Fri, Apr 13, 2007 - Page 4 News List

School book plan sets off controversy

JURISDICTION A move by Taipei City Government to standardize textbooks has set the stage for a fight between the central and local education authorities

By Mo Yan-chih  /  STAFF REPORTER

A battle over school textbooks raged yesterday between the Taipei City Government and the Ministry of Education.

At the heart of the issue is whether local governments can circumvent a directive by the central government that prevents the mandatory standardization of textbooks.

During his campaign, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) promised to standardize textbooks in the city in order to "reduce the burden" on middle school students. He said the plan would be implemented next year.

Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) yesterday lashed out at the plan, which violates a ministry policy allowing for the adoption of a variety of textbooks at schools, and ordered a ban on any changes to the textbook policy by local governments.

Accusing Hau of "betting on his campaign platform" and "using the wrong remedy for education policy," Tu cited the National Education Act (國民教育法) and said that the right to select elementary and middle school textbooks belonged to individual schools. He added that local governments should not intervene in the issue.

"If any local government violates the law, we will ask the Executive Yuan to revoke the changes to the policy by the local government and to take disciplinary action against the officials involved," Tu said yesterday during a question-and-answer session in the Legislative Yuan.

In response, Hau accused the ministry of violating the Law on Local Government Systems (地方自治法), and announced that he would ask the Judicial Yuan for an interpretation of Article 75 of the law within the next few weeks, to defend the city government's rights.

"The ministry is violating the law and usurping local governments' powers. We can't cooperate with the ministry like this. Reducing the burden on students is the consensus of many local governments," Hau told reporters yesterday at Taipei City Hall.

Yeh Chin-yuan (葉慶元), a member of the city government's laws and regulations commission, cited Article 18 of the law and said education in special municipalities fell under local jurisdiction.

"The law says it very clear, and it is obvious that the ministry is distorting the regulations. We are confident that the Judicial Yuan's interpretation will be in our favor," he added.

Hau said the city government will join with other local governments that also support the standardization of textbooks when making the interpretation request, while continuing to develop the policy.

Local governments in Taipei, Keelung, Taoyuan, Taichung, Miaoli, Chiayi and Changhua counties and Taichung City are likely to join Taipei City Government in the request.

In response to Hau's criticism, Tu argued that standardizing textbooks would only limit diversity in education.

Hau, on the other hand, argued that different versions of textbooks actually share similar content, and asked Tu to take a closer look at the textbooks before making criticism.

Lin Teng-jiao (林騰蛟), vice commissioner of the Taipei City Education Department, said the local government will continue to negotiate with the ministry on the issue.

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