National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) yesterday announced its founding of the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, presenting it as a milestone in augmenting Taiwanese and local culture in higher education.
"Taiwanese and local culture have long been neglected in our education -- in primary education, secondary education as well as higher education," said the institute's director, Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), at yesterday's news conference.
"But thanks to the transition in society and the trend of democratization, Taiwanese culture and literature has gradually earned its proper position in academia. Graduate schools focusing on Taiwanese cultural studies have mushroomed over the past few years," he said.
He submitted a proposal to create the department of Taiwanese Literature at the university in 2001, but it was vetoed by the authorities.
But Chuang did not give up. After advocating the idea for two years, the Graduate Institute of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature was eventually established at NTNU in August, becoming the 14th institute nationwide to focus on Taiwanese culture studies.
The teaching faculty comprises many prestigious researchers specializing in Taiwanese cultural studies, history and literature. The graduate school has recruited ten graduate students for the first school year, Chung said.
The director said the institute's long name reflects its direction, which features comprehensive advanced studies in linguistics, literary theory and cultural studies, and its aim to be the leading graduate school in this field.
The first course was taught by Tsao Yung-ho (曹永和), an esteemed researcher specializing in Taiwanese history at Academia Sinica, in a small classroom of only 60m2 that used to be a store room.
"Although our resources and budget are limited, we will keep working on it," Chuang said.
"It is a milestone for NTNU to establish such an institute," said Yao Jung-sung (姚榮松), a professor of the Department of Chinese Language at the university. He said his department has been the largest and most influential institute to train teachers to teach Chinese language in the country, but is also viewed as one of "the most stubborn conservative powers" in academia.
"The new graduate school set up by NTNU represents an awakening to the importance of Taiwanese culture in the higher education system," Yao said.