Educational organizations and parents of criticized a push by the Ministry of Education to implement a new special education syllabus that emphasizes trigonometry and calculus instead of life education and social acclimatization.
The ministry’s K-12 Education Administration has asked all vocational high schools to adopt the revised syllabus starting this year, but the majority of schools have told the ministry that the current version should remain in place.
The current syllabus prioritizes life education, social acclimatization and work experience, while the new curriculum aims to add subjects taught in the standard school syllabus, such as Chinese, English, math, chemistry and physics.
Huang Yao-nan (黃耀南), deputy directory-general of the National Senior High School Teachers’ Union, told a press conference in Taipei that the current syllabus has yet to produce extraordinary results, so it was illogical to move on to a new version.
“I don’t know why special education students, some who have cognitive disabilities, should be taught calculus,” Huang said, adding that the additional proposed courses would only serve to reduce the time these students have to learn the skills they need to fulfill their potential after they graduate.
Polls conducted by the administration show that only 2 percent of schools have received positive feedback on the current curriculum, while 98 percent think the administration needs to continue testing the current syllabus for longer.
Huang also criticized the process by which the new syllabus was determined.
Curriculums for standard elementary, junior-high, vocational and senior-high schools are passed by the ministry’s Syllabus Development Committee, which subjects them to thorough debate and revisions, Huang said. By contrast, the new special education syllabus was only reviewed by a team led by National Taiwan Normal University professor Lu tai-hua (盧台華), he said.
The process is impractical and limited because it is difficult to get diverse views on the syllabus design since everything is decided within a small group controlled by Lu, Huang said.
Parents are also dissatisfied with the proposed policy.
“You will never see a medication being approved for testing on humans if 98 out of 100 rats in the drug trial die,” said Lin Hsin-yi (林妡宜頁), a member of the Songshan High School of Agriculture and Industry Parents’ Association Special Education Committee.
The administration responded by saying the parents had misunderstood its announcement.
The new curriculum does not increase, but rather decreases, the total credit amount of the subjects taught, the administration said, adding that it also puts more emphasis on practical learning than the current version.
Liu Yuan-ming (劉源明), head of the administration’s Aboriginals, Minority Groups and Special Education section, said that the revised syllabus gives schools more flexibility to arrange courses in way that suits each school best.
It reduces — to an extent — the limitations of total credit thresholds and course progression, Liu said, adding that some of the life education courses have been combined with other courses.
“Life education has not been stricken from the syllabus,” Liu said.
The administration is going to test the revised curriculum for one year and increase the amount of schools testing it, Liu said.
Starting next month, the administration will hold a series of workshops to help teachers become more familiar with the content of the new curriculum, Liu said.