The first government-edited Aboriginal Languages Curriculum has reached its final editing stage, and is expected to be published this year.
Editor in chief of the curriculum materials Lin Hsiu-che (林修澈), an ethnology professor at the Center for Aboriginal Languages Culture Education at National Chengchi University, said the pioneering new curriculum is a model for similar efforts across the globe.
"All Aboriginal languages in Taiwan, as well as in other parts of the world, are on the verge of extinction," Lin said in a press conference held on Friday to showcase the sample textbook. "Taiwan is in a leading position globally in terms of editing curriculum materials for aboriginal languages. The curriculum helps preserve the disappearing languages and further shows our appreciation of Aboriginal cultures."
The curriculum, which covers 40 languages and dialects from the 12 Aboriginal Peoples in Taiwan, is co-sponsored by the Ministry of Education and the Council of Indigenous Peoples. The Center for Aboriginal Languages Culture Education is authorized to lead the editing of the curriculum.
The design of the curriculum is based on the premise of localization and practicality. Both the contents and the pictures in the textbooks are carefully researched and reviewed by editors and respected tribal elders.
In addition to the textbooks, there is also an online edition to help students learn and practice the curriculum outside the classroom. Lin said that Aboriginal language classes are only taught one hour per week in most schools. This learning Web site will provide students with more chance to practice what they learn in schools.
Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) said the curriculum is valuable because the editing team has designed specific curriculums for each of the 40 Aboriginal languages.
"As the first complete set of Aboriginal languages curriculum, this material will be able to fully preserve all Aboriginal languages," said Tu.
Council of Indigenous Peoples Chairman Chen Chien-nien (陳建年) also praised the editing team's work since many Aboriginal dialects are disappearing. He further pledged to develop a better system to cultivate and hire certified teachers.
"Qualified teachers will help bring the curriculum materials into full usage. And we hope Aboriginal language education will be spread out from schools to tribes, families and even the public," Chen said.
Since the beginning of the Nine-Year Educational Program launched in 2001, the Ministry of Education has added the Aboriginal languages classes as required classes in elementary schools. According to the program, all the cities and counties with Aboriginal students need to prepare Aboriginal language classes. In the past, the language textbooks were designed by local governments and Aboriginal language curriculum materials have not been organized and unified.
While the new curriculum, whose textbooks are already sent out to schools with Aboriginal language classes, has won many acknowledgments, it also drew some criticism. Aziman Isdana, an Aboriginal language teacher in Nantou County's Tongpu Elementary School, has been teaching Bunan dialects since last year. He complained that there are many grammatical and pronunciation mistakes in the textbooks, and some of the contents are simply too hard for first and second-graders.