act (教育基本法). It is thus not necessary that local governments and high schools follow these “illegal” curriculum guidelines.
As a matter of fact, this minor adjustment to the curriculum guidelines involves significant constitutional rights, such as the public’s right to education. The government should therefore fully protect the public’s right to know throughout the whole decisionmaking process. However, the ministry’s black-box decisionmaking was a violation of the “openness principle” of the Administrative Procedure Act, not to mention that there was no legal basis for the organization of the task force that implemented Ma’s will.
According to Articles 11 to 19 of the Administrative Procedure Act, the task force had no authorization or qualification to propose or enforce public authority, such as adjusting the curriculum guidelines. In other words, these adjustments have no validity.
Next, as Article 2 of the Educational Fundamental Act clearly states: “The purposes of education are to cultivate modern citizens with a sense of national identity and international perspectives by fostering the development of wholesome personality, democratic literacy, ideas of rule of law, humanities virtues, patriotic education, care for their native soil and information capability.”
Article 6 of the same act also states: “Education shall be based on the principle of impartiality.”
However, when the task force, which was implementing Ma’s will, sinicized the high-school curriculum it failed to mention the People’s Republic of China (PRC) dictatorship with even a single word.
From an educational perspective and considering educational goals, this is in no way beneficial to cultivating democratic literacy and awareness of the rule of law. Even more serious, this “greater China” curriculum that follows the ideology of the previous century actually contradicts the purpose of cultivating modern citizens with a sense of national identity and international outlook. This absurd political decision also contradicts the impartiality principle.
In addition, Article 7 of the Administrative Procedure Act states that administrative acts must be performed in pursuance of the following principle: “The method adopted must be helpful to the achievement of the objectives.”
The ministry’s method of sinicizing the curriculum guidelines was not helpful to the achievement of the objectives of cultivating modern citizens with democratic literacy and awareness of the rule of law. Of course, its administrative acts were therefore in violation of the law.
Based on the above reasoning, there is no need for the public, local governments, educational institutions or high schools to abide by the adjustments which violated the law in terms of the task force’s organization, decisionmaking process and even content.