Parties, government should practice what they preach
After the failed high school curriculum talks on Monday between the Education Minister Wu Se-hwa and student representatives of the Education Ministry demonstration, Wu defended the curriculum’s legitimacy saying that the new guidelines would not be removed since the old and the new guidelines will be enforced at the same time. Wu echoed the Cabinet-led statement earlier this month. Schools are free to decide which version to use, the Education Ministry also announced.
The Kuomintang (KMT) also reiterated this stance during its caucus meeting yesterday, saying that the controversial materials being debated would not be covered in the exams.
These two statements, however, belie how the government and the ruling party are failing to practice what they preach, especially after further dissecting the curriculum guidelines that they have vehemently defended. The statements have also inadvertently implied how in the future, any disagreements about education should be brought to the local government’s doors.
In the introduction section of the curriculum guidelines for courses affected by the amendments, a united theme can be seen: the cultivation of critical thinking — an ability widely acclaimed and celebrated on paper, yet institutions lack a united resolve to implement it.
If the government is attempting to cultivate young minds, and to nurture critical thinking, should not the students be tested on both sides of a historical event, whether it is controversial or not, rather than let schools decide what students should learn? In such a time- restrictive environment, these supplementary materials are often sacrificed in the grander scheme, for more revisions, more time to study other subjects.
By treating the controversial issues as a side dish, the government itself is downgrading the importance of historic events that all future students have the right to understand, to learn from, and to see that history steers clearly away from repeating mistakes.
Should the government continue to advocate such a mindset, such a new-old in tandem approach, schools and teachers will continue to follow — students’ bright futures will then be sacrificed. Similarly, companies that bemoan a lack of students with vital thinking skills should no longer look to universities for improvement, but rather to high schools and the Ministry of Education.
Relevancy and Legacy
Taiwan’s education system has been criticized for its exam-centric methods. All sectors involved have displayed their inability to be “relevant” in the public eye. Relevancy, in this case, is not just about showing support for studentlet demonstrations, but rather addressing administrative woes through different approaches. The public is fed up with an incompetent government; citizens do not trust the government at all. Both government officials and political parties should cease avoiding responsibility. They should in turn, consider this: what should be this government’s legacy?
The KMT and the Democratic Progressive Party ( DPP) came to a rare agreement yesterday, with the Ministry of Education accepting their olive branch and agreeing to a curriculum review meeting before the end of August. However, it must be reiterated that the political parties must oversee the proceedings to avoid another contentious debate.
The anti-curriculum campaign is an opportunity for both the government and the ruling party to push forward a substantial education reform. Otherwise, what they have been attempting to advocate in the past eight years is merely a dog whistle for political correctness, and will fall on deaf ears, much like its debated curriculum.