Sat, Feb 12, 2011 - Page 2 News List

Mandatory study of ancient texts ignites backlash

By Tseng Wei-chen  /  Staff Reporter, with Staff Writer

Lin Lih-yun, left, a member of the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Commission, and Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu, second left, talk at a press conference criticizing the ministry’s recent decision to make the study of the Four Books, ancient Confucian classics written before 300BC, mandatory for high school students.

Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times

A curriculum for high school students that has more emphasis on classical Chinese texts is not a good thing for either students or schools, Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Wong Chin-chu (翁金珠) said yesterday.

Wong, accompanied by Chang Jung Christian University’s Graduate Institute for Taiwan Studies visiting professor Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), National Association of Parents’ Organizations chairman Hsieh Kuo-ching (謝國清) and Ministry of Education Curriculum Commission member Lin Lih-yun (林麗雲), criticized the education ministry’s recent decision to make the study of the Four Books — Great Learning (大學), Doctrine of the Mean (中庸), Analects of Confucius (論語) and Mencius (孟子), which are ancient Confucian classics written before 300BC — mandatory for high school students in an attempt to restore morality and prevent bullying.

Wong said that if the students spend so much time memorizing classical Chinese texts — which are written differently from the modern Chinese — they would not have time to study modern and world literature.

She went on to say that since President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) took office, classical Chinese texts have come to comprise 65 percent of the books read by high school students, compared with 45 percent before he was in office. Now that the government is further increasing the emphasis on Chinese classics by making the study of the Four Books mandatory, Wong said that it would be too much for students to handle.

Lin said the ministry increased the emphasis on Chinese classics in a curriculum submitted in September last year, after several members on the Curriculum Committee had been changed. However, the committee has now overruled the curriculum established in September and made the study of the Four Books mandatory.

“What is the basis for the change?” Lin asked.

Chuang said it doesn’t make sense to make the Four Books mandatory for high school students, considering that their study isn’t even mandatory for students at public universities.

He said that the Four Books were used as major textbooks in ancient times and contain no spirit of modernity. Therefore, he said it’s impossible to solve the problem of bullying at school by asking students to study the books.

Hsieh said that Taiwanese high school students attend school for 35 hours a week, which is much more than the 20 to 25 hour average for Western countries.

With such a harsh curriculum, Hsieh said, it would become difficult for each school to develop its own distinguishing feature.

In response, the ministry yesterday said it “humbly accepts all suggestions and criticisms and will forward the opinions to the Curriculum Committee for discussion.”

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