Thu, Jun 15, 2017 - Page 2 News List

Principals accused of harming education

POLITICAL INDOCTRINATION:School leaders participating in academic exchanges sponsored by China have become tools for Beijing’s ‘united front’ tactics, critics said

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Members of the Northern Taiwan Society and the Taiwan Association of University Professors hold a news conference in Taipei yesterday criticizing some primary and secondary-school principals for frequently visiting China.

Photo: Peng Wan-hsin, Taipei Times

Advocates of education reform and Taiwanese independence yesterday accused several school principals and teachers of colluding with Beijing’s attempts at political indoctrination by participating in “academic visits” to China, which they said has undermined education in the nation.

“We are not against school principals and teachers broadening their horizons and learning new things from other countries, but a vast proportion of Taiwan’s principals and teachers go on these exchange junkets to China, which are subsidized or wholly funded by the Chinese government,” Union of Taiwan Teachers (UTT) executive director Hsiao Hsiao-ling (蕭曉玲) said.

It is known that Chinese education authorities have targeted Taiwanese school officials as part of Beijing’s “united front” tactic, Hsiao said, adding that the Chinese Communist Party regularly uses political propaganda in an attempt to indoctrinate Taiwanese.

“Many Taiwanese principals and teachers have taken part in these junkets to China, which they say are for academic and cultural purposes, and to learn about the Chinese education system,” she said. “However, they kowtow to the Chinese government, and become stooges to promote cross-strait unification and other political objectives that undermine Taiwan’s democratic system.”

Wen Kuei-lin (溫貴琳), a UTT executive and former high-school principal, said that principals at New Taipei City’s elementary and high schools have participated in 157 exchange visits to China in the past two years.

The average number of exchanges for New Taipei City is about 80 trips per year, with each led by a school principal, Wen said.

“For New Taipei City, going to China accounted for more than 80 percent of all officially sanctioned international exchange trips by New Taipei City school principals. Also, the actual figure for all school officials is far higher, because each principal brings along teachers and their families as members of the tour group,” he added.

Citing Chang Hsin-wu (張信務), principal of Chang Ping Elementary School in Sinjhuang District (新莊), as an example, Wu said: “Chang went on such exchange trips four times in 2015 and five times in 2016. He has spent an average of two months per year in China over the past two years. He got time off work as paid leave, and all the expenses were paid for by the Chinese side, including airfares, accommodation and meals. Chang on many occasions met with local officials responsible for ‘united front’ work and signed several cross-strait academic exchange agreements.”

Northern Taiwan Society chairman Chang Yeh-sen (張葉森) questioned why school principals visit China, saying: “There are many other advanced nations, with very good education systems for us to learn from, such as the US, Japan, Singapore and European countries. China’s education system is under that government’s ideological control.”

Hsiao said these principals become influenced by China’s pro-unification agenda and, in turn, influence teachers and students under their charge.

“The political indoctrination has greatly harmed our education system. No wonder we are producing students who do not see themselves as Taiwanese, but instead identify with China and Chinese culture. They have become detached from their Taiwanese homeland and feel no affinity for our culture, history and geography. It is no wonder we have so many students who lack self-confidence, a sense of self-worth and who cannot think for themselves,” Hsiao said.

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