Students from the Northern Taiwan Anti-Curriculum Changes Alliance yesterday stormed out of a Ministry of Education sponsored forum in Taipei on controversial adjustments to high-school curriculum guidelines.
Alliance spokesman Brian Sung (宋運川) said that K-12 Education Administration Director Wu Ching-shan’s (吳清山) responses to students’ questions lacked sincerity, with Wu avoiding key issues and deliberately wasting time.
“[Wu] was unable to give an account for why the ministry waited until now to put on the forums, or where in the world Minister [of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華)] is,” Sung said.
He rejected offers by Wu Ching-shan to arrange a meeting between student representatives and Wu, saying it was too late.
“We are running out of time, with less than seven days left [before curriculum guidelines take effect],” Sung said. “Books are already printed — talks with us should have taken place two or three months ago.”
Alliance convener Chu Chen (朱震) said that the group intended to “fight a rearguard action” if the curriculum guideline adjustments go into effect next month as planned. While the level of sacrifice individual students were willing to make varied, student activists would continue to express support for any action opposing the curriculum guidelines, he said.
About 40 students had trickled into the auditorium of the Affiliated Senior High School of National Taiwan Normal University to listen to a report on the adjustments by ministry officials, the majority of them alliance students wearing headbands and carrying protest banners and placards.
After the conclusion of the ministry’s report, Wu Ching-shan participated in a question-and-answer session that saw students question what critics call the “China-centric” focus of the changes and an opaque, “black box” approval process.
Forums were simultaneously held at National Hsinchu High School, National Changhua Senior High School and Tainan First High School.
Earlier forums had been canceled after the first forum saw student activists confront Wu Se-hwa, who did not attend any of yesterday’s forums.
Students attended the forum after breaking up their protest outside the Ministry of Education ahead of schedule yesterday morning after being “snubbed” by Deputy Minister of Education Lucia Lin (林思伶).
Lin appeared at the protest site early yesterday to “show concern” for students’ health and safety, having a brief exchange with another alliance spokesman, Wang Pin-chen (王品蓁), before being interviewed by reporters and walking into the ministry building.
Lin said she was sure there would be opportunities for talks with the students in the future, but ruled out on-site talks.
“When students are putting on an event, they often do not think about communicating because they just want to complete the event,” she said.
Lin’s remarks drew an angry response from student protesters.
Wang said that Lin had not stated her identity and had only asked whether a nearby student lying on the ground was sleeping or had “fainted” before walking over to media to be interviewed.
“Our central demand in putting on this event was that a deputy minister would come out for talks,” Chu said.
Given Lin’s unwillingness to engage in dialogue with the students, it was unlikely that their demand for on-site talks would be met and they had decided to save time and energy to participate at the evening forum, he said.