Fri, Sep 25, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers force education ministry to delay review

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Students who occupied the Ministry of Education on the night of July 23 during a protest over curriculum changes yesterday clench their fists outside the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office before an impromptu press conference.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

The legislature’s Education and Culture Committee yesterday passed a proposal requiring the Ministry of Education to announce changes to social studies guidelines four months before holding public hearings on the revisions.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) made the extempore proposal following a question-and-answer session with Minister of Education Wu Se-hwa (吳思華) during a meeting of the committee.

In a report the ministry delivered to the committee, it said it plans to hold a public hearing on curriculum guidelines for the planned 12-year national education system on Oct. 23 — the same day that they were to be announced.

Cheng criticized the scheduling, saying it could lead to more protests because it does not give the public a chance to review the proposed changes.

The ministry also said the review of social studies subjects, which are more likely to spark controversy, would be delayed until January.

Cheng asked Wu whether the ministry’s timetable was designed to evade legislative scrutiny, as the legislature is not scheduled to meet in January.

An opaque review process of the guidelines for high-school history, geography and civics textbooks led to a major protest on July 23, and it would be “unacceptable” for such an incident to be repeated, the lawmaker said.

The passage of the proposal means that the review of the social studies curriculum for the 12-year national education system, which is scheduled to be implemented in 2018, is to be held in February to coincide with the start of the next legislative session.

Cheng also asked Wu why the ministry had established a task force last year to review contentious curriculum guidelines instead of reshuffling its curriculum review committee as ordered by Premier Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國).

Establishing a task force made up of just a handful of government-contracted academics is different from reshuffling the committee, since any decision reached by the task force would have to be delivered to the committee, which has the final say on whether to implement the decisions, Cheng said.

She also criticized the ministry’s account of the lawsuits it filed against student protesters and three reporters who entered the ministry on July 23, saying it contradicted a report from the National Police Administration.

The police said Zhongzheng First Police Precinct officers arrested the protesters and reporters after the ministry said it would sue anyone who breached its compound, but the ministry said it decided to take legal action on the advice of the Taipei Police Department Mobile Division. The two agencies were trying to pass the buck over the arrests, Cheng said.

Six of the students arrested for entering the ministry on July 23 yesterday appeared for a court hearing in Taipei. Yin Juo-yu (尹若宇) and Chen Po-yu (陳柏瑜) told an impromptu news conference they would shoulder all legal responsibility for their actions.

Additional reporting by Su Fang-ho

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