Mon, Aug 03, 2009 - Page 3 News List

MOE policy on textbook control upheld

GUIDELINES Eight local governments filed an appeal in 2007, saying they, not the Ministry of Education, should have the final say on textbook choices in their areas

By Flora Wang, Shelley Huang and Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Council of Grand Justices ruled on Friday that schools are permitted to choose their own textbooks as long as the textbooks follow the Ministry of Education’s (MOE) curriculum guidelines.

The ruling came in response to an appeal filed on May 3, 2007, by the Taipei City Government and seven other county and city governments governed by the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) that asked the grand justices for a constitutional interpretation of the National Education Act (國民教育法) and the constitutionality of the ministry’s policy that local governments cannot decide what textbooks schools use.

The ministry allows schools to choose different versions of textbooks as long as the books follow the ministry’s curriculum guidelines.

Up until the 2002 school year, the ministry required students nationwide to use textbooks published by the National Institute For Compilation and Translation. The change was aimed at ensuring the diversity of textbooks.

However, the eight local governments said it was unreasonable for the ministry not to allow them to have the final say over textbook choices in their jurisdictions.

They said they had the authority to choose one textbook for each subject.

The Council of Grand Justices’ ruling on Friday said the National Education Act was under the jurisdiction of the central government, not local governments, and so if a local government’s interpretation differed from that of the central government, the central government’s view prevails.

Therefore, the council would not review the local government’s petition.

The ministry said yesterday that it would require all local governments to follow its policy to ensure the diversity of primary and junior high school textbooks.

Yang Chang-yu (楊昌裕), director of the Department of Elementary Education, said local governments that refuse to cooperate with the ministry might have their educational funding slashed.

The National Teachers Association (NTA) called the grand justices’ ruling “belated justice,” saying that the ministry’s policy followed international trends.

“The Taipei City Government would like to return to the age when [governments] could designate a version of a textbook, but the important thing is reforming our educational system so that students with different levels of proficiency can all learn in different ways,” NTA director of policy research Chan Cheng-tao (詹政道) said.

Meanwhile, Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) said yesterday that the grand justices’ ruling was “very satisfactory.”

It was a “misunderstanding” that the grand justices had “overruled the claim” of the Taipei City Government and the other local governments, he said.

The local governments had filed their request after the ministry demanded the city revoke its “one subject, one textbook” policy when the Democratic Progressive Party was in power, Hau said.

“Now the situation has changed,” he said. “There are no more differences between the city and the ministry and we are implementing the ‘one subject, one textbook’ policy, so the Council of Grand Justices did not need to rule on the matter.”

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