An Aboriginal teachers’ union yesterday called for compulsory native-language education for all grades, in response to new curriculum guidelines that only mandate such classes until the ninth grade.
The Ministry of Education in a curriculum meeting on Saturday decided to make classes in “national languages” compulsory once per week for seventh and eighth-graders, after which it would become elective, although schools must still offer at least one class per week.
According to Article 9 of the Development of National Languages Act (國家語言發展法), national-language classes are required “at all stages of compulsory education.”
The ministry has said that Aboriginal languages are at risk of disappearing, yet has decided not to require them in the secondary-school curriculum, Save Compulsory Ethnic-Language Secondary Education Aboriginal Teachers’ Union representative Yu Nien-hua (余年華) told a news conference at the Legislative Yuan in Taipei.
This not only risks disrupting educational continuity, but would also make basic implementation more difficult, Yu said.
Teaching quality and materials for seventh and eighth-graders would also suffer as a result, he added.
The ministry should cover all training costs of full-time native-language teachers to resolve the issue of a shortage of teachers instructing such languages, he said.
It should also finance and provide guidance for those looking to publish native-language educational materials, so that teachers could have more sources to draw upon, Yu added.
Lastly, it should clarify the wording in the act to specify “at every level and every grade,” as the current text intends, he said.
Aboriginal languages are facing extinction, yet are being ignobly sacrificed in national policy for the sake of capitalism and credentialism, union representative Pai Hui-lan (白惠蘭) said.
Aboriginal languages, Hakka and Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese) are all “national languages,” Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Sra Kacaw (鄭天財) said.
The act clearly stipulates that national-language classes must be compulsory at all levels, making the ministry’s decision brazenly illegal, he said.
Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) later yesterday said that the decision fully accords with the act and vowed to prepare all necessary teachers and materials before its implementation next year.
In response to the group’s requests, Pan said that local governments can already provide funding for native-language courses, while the ministry offers teacher training.
As for educational materials, he said that the ministry edits secondary-level texts for Aboriginal languages and offers financial assistance to local Aboriginal resource centers to develop new material.
However, the ministry would continue to encourage the development of textbooks to diversify available offerings, he added.
In its resolution, the curriculum committee also decided to amend the act to categorize national languages as “ministry-mandated curriculum,” Pan added.
Additional reporting by Rachel Lin
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