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 http://goo.gl/vVqEBH (PDF file; URL shortened via Google URL Shortener).