Taiwan Has Its Own Textbook Controversy Brewing

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Japan may have perfected the art of stirring up textbook controversies in East Asia, but the self-governing island of Taiwan has its own storm brewing. A new history curriculum for Taiwanese high school students, due to launch in August, is part of a larger forthcoming education reform. But critics argue that the new history guidelines are an attempt by the ruling Kuomintang, the island’s Chinese Nationalist political party, to sidle up to mainland China and win new voters over to the KMT side.

The controversy over history education in Taiwan has been simmering for some time. In late 2013, a team headed by Wang Hsiao-po, a professor of Chinese philosophy at Shih Hsin University and a close friend of Beijing-friendly Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, began reviewing what it called a “fine-tuning” of Taiwan’s history program. The public announcement came in February 2014; the changes are slated to go into effect in August 2015. According to calculations by Chou Wanyao, a professor of Taiwanese history at National Taiwan University, over 60 percent of all text relating to Taiwan’s history will be affected, with most alterations relating to the period after 1949, when the KMT lost out to the Chinese Communist Party in the civil war on the mainland and fled to Taiwan. While some of the proposed changes are clearly technical, including corrections to textbook copy, other additions will not be minor adjustments at all, at least according to critics. It’s enough to stir up a new wave of controversy in Taiwan. Students from more than 150 high schools have demanded that the Education Ministry withdraw the guidelines. Small-scale protests have already taken place in cities including Taichung and Taoyuan, and hundreds of students attended a protest in Taipei on July 5. Even Sun Lih-chyun, the spokesman of the Executive Yuan, remarked in a video published by the Executive Yuan on June 15 that the controversy surrounding the curriculum has intensified “as if a small fire has become a blaze.”




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