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July 22, 2017

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Calls for more Chinese classes missing the point of education

A group of scholars and writers has urged the Education Ministry to increase the course hours for Chinese in elementary and secondary schools in order to curb what they call the deteriorating proficiency among students using the official language of the country.

They note a significant drop in weekly hours for Chinese classes in the newly implemented 12-year nationwide free education program.

They argue that it is ridiculous for Taiwan to place less emphasis on its national language when other countries, realizing the growing importance of a language that one-fifth of the world's people use, are encouraging their students to learn Chinese.

Some argue that the hours for other courses could be reduced, but Chinese must never play any weakened role in Taiwan's curriculum.

Language learning is definitely important, as all knowledge — in the form as we generally know it — relies on language for its dissemination. And our national language is definitely important because it is what this country uses: it actually defines the nation's identity.

But increasing the hours of Chinese classes at school may be a little tricky; it involves an overhaul of the entire curriculum at the expense of other courses. It means the other courses must see their hours cut to accommodate the increased hours for Chinese.

So what should be cut? History, geography, math, English, native languages, computer courses, physical education, music or art?

One has to remember that the total hours of a school week are supposed to be constant. Unless we extend the total hours, how are we to accommodate more Chinese classes?

And one also has to remember that more hours for Chinese classes were possible in the past when native languages and computer courses were non-existent. It was also a time when English was not even in the elementary curriculum.

So what should we do now? Fewer hours for music or art? But then why are they less important? Haven't educators been complaining about a lack of real music and art education for students in Taiwan?

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