The Ministry of Education on Wednesday announced that courses in the nation’s native languages would be compulsory from as early as 2016, news that was welcomed by most parent groups and teachers’ organizations.
Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said that the revised education curriculum for the 12-year compulsory national education program would include Taiwanese (also known as Hoklo), Hakka and Aboriginal languages.
Chiang said that students in junior-high school would have at least one class a week learning a native language, which will be implemented by making the optional courses compulsory.
The National Academy for Educational Research is responsible for revising and updating the school curriculum for the shift to the 12-year national education program starting next year.
The native-language classes would be complulsory from grade one through grade six, consisting of one class per week. Students have the option of choosing between Taiwanese, Hakka or one of the other Aboriginal languages.
Under the current program, native languages are an optional course in junior-high school, with teachers conducting the course in the form of an extracurricular social club at most schools.
Chang Chia-yen (張嘉讌), chairperson of the Alliance for Taiwanese Mother Tongue, endorsed the new policy.
“The ministry has finally placed native languages on the list of compulsory courses. It will enable students to develop their native language learning beyond elementary school,” Chang said.
She said the ministry should also have complementary assessments for the program, such as a review of the certification process for teachers of native languages, and the need to update and develop new textbooks for junior-high students.
Union of Education in Taiwan chairperson Cheng Cheng-yu (鄭正煜) said teaching native-language courses at the junior-high level was insufficient.
“When the 12-year compulsory national education gets under way, we request that it should become compulsory from grade one all the way to grade 12. Only then can it become a genuine ‘Taiwan native language education’ program,” Cheng said.
National Alliance of Parents Organization head Wu Fu-bin (吳福濱) approved.
“The government has the responsibility to promote and implement native-language education. Alongside Taiwan’s native languages, people should also consider giving flexible options to students from new immigrant groups,” Wu said.
However, Secondary and Elementary School Principals Association chairperson Hsueh Chun-kuang (薛春光) saw things differently.
“Right now the school courses are quite full at the junior-high level. All the current required courses are competing intensely for classroom and teaching slots. If we add the native-language courses, then the students’ class time and workloads will increase,” Hsueh said.
“We believe it is better for students to choose to learn native languages in the setting of school social clubs,”Hsueh added.
A sixth-grade student in Taipei, surnamed Chen (陳), said he really liked to hear his grandparents talking in Taiwanese, but that he had difficulty speaking it himself.
“When I get into junior-high school, the course work will be heavier for me. If we can have one class focused on learning Taiwanese, it will help moderate a day full of other more rigorous academic courses,” Chen said.