Sunday, May 22, 2016

Curriculum changes on the way

Beautiful Taiwan. Can't wait for this rain to end so I can see it..

Lost amidst Tsai Ing-wen's swearing in The Taipei Times reports: the new Administration is going to act quickly to eliminate the pro-China curriculum instituted under the KMT.
The Ministry of Education is to take swift action to abolish contentious social studies and Chinese literature curriculum guideline changes passed in 2014, in accordance with a resolution passed by the legislature and approved by the Executive Yuan, Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said yesterday.
Readers will recall that the curriculum changes, hastily put in by the Administration, triggered protests. The Legislature has already passed draft amendments removing some of the Ministry of Education's (MOE) control over the curriculum:
During an initial review on May 5, the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee passed the Democratic Progressive Party’s (DPP) draft amendments to the Senior High School Education Act (高級中等教育法) and the Primary and Junior High School Act (國民教育法).

The amendments would increase the number of members of the public on the Curriculum Guideline Review Committee to three-quarters of the total seats and allow the legislature to form a review team to approve the nomination of committee members.

The task of nominating and the employing the committee members would be shifted from the Ministry of Education to the Executive Yuan. Therefore, the premier would directly control the establishment of the committee and the ministry would only have the task of proposing curriculum guidelines.
The amendments permit parents and students to participate, and limit the government to 1/4 of the representatives on the Committee (here).

A longtime observer noted that this is probably the first bill the new Legislature has passed that addresses the demands of student movements over the past few years. The bill also divests the Ministry of Education and the executive branch in general of control over the curriculum. He wonders if the Legislature is going to finally assert itself over the Executive. MOE, as he put it, is one of the most important agents of the KMT's dominance over Taiwan society and control of the way people act and think.

He also pointed out that the Taipei Times did not report that the Legislature also passed a bill amending the Primary and Junior High School Act. The bill removes the Ministry of Education's power to close or combine schools and puts it into the hands of local governments. This is a sensitive issue because schools are closing around Taiwan due to the dramatic drop in the number of children. As recently as 2007, he noted, Taiwan had 280,000 students entering elementary school. In 2015, just 192,000.

Indeed, when my daughter was in elementary school, the small elementary school she went to had to reach a minimum of (I think) 300 students to qualify for additional funds for administrative personnel and retain certain administrative staff. The school thus had an arrangement with several local families to ensure that their kids would register first at the little school so it could tell the government they had over 300 registered. Then the kids would transfer to the large elementary school in town, because many Taiwanese parents believe that larger schools provide better education.

Construction of schools is important sources of patronage funding in Taiwan, note that many collapsed in the 9/21 earthquake -- the Taiwan Earthquake Museum in Wufeng is built on the grounds of a destroyed school, as is the Earthquake memorial in Da-ken outside Taichung. Putting the power of life and death over schools in local government hands won't help this -- but may increase DPP control over local patronage networks.
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