Opposition lawmakers and academics accused the government of revisionism and seeking to “brainwash” students after the Ministry of Education yesterday unveiled revisions to the high school curriculum that prioritize China’s history over that of Taiwan.
The Ministry of Education will hold the first of several public hearings on the proposed history course revision in Taipei City on Thursday, overriding concerns that the new changes will subject students to yet another course overhaul, the second in the past five years.
The latest, which has been delayed since last year, will increase class time spent teaching Chinese history by 50 percent.
In accordance with the draft, the ministry plans to have high school students take one semester of Taiwanese history, one-and-a-half semesters of Chinese history and one-and-a-half semesters on world history in their first and second years.
If passed, the new curriculum could come into force in 2012.
At present, high school students spend one semester on Taiwanese history, another semester on Chinese history and two semesters on world history.
Students majoring in liberal arts are required to take history on special topics in their senior year, but students majoring in science are not.
Under the proposal, class time spent on Chinese history will increase to 24 weeks — equivalent to one-and-a-half semesters.
According to a preliminary introduction of the revision documents, the primary aim of the proposed changes is to assist students in “understanding their own cultural roots and help create a sense of self-recognition.”
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said in a statement that it opposed the proposal and called the de-emphasis on Taiwan a return to the KMT’s authoritarian roots.
“In the path to democracy, history courses have been adjusted to gradually focus more on Taiwan, but this former authoritarian government continues to use crude measures to shove its Chinese roots into the [education system],” DPP spokesperson Lin Yu-chang (林右昌) said.
DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), who sits on the Education and Culture Committee, said the ministry intended to brainwash high school students in preparation for the KMT’s planned unification with China.
“This is unacceptable,” Kuan said.
In response, KMT Legislator Hung Hsiu-chi (洪秀柱), who is also a member of the committee, said the KMT administration was simply trying to “rectify” the former DPP government’s “de-sinicization” policy.
“Descendants should never forget their ancestors or the ancestors’ culture,” Hung said.
Minister of Education Wu Ching-chi (吳清基) urged the public to respect the expertise of academics who drafted the guidelines rather than “appeal to political ideology.”
Wu said the ministry would hold four public hearings and invite the public to deliberate over the draft before it is submitted to the ministry’s Curriculum Guidelines Development Committee for final review.
The ministry plans to hold the hearings throughout the country between Thursday and Sunday.
Pro-independence groups are planning to protest Thursday’s public hearing at Zhongshan Girls High School in Taipei and have planned additional rallies for the other public hearings.
Asked for comment on the implications of the proposed curriculum, Chen Yi-shen (陳儀深), the chairperson of the Taiwan Association of University Professors, questioned whether it was excessively focused on China, a country that is relevant historically, but one that progressively less Taiwanese students identify with.