The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) government is under fire from Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers for slashing the budget for mother tongue language learning by 42 percent.
The lawmakers said the cut amounted to “President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) regime driving Taiwanese languages out of the education system.”
DPP Legislator Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Wednesday said the Ministry of Education has cut the budget for programs for Hoklo (also known as Taiwanese), Hakka and Aboriginal languages for junior high and elementary schools.
Lin said the budget was reduced to NT$52 million (US$1.75 million) for this year, compared with more than NT$70 million in last year’s budget and more than NT$90 million two years ago.
The budget for research, development and organizing the language proficiency certification program for Hoklo has been slashed from NT$40 million to NT$17 million, a reduction of 58 percent, Lin said.
As a result of the cutbacks, the number of students learning Hoklo, Hakka and Aboriginal languages is declining, with 119,000 fewer students last year compared to 2011, Lin said.
Lin and other DPP lawmakers took aim at the Ma government’s language policies during a meeting of the legislature’s Education Committee on Wednesday.
A number of them, including Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) and Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲), said that a lack of job opportunities for graduates of native language studies is creating a crisis for the 18 universities and colleges that have departments for the study of Hoklo, Hakka or Aboriginal languages because fewer students are willing to enroll in these programs.
Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ning (蔣偉寧) told the lawmakers he would seek additional funding for native-language programs and find ways to ensure there are more work opportunities for native language-major graduates.