On the first day after the end of the Lunar New Year holidays, the Civics Teachers Action Alliance issued an announcement protesting against the “minor adjustments” the Ministry of Education is making to the high-school curriculum guidelines, saying that these violate procedural justice and demanding a further review. This has to be the first time in several decades that high-school civics teachers have taken it upon themselves, moved to act by their principles and their beliefs about the freedom of education, to organize a protest against the ministry.
Constitutionally, in terms of the powers and obligations of the provision of education, the curriculum guidelines are to lay out the basic framework of what is to be taught in schools and what standards are to be met in the review and final approval of textbooks in order to guarantee citizens’ rights in terms of the education they receive.
In Article 3 of the Central Regulation Standard Act (中央法規標準法), the curriculum guidelines are referred to as “guidance rules” or guidelines. Further, above and beyond involving the state’s powers — and indeed their limits — regarding the provision of education, they also affect the freedom of education of the public, and upon people’s rights in terms of receiving education. This means that, in addition to the legally binding curriculum guideline reinforcements due to be implemented in August of this year in Articles 6, 8, 43 and 46 of the Senior High School Education Act (高級中等教育法), the curriculum guidelines are legally on the same level as other statutory regulations concerning citizens’ rights and obligations, all of which need to comply with the requirements concerning due process of law found in the Administrative Procedure Act (行政程序法).
These requirements, in addition to needing to be both organizationally and procedurally correct, are there to ensure the active participation throughout of everyone concerned, so that the process can be implemented properly.
Setting aside for the moment the discussion on whether these high-school curriculum guideline amendments are necessary, their sole legal basis resides in the second paragraph of Article 8 of the Senior High School Act (高級中學法), which states: “The central designated educational authority shall prescribe curriculum standards, curriculum outlines and facilities standards for each of the various categories of senior high school.”
However, this piece of legislation is due to be scrapped and replaced by the Senior High School Education Act, Article 43, which merely states: “The central competent authority shall stipulate senior high schools’ curricular guidelines and relevant regulations of their implementation to serve as a guide for schools’ planning and implementation of curriculum.”
However, the Senior High School Education Act has yet to have legal effect, since it was only recently passed by the legislature, and has not been implemented. Will the public — in the future — then be able to refuse to obey curriculum guidelines that were amended on the basis of a law that will have already been abolished?
This could be the source of potential legal conflicts.
Furthermore, from the way the ministry has gone about these “minor adjustments” to the curriculum guidelines, it seems to have deliberately attempted to circumvent the procedural requirements, as stipulated in the statutory regulations, of proposing, informing, holding hearings and holding reviews on these guidelines.