Alleging that the Ministry of Education’s recent high-school curriculum revisions go against academic professionalism while also limiting students’ ability to think outside the box, a coalition of 16 groups said it is mulling further demonstrations to protest against the central government’s so-called “minor adjustments.”
The group issued the call after the ministry’s approval last month of the revised curriculum guidelines on Chinese literature and social sciences, which are scheduled to be implemented at the start of the new school year in September next year. Among the changes are calling Japan’s 50-year rule of Taiwan the “Japanese colonial period” and referring to “China” as “Mainland China” in textbooks.
The “minor adjustments” were actually major changes that will result in prohibitions and regulations everywhere, according to the coalition, which included the National Federation of Teachers Union, the Civic and Law-related Education Foundation, the Union of Taiwanese Teachers and the Civic Educator’s Alliance.
The group said the curriculum guidelines concerning the Taiwanese history portion underwent sweeping changes, affecting more than 36.4 percent of it. The subject’s fourth chapter was 56 percent longer, and much of the content was either erroneous or biased because amateurs spearheaded the changes, rather than experts.
The Martial Law era under the former Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) regime was “prettied up” as the main driver of Taiwan’s democracy, and the White Terror was linked to post-war anti-communist policies, the coalition said.
“The changes were made with no regards to the controversial nature of the cases over the course of four decades of the Martial Law era,” the coalition said, describing it as an effort to establish credibility for an autocratic regime that stifled dissent under the guise of fighting communism.
As for the curriculum guidelines on civic education, the coalition said the revisions removed the necessary space to debate issues of national identity, national power, tyranny of the majority and the White Terror by enforcing the values of traditional “Zhonghua culture” (中華文化).
The coalition added that the revisions completely disregard the emphasis on being accepting to multiculturalism in the fourth Constitutional amendment in 1997, and creates the problem of overlapping courses and the uneven distribution of course weighting.
The increase of three classes of classical Chinese literature in Mandarin Chinese courses was another attempt to exert Zhonghua influence over students, the group added.
It is an underhanded way of increasing the proportion of ancient Chinese taught to students and the revision prevents Taiwanese high-school students from reading works written in the modern style, it said.
National Federation of Teachers Union vice president Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) said education was a serious matter as it shaped the next generations.
“The Ministry of Education is misusing its authority to change class curricula, not to mention the allegedly illegal procedures and questionable content changes,” Wu said, adding that the coalition was in the midst of planning protests against the changes.
Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Cheng Li-chun (鄭麗君) said the high-school curricula were — by law — legally binding orders [from the ministry to the schools] and should not be considered “internal rules” that could be decided by the ministry alone.
The Legislative Yuan would seek to abolish the legislation on which the ministry based its powers to change curricula, Cheng said, adding that the legislature would also push for education that did not “brainwash” the students.
The ministry, in its latest response, reiterated its emphasis that all changes have proceeded in accordance with regulations and that changes made put the materials closer to historical fact, adding that questions raised were “mistaken conceptions” of the changes.
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