Taiwan’s Aborigines used to be called “mountain people.” That was a long time ago, when everyone thought of them as people who lived in the mountains.
Why do many Aboriginal people live there? Everyone knows that they used to live on the plains, and they only moved to the mountains because they were forced to.
Real estate in Taipei has grown incredibly expensive. Historically, the land belonged to Aboriginal people. Now they have nothing left of it.
“Justice” is a popular term these days, but if Taiwanese really want to talk about “justice,” they should of course compensate Aboriginal people for the unjust treatment inflicted on them in the past.
Most countries have implemented means to protect indigenous people, such as Native American reservations in the US, where, among other problems, indigenous children perform poorly in schools, indicating that policies of protection and financial subsidies do not solve the problem.
Aborigines in Taiwan also face the problem of poor academic performance, which in turn often leads to lower competitiveness in other areas.
Taiwan must provide better education to indigenous people, so they can become competitive enough to survive on their own or even to stand out in society.
Unfortunately, Aboriginal children in rural areas fall far behind academically. This is something the government should well understand and address.
Taiwan has agencies dedicated to Aboriginal affairs, and their job is of course to help indigenous people. As the old adage says: “Give a man a fish, and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he will eat for a lifetime.”
Taiwan’s Aboriginal affairs agencies should do their best to help the next generation of indigenous people. Most of them live in remote areas, and the government remains indifferent to the education of children in rural areas. Regarding English education in rural areas, there is often only one English teacher to serve several schools.
There is also another commonly held social concept that is absolutely wrong: Many people believe that Aborigines are good at singing, dancing and sports, while they are particularly bad at mathematics. This misconception leads many government officials to think that poor academic performance is natural for Aboriginal children.
In addition, the Ministry of Education often stresses that schools in rural areas should have their own local characteristics. The result is that many Aboriginal children have to spend a lot of time practicing track and field, playing baseball, singing, dancing and so on.
There are too many activities distracting them from their studies, resulting in poor academic performance, which only reinforces the misconception about their abilities.
Government officials simply do not understand that it is their misconceptions that lead to policies that result in those children’s poor academic performance.
A lot of careful research is required before drawing up policies to improve the academic performance of Aboriginal children. If the government genuinely wants to help, it should first do some proper research to find out where the problem lies.
The most important thing to remember is this: For the sake of justice, Taiwan must compensate its indigenous people, and the best way to do that is to help their children.
Lee Chia-tung is an honorary professor at National Tsing Hua University.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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