Sun, Sep 24, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Ministry reduces classical Chinese ratio

DIVISIVE:Supporters of the cut said memorization does not help students understand poetry, while opponents claim ancient literature is the basis of today’s spoken language

By Rachel Lin, Wu Po-hsuan and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Members of the Association for the Promotion of the Chinese Language hold up signs and chant slogans calling for classical Chinese education to continue in high schools during a protest at the Ministry of Education in Taipei yesterday.

Photo: Liao Chen-huei, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Education’s curriculum review committee yesterday voted to reduce the proportion of classical Chinese content in senior-high school curricula to between 35 percent and 45 percent.

The decision followed a meeting earlier yesterday, in which the committee voted to abolish a conclusion reached on Sept. 10 to set the proportion at between 45 and 55 percent.

Other proposals at the Sept. 10 meeting included the elimination of classical Chinese from curriculum guidelines; leaving the decision to teachers; decreasing the proportion to between 40 and 50 percent or 30 and 40 percent; and setting the content level at 30 percent.

However, as no consensus could be reached, the committee at that meeting had opted for a proportion of 45 to 55 percent suggested by a National Academy for Educational Research committee.

That decision sparked criticism from high-school teachers and lawmakers, who said the procedures for the meeting were seriously flawed.

The current ratio of classical Chinese materials included in senior-high school curriculum guidelines is between 55 percent and 65 percent.

The meeting yesterday morning, attended by 43 of 48 committee members, passed the motion to abolish the Sept. 10 decision 30-5.

In the afternoon session, at which only 42 members were present, the committee voted on the various proposals.

Of the six proposals voted on separately, the one to reduce the ratio to between 35 and 45 percent received 33 votes, followed by the proposal to reduce the ratio to between 40 percent and 50 percent with 15 votes.

As each member can vote three times, a runoff was held between those two proposals, with the plan to reduce the ration to between 35 and 45 percent receiving the most votes, the committee said.

The proposed change, which is expected to take effect in 2019, has elicited heated reactions from educators and the public.

Academics and students in favor of a greater reduction to the ratio have said the rote memorization of classical Chinese poetry fails to help students understand their significance, while excluding other forms of literature.

Those in favor of maintaining the ratio have argued that much of today’s spoken language is derived from ancient literature, so it would not be good if people used only plain language without knowledge of the classics.

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