Taiwan's curriculum changes spark protest

High school students protesting in front of the Education Ministry in Taiwan yesterday against changes to the school curriculum, which they say undermine the island's sovereignty.
High school students protesting in front of the Education Ministry in Taiwan yesterday against changes to the school curriculum, which they say undermine the island's sovereignty.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

TAIPEI • Around 200 students protested outside Taiwan's Education Ministry yesterday against what they say are "China-centric" changes to the school curriculum.

Increasing fears in Taiwan over Beijing's influence sparked a three-week occupation of Parliament last year by student-led protesters opposing a trade pact with China.

Several of the groups that took part in the occupation last year joined protesters at the ministry in the capital Taipei, piling up school textbooks at the main gate and shouting protests against "brainwashing education".

The students said changes to the high school curriculum, due to be introduced in September, undermine the island's sovereignty and have been introduced without proper consultation.

"We strongly oppose using the new curriculum, which is aimed at indoctrinating students with the thinking of 'greater China'. This is totally unacceptable," said student leader Chu Chen, 18.

Taiwan split from China in 1949 after a civil war and is self-ruling, but Beijing still sees the island as part of its territory awaiting reunification - by force if necessary.

Relations have improved under current president Ma Ying-jeou, who belongs to the Beijing-friendly Kuomintang party, leading to a number of trade deals but triggering growing unease.

Curriculum changes riling protesters include a reference to Taiwan being "recovered by China" instead of "given to China" after the end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945. The 50-year period of Japanese rule is also referred to as an era when "Japan occupied" the island, replacing the previous phrase "Japan governed".

"It is biased towards the China ideology," said protester Gina Wang, 17. "We want our curriculum to be neutral, diversified and objective."

University student Wu Chang-an, 21, added: "For me, Taiwan is Taiwan. It feels like they are trying to sneak pro-unification ideology into our education."

The Education Ministry said it will give schools the option of following either the old or the new curriculum.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 23, 2015, with the headline 'Taiwan's curriculum changes spark protest'. Print Edition | Subscribe