Sat, Feb 22, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Curriculum neglects local literature: experts

By Rich Chang and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with saff writer

Accompanied by education experts, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Ting-fei (陳亭妃) yesterday said the Ministry of Education’s revisions to the school curriculum contained an excessive portion on classical Chinese materials, while seriously neglecting local languages and literature.

Chen told a press conference that following the ministry’s so-called “slight adjustments” to the national high-school curriculum, classical Chinese and Confucian classics accounted for 80 percent of the nation’s literature curriculum, leaving little space for materials not written in classical Chinese.

Union of Education in Taiwan chairperson Cheng Cheng-yu (鄭正煜) said that Chinese literature, Taiwanese literature and world literature should each account for one-third of the high-school literature curriculum.

“The ministry should not deprive students of the right to learn their native languages and literature,” he said.

National Academy of Educational Research deputy director Tseng Shih-chieh (曾世杰) said that according to the high-school Chinese curriculum guidelines, the ratio of Chinese material written in classical Chinese accounted for between 45 percent and 65 percent, adding that several other versions of high-school Chinese textbooks have a ratio which falls within the guideline.

Meanwhile, a group of academics and language preservationists yesterday called on the government and schools to teach students about native Taiwanese languages, as they marked the UN’s International Mother Language Day.

At a conference in Taipei earlier this week, the group denounced the nation’s education system and government policies, which they said emphasize the predominance of Mandarin.

They said that the predominance of the use of Mandarin amounted to a “linguistic monopoly,” which is killing off Taiwan’s native languages by ostracizing their usage in schools and in society.

“Hoklo [commonly known as Taiwanese] is very elegant. It contains rich treasures, cultural values and the wisdom of our ancestors. It is delightful to speak and to hear, and contains many sounds that cannot be found in Mandarin. We have found that youngsters who are fluent in Taiwanese can pick up English and other European languages much faster,” said Ho Sin-han (何信翰), dean of the School of Taiwanese Languages at Chung Shan Medical College in Greater Kaohsiung.

Ho stressed the importance of Taiwanese speaking their own mother tongues, saying that the international trend is to base creative cultures on “localization” and “traditional community knowledge.”

The group said that the government’s policy of deliberately marginalizing other languages by upholding the supremacy of Mandarin has driven native Taiwanese languages to the brink of extinction.

Local languages, including Hoklo and Hakka, which were once commonly spoken in public, are now mainly used at home.

Linguistic groups and activists said that many native Taiwanese languages are heading toward extinction, including the Austronesian mother tongues of the nation’s 14 officially recognized Aboriginal groups, along with three critically endangered lowland Pingpu Aborigine languages — the native languages of the Pazeh, Kaxabu and Siraya.

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