Senior officials with the Ministry of Education came out on Monday to defend their proposed changes to history textbooks for senior high school students, saying that such changes are necessary to foster a stronger Taiwanese identity.
Lan Shu-te, director of the National Institute for Compilation and Translation, denied that his institute had done anything wrong in hiring members of an ad hoc committee to review the contents of history textbooks compiled by local publishing companies.
A spokesperson for the main opposition Kuomintang warned that those changes would confuse value concepts of high school students and make it difficult for those students to define themselves and their own county.
Many lawmakers from the KMT and the People First Party condemned the move, saying that it was part of a campaign launched by the ruling Democratic Progressive Party to push for Taiwan to become a new and independent country,.
In the new history books to be published later this year, Dr. Sun Yat-sen will longer be addressed as the founding father of the ROC and the history about the Japaense “occupation” of Taiwan would be redefined as Japanese “rule” of Taiwan.
History books should be revised on time to time to reflect changes in Taiwan’s political, economic, social, and cultural conditions. Those books are the product of Taiwan’s political and economic environments, which have been under the DPP’s rule for seven years.
Taiwan history should take a larger share of the textbook but thee new plan. Lan said, adding that at least a third of the history texts will be about Taiwan, with the remaining two thirds Chinese and world history. The aim was to help students "understand their cultural roots and foster self-identity," said Lan
KMT spokesman Su Chun-pin said aid the move would spark further tension with China. "The DPP government is undertaking the path of Taiwan independence through education," said Chang,. “We believe this is dangerous to cross-strait ties.”
In another controversial move for the new textbooks, the education ministry proposed the founding of the Republic of China by Sun Yat-sen in 1912 to be put under Chinese history instead of Taiwan history.
The 1911 revolution, which was led by the KMT under Sun’s leadership, was defined as an violent incident in China that topped the Chinese imperial rule and has little to do with Taiwan that has its own unique history over the past 400 years.
Responding to inquiries in the legislature, Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng dismissed the opposition party's criticism, saying the revisions were based on historical facts, not political ideology or preferences.
"I hope people siding with the KMT do not use ideology to over-interpret the proposed changes for history books,” Tu told reporters. "The new textbook simply aims to provide students a broader picture of history," he said
Wu Chan-shun, chairman of the history department of National Taiwan University, said he personally thought the move would confuse students and make it impossible for teachers to mark history papers as students graduating at different times would give different answers in exams.
Wu said he is not against education reform, but added that the DPP was just as bad as the KMT in presenting fixed views of history in textbooks. The only difference was it had substituted Taiwan for China. Wu suggested that the government invite more independent scholars to take part in this work.