Cur­ricu­lum guide­line changes at a glance


Tai­wan’s high school history cur­ricu­lum has ex­isted in a state of flux ever since the end of mar­tial law and sub­se­quent de­moc­ra­ti­za­tion. The most re­cent cur­ricu­lum guide­line changes in Tai­wan and the re­sult­ing stu­dent protests have re­ceived wide­spread cov­er­age, but cur­rent changes need to be seen as an on­go­ing con­tin­uum of po­lit­i­cal skir­mishes that have pro­duced changes with lit­tle so­cial con­sen­sus.

Un­der the pres­i­dency of Lee Tenghui, em­pha­sis on Tai­wanese history and ge­og­ra­phy moved the cur­ricu­lum away from em­pha­siz­ing a Chi­nese na­tion. In the text­book “Un­der­stand­ing Tai­wan,” history from a Tai­wan­cen­tered per­spec­tive was im­ple­mented, in­clud­ing the is­land’s history dur­ing the Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties, and dur­ing Ja­panese rule.

The guide­lines and the shift­ing of ter­mi­nol­ogy to de­scribe his­tor­i­cal pe­ri­ods and their con­tents saw the great­est change in 2007, when 5,000 word­ing changes were made be­fore the Ma ad­min­is­tra­tion en­tered of­fice. Na­tional Tai­wan Univer­sity history pro­fes­sor Chou Wanyao says that char­ac­ter/word­ing changes from 2012 to 2015 in­cluded the al­ter­ing of more than a third of the Tai­wan history cur­ricu­lum.

De­bates over the history cur­ricu­lum be­came vo­cif­er­ous when the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion un­der the DPP dis­closed its 2003 cur­ricu­lum guide­lines, which had to be tem­po­rar­ily set aside af­ter strong protests from KMT law­mak­ers, in­clud­ing cur­rent pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hung Hsiu-chu. Un­der for­mer Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Tu Cheng-sheng, the 2007 cur­ricu­lum guide­lines im­ple­mented 5,000 changes. These in­cluded re­mov­ing the “Found­ing Fa­ther” as­so­ci­a­tion for Sun Yat-sen and an end to re­fer­ring to post­war Tai­wan history as fol­low­ing its “Glo­ri­ous retro­ces­sion” to China.

Once the Ma ad­min­is­tra­tion came to power, moves to re­verse DPP-era cur­ricu­lum changes were ini­ti­ated. Cur­ricu­lum guide­lines in 2012, for ex­am­ple, in­creased the pro­por­tion de­voted to Chi­nese clas­si­cal writ­ing and re­duced the weight of con­text to Tai­wanese-sourced writ­ing. DPP law­mak­ers ac­cused the gov­ern­ment of the “de-Tai­waniza­tion” of history text­books, while pro­po­nents of the changes ar­gued that they were be­ing made in ac­cord­ing with the R.O.C.’s con­sti­tu­tional frame­work and rec­ti­fy­ing “mis­taken word­ing” im­ple­mented dur­ing the Chen era.

Cur­rent con­tro­ver­sies sur­round­ing the guide­lines to take ef­fect in 2015 in­clude 17 ma­jor changes, many of them rep­re­sent­ing re­ver­sals of ter­mi­nol­ogy from the 2007 guide­lines (see ta­ble). The move­ment to re­ject the cur­rent cur­ricu­lum guide­lines, how­ever, rep­re­sents un­prece­dented lev­els of youth par­tic­i­pa­tion in the mat­ter.

Stu­dent protesters have crit­i­cized the opaque way in which cur­ricu­lum guide­lines are ap­proved, which falls un­der the purview of the MOE in ac­cor­dance with the Se­nior High School Act. While the MOE main­tains that it is act­ing within the law, protesters have in­di­cated that the MOE has re­jected re­quests for meet­ing records, min­utes and tran­scripts. They have also voiced crit­i­cism con­cern­ing the pro­fes­sional back­ground of the cur­ricu­lum guide­lines board, ar­gu­ing that none pos­sess enough knowl­edge of Tai­wanese history.

Na­tional Academy of Ed­u­ca­tional Re­search Di­rec­tor Yang Kuo-yang stated yesterday that the de­ci­sion re­gard­ing choice of cur­ricu­lum guide­lines would be left to in­di­vid­ual schools and not lo­cal gov­ern­ments. The MOE has also in­di­cated that ma­jor ex­ams in the fu­ture will not touch on con­tro­ver­sial ar­eas in the cur­ricu­lum changes.

It would rep­re­sent the first time that two dif­fer­ing guide­lines have co-ex­isted, which not only poses a chal­lenge to print­ing presses in de­ter­min­ing how many of each text­book to print, but also presents a sit­u­a­tion in which stu­dents within one lo­cal gov­ern­ment ju­ris­dic­tion ap­proach the coun­try’s history dif­fer­ently from those in another.

For the full (Chi­nese) ver­sion of the new guide­lines, please down­load via the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion link at (PDF file; URL short­ened via Google URL Short­ener).

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