Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Education ministry urged to drop textbook changes

WAR OVER WORDS:Speakers at a press conference said there is no need for the ministry to rush through the controversial proposals and questioned its process

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Teachers and representatives of civic groups hold a press conference in Taipei yesterday to urge the Ministry of Education to retract its proposed adjustments to senior-high school textbooks, while a teacher who supports the adjustments holds up a poster.

Photo: Chen Chih-chu, Taipei Times

More than 30 university professors, high-school teachers, student and civic group representatives yesterday held a press conference to urge the Ministry of Education to drop its proposed “minor adjustments” to high-school history, civics and Chinese-language textbooks.

The textbook controversy shows no sign of winding down as more academics, students and social organizations criticize the ministry, claiming it has abused its authority and broken the law.

The ministry says the adjustments were lawfully proposed to ensure the curriculum “abides by the Constitution,” but academics and teachers said that the ministry’s contention that the procedures were legal and the adjustments are constitutional has not been substantiated.

The essence of the Constitution is to protect the basic rights of the people and set down the framework of a government with its power being regulated and checked, “not provide guidelines for history education,” National Taiwan University history professor Chou Wan-yao (周婉窈) said.

Chang Mao-kuei (張茂桂), a researcher at Academia Sinica’s sociology institute and a former curriculum committee member, said there was no immediate need for adjustments and called for an open debate with the team that proposed the changes.

Civics Teachers Action Alliance representative Huang Yi-chung (黃益中) said the ministry was “trying to mask its arbitrary action by paying lip service to procedure.”

To make a minor change to the curriculum required the proposal to go through the National Academy for Education Research’s Committee of Curriculum Development (CCD) and the ministry’s Curriculum Examining Committee, he said.

The required procedures had been followed at the curriculum development stage, with opinions sought from the working group of curriculum development, the reviewing task force and the Civics and Society Resource Center, as well as through public hearings, Huang said.

“However, the truth is that none of the steps taken were above board,” Huang said. “Working group convener Wang Yin (王垠), who is the principal of National Yilan Senior High School, has said that he did not know about the content of the adjustments until he read about them in a newspaper.”

“At the only meeting with the reviewing task force [none of whom had a professional background in history] that civics teachers attended, Tainan Girls’ Senior High School teacher Chen Cheng-yi (陳正益) said the agenda was set to discuss the proposed adjustments under the premise that the curriculum would be adjusted according to the Constitution,” Huang said.

The Civics and Society Resource Center was telephoned and contacted by e-mail, not through official documents, to send a representative to the task force meetings — and only on the day of the meeting or the day before, he said.

Many teachers said the notice of the public hearing was given too late for them to participate, Huang said, adding that there were documents to back up that assertion.

National Federation of Teachers’ Unions vice president Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) said the entire procedure had been unjust.

“Comparing the procedures followed when the math and natural science curricula were adjusted to the way changes to Chinese language and social studies textbooks were made, one cannot help but find the discrepancies suspicious,” Wu said.

A detailed chart provided by Wu shows that proposed changes to the math and natural science curricula were discussed for almost a year, while the discussion period for the Chinese language and social studies changes was three to four months.

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