A group of teachers is to hold hunger strikes and protest rallies in front of the Ministry of Education building tomorrow to oppose what they call the non-transparent backroom decisionmaking by the government in making controversial curriculum changes to high-school textbooks.
Calling themselves “citizen teachers,” the teachers are co-organizing a public “teach-in” during the protest with the Big Citizen is Watching You group, featuring open forum discussions to express their viewpoints for countering the ministry’s move.
They called for support from other educators and students to join the two-day event, which is scheduled to take place from 2pm tomorrow to 6pm on Saturday.
Head of the citizen teachers coalition Chou Wei-tung (周威同) said the “curriculum adjustment” process was a “black-box operation” by the ministry, which totally disregarded the concerns and issues raised by many grassroots educators and academics.
More than 300 individuals have already signed up to participate in the event, which is to have at least five teachers undertaking a “28-hour hunger strike action.”
“We are teachers with a conscience. We do not want to teach the education curriculum, which is unjust and has a political agenda. Therefore we are heading out of schools to instruct the public in citizen education on 228 Day, which is meant to symbolize peace, human rights and justice,” said Chou, who is a teacher of civics and society at National Taitung Girls’ Senior High School.
He said the hunger strikes and protest are to rally the public to fight for “procedural justice,” because the ministry has steadfastly refused to talk to grassroots teachers through the curriculum adjustment process, which critics said is President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration’s effort to “de-Taiwanize public education, while trying to instill students with a ‘Greater China’ historical perspective.”
The citizen teachers named their group ACCT and said their actions are to demand that the ministry withdraw its official notice on implementing the curriculum changes, and to restart the mandated reviews through public consultations.
“A delegation of citizen teachers petitioned the Ministry of Education about the issue on Feb. 5. Officials from the ministry’s K-12 Education Administration replied to us that the changes are within the law and conform to the Constitution,” Chou said.
“We requested them to make the minutes of their meetings public, in accordance with the Freedom of Government Information Act (政府資訊公開法), especially the meeting on high-school and vocational-school curriculums. We want to know the voting results, because the ballot count by committee member teachers at the meeting differs from the meeting minutes released by ministry officials. However, our request was refused,” Chou said.
“The process was definitely a black-box operation. It was clear the black hands of the Ma administration were thrust into the education system in political meddling,” he said.
“Thus as teachers, we choose ‘citizens non-compliance.’ We refuse to accept this government’s non-transparent process with no consultation. We refuse the ‘curriculum adjustment,’ which is an illegal process,” Chou added.
In response to the charges made by Chou, Ministry of Education Chief Secretary Wang Tsuo-tai (王作台) said: “The minor adjustment of the high-school textbook curriculum had complied with democratic procedures. Our ministry will do our best to have dialogue with these teachers, for them to better understand the whole procedure.”