Thu, Sep 07, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Classical Chinese subject of debate

CURRICULUM CONTROVERSY:The curriculum review committee originally proposed to cut the texts by one-third, but a subcommittee reduced the number to 10

By Abraham Gerber  /  Staff reporter

The Ministry of Education’s curriculum review committee should reject a subcommittee proposal to dramatically slash the number of classical Chinese texts assigned to high-school students, teachers and other members of the Education Reform Checkup Forum (教改總體檢論壇) said yesterday, calling on the committee to propose fewer cuts.

While the main committee originally proposed reducing the number of classical Chinese texts from 30 to 20, the high-school subcommittee has proposed reducing the number of texts to 10.

The majority of those texts would be newly added Taiwanese texts from the late Qing Dynasty and Japanese colonial period, with only four ancient texts assigned, the subcommittee said.

The percentage of classical Chinese taught in high school has become a major point of contention ahead of the setting of national curriculum standards to take effect from next year.

“The review process needs to return to professionalism,” said forum representative Wu Wu-tien (吳武典), a retired National Taiwan Normal University professor, who added that the subcommittee revisions were “sloppy and opaque.”

“Taiwan was only settled very recently and some time passed before education matured to the point that people began participating in imperial examinations. The committee obviously had to look really hard to find classical Chinese texts written locally and there is a huge difference in content and quality compared with the ancient classics,” said Chinese Language Promotion Association president Tuan Hsin-yi (段心儀), a former teacher at Taipei First Girls High School.

She slammed the subcommittee’s proposal of the 18th century Taiwanese poem Dajia Woman (大甲婦), which which refers to “local savages,” as being “stupid.”

“When the poem was composed, that kind of phrasing might just have been considered an emotional outburst, but the students we teach are very diverse and that phrase could make some people feel like they are being labeled,” she said.

Chang Ling-yu (張玲瑜), who teaches Chinese at New Taipei Municipal Hai-Shan High School, said that a newly added text authored by Taiwanese democracy pioneer Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水) was modeled closely after a prose essay by 8th century Tang Dynasty essayist Han Yu (韓愈).

“Given the close relationship between the two pieces, would it not make more sense for the guidelines to include both texts?” she asked. “Taiwanese culture and classical Chinese cannot be separated — the reason Chiang Wei-shui wrote in classical Chinese was because he was well-read in classical texts.”

Because Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) can be used to read and pronounce classical Chinese, curriculum reviewers should consider adding literary Hoklo electives if they want to emphasize local roots, she added.

“We can add extra-curricular subjects to help students better understand local matters, but classical Chinese needs to stay on the curriculum because it is very difficult and students need a teacher’s explanation to grasp the richness of what is being expressed,” said Chinese Language Promotion Association executive board member Tan Chia-hua (譚家化), a former teacher at Taipei Municipal Zhong Shan Girls High School.

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