After this year’s General Scholastic Ability Test, which took place in the middle of last month, National Chengchi University law professor Yang Shwu-wen (楊淑文) said that a test question about the Civil Code on the subject of social studies was obviously wrong.
Later, dozens of law professors signed a petition, complaining that the College Entrance Examination Center’s questions on law tests are often seriously flawed and saying that law-related chapters in senior-high school Civics and Society textbooks are overly trivial and fragmented, which they said could make it impossible to achieve the educational goal of providing legal literacy.
The excessive triviality and fragmentation of law-related education has been a problem for years in junior and senior-high school teaching materials. These teaching materials are hard to comprehend for teachers without a legal background and ruin students’ interest in studying law, a key social mechanism. This does not help boost teenagers’ awareness of the spirit of rule of law.
The seven law-related chapters in Volume 3 of the senior-high school Civics and Society textbook include basic legal concepts and framework, the Constitution and human rights, administrative law and life, the Civil Code and life, the Criminal Code and life, and various conflict resolution mechanisms.
It takes university law students three years to learn all this, so surely it is difficult for senior-high school teachers to “briefly and concisely” touch on these issues covered in more than 100 pages in less than a semester.
Take the chapter on administrative law, for example. The principles of “statutory reservation,” “legal certainty” and “explicit delegation” in the textbook are complex even for university students.
The Criminal Code chapter includes the three-stage theory of crime — which haunted me for a long time during my freshman year at law school.
With teaching materials like this, even if the teachers are outstanding law school graduates, they would struggle to make senior-high school students understand such vague concepts in the limited class hours available. Taiwanese are citizens of a nation governed by the rule of law, but does everyone really need to master these legal terms?
These kinds of teaching materials confuse teachers and students who are unable to digest the information. Also, restricted by the multiple-choice question format, test-givers are unable to choose material from textbooks to test students’ memorization skills.
In practice, the problem is that in the government’s overall curriculum guidelines, law-related textbook chapters are mistakenly treated as loose introductions to legal disciplines rather than as a fundamental introduction to law.
Civic education should focus on the cultivation of a modern citizenry with a modern civic awareness, but Taiwan instead takes lightly political interference in judicial trials, disobeys the results of national referendums and constitutional interpretations, and disrespects international covenants on human rights recognized internally by legislation.
Public figures are even applauded for abusing civil disobedience. This shows that there is a serious lack of will to follow the spirit of the rule of law. It is clear that the trivial and fragmented civic and legal education in senior-high school cannot help the nation cultivate a citizenry abiding to the spirit of the rule of law or with loyalty to the entire legal system.
If Taiwanese do not want their children to misunderstand or show contempt for the law, significant adjustments to law-related education in senior-high school is absolutely necessary.
Bruce Liao is an associate professor of law at National Chengchi University.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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