Teachers call for swift teaching guidelines decision

By Wu Po-hsuan  /  Staff reporter

Sun, Mar 27, 2016 - Page 3

Teachers are calling for a swift decision over controversial history, geography and civic education curriculum guidelines out of concern that students will continue to be exposed to misleading information as high schools look to source textbooks over the next two months.

The retraction of the curriculum guidelines was an item on a Legislative Yuan plenary session on Friday, but the session was ended before the proposal could be discussed.

The proposal, tendered by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君), is to be heard next week.

Despite the Ministry of Education saying that the adjusted guidelines had taken effect and cannot be retracted, Premier Simon Chang (張善政) said he would respect a legislative decision to the contrary.

The changes sparked widespread protests last year from students and teachers, who said the guidelines were designed to boost the Chinese Nationalist Party’s (KMT) image and that its China-centric phrasing is aimed at undermining national identity.

Amid mounting public criticism, the ministry last year said it would grant schools the liberty to choose between the 2012 guidelines and the disputed 2014 guidelines, a move that some interpreted as an attempt to shift its responsibility for approving the controversial guidelines by letting schools decide which publishers they want material from.

The delay in the legislature has worried some high-school teachers.

New Taipei City Municipal San Min High School history teacher Chang Wen-lung (張文隆) said a group of publishers is to visit the school next month to try to secure a deal.

By the time the bidding process ends, the decision to use textbooks written based on controversial curriculum guidelines will be irreversible, Chang said.

“We cannot afford to delay this issue until the new government is sworn in on May 20,” he said.

Chang said that allowing schools to choose between the 2012 and 2014 textbooks has presented a range of problems; for example, most publishers have discontinued teachers’ guides, workbooks and quizzes complementing the 2012 guidelines, meaning schools choosing older textbooks will have to do without those tools.

Furthermore, some information in the 2012 textbooks — for example the number of Aboriginal groups in the nation, which was changed from 14 to 16 — is outdated, Chang said.

This would likely lead some schools to compromise, choosing the 2014 guidelines, he said.

“The publishers have already left their books on my table,” Taipei Municipal Dazhi High School civic education teacher Huang Yi-chung (黃益中) said.

Huang said that business-savvy publishers with both the new and old editions of textbooks often let teachers read their material before schools call a meeting — probably at the end of next month or in May — to decide which publisher to use.

With Chang having said that he would respect the legislature’s decision, lawmakers should make a decision over the contentious guidelines to save teachers the trouble and publishers the costs of printing books, he said.