The Ministry of Education in 2002 established the Native Education Committee to draw up a blueprint and propose the development of a policy to implement native cultural education.
The proposal was to set a long-term goal for course development, resource promotion and talent cultivation, but it was then shelved for eight years due to political transition.
Founded last year, the Center for Native Education integrates educational resources across Taiwan and publishes journals such as Newsletter of Taiwan Studies (台灣學通訊), Research in Taiwan Studies (台灣學研究) and ChaiTe Homeland Education (在地).
These journals serve as instructional references for teachers to engage with and inspire the next generation to identify with Taiwan and the values of democracy.
To consolidate the foundations of native cultural education formed by the Taiwanese Cultural Association a century ago with the support of Taiwanese democracy pioneer Chiang Wei-shui (蔣渭水), the ministry invited experts and academics to attend a conference intended to be a retrospective of 30 years of native cultural education and to look to the future.
The ministry also launched a collaborative project with seven public institutions for the first time this summer. Utilizing the collections and resources of each institution, it organized 37 workshops for teachers, helping them integrate native materials into their teaching so that they can enhance the connection between students and Taiwan during their lectures.
It is expected that there would be further collaborations between private institutions and experts in history or literature, thereby facilitating the formation of local networks of knowledge.
Language is the medium through which culture is transmitted and recorded. Taiwan went through a linguistic dark age when native languages — such as Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), Hakka and indigenous languages — of different ethnicities were suppressed.
After the passing of the Development of National Languages Act (國家語言發展法) in 2019, the Executive Yuan announced in May that it would invest NT$30 billion (US$971 million) over five years to promote national languages.
Starting this month, the curriculum would also be launching native language learning to promote language revitalization.
The late writer Yeh Shih-tao (葉石濤) famously said: “No land, no literature.” Made by a private team, the documentary Yeh Shih-tao, A Taiwan Man was shot with heartfelt enthusiasm and appreciation for Taiwanese literature.
The documentary He’s Still Young movingly depicts the renowned poet Wu Sheng (吳晟), showing its sincerity and passion for this nation.
The Taiwanese Cultural Association has also teamed up with Ju Percussion Group to perform a musical production that seeks to enable more Taiwanese to understand Chiang’s legacy and heritage, while continuing the nation’s mission of cultural enlightenment that began a century ago.
Chuang Wan-shou (莊萬壽), a professor dedicated to establishing Taiwan’s cultural autonomy in relation to China’s threats and intimidation, published the book Taiwan Spirit: The Foundation for Taiwan to Thrive, to encourage Taiwanese to develop an appreciation for historical memory. The book aims to cultivate national identity and a sense of patriotism to pick up arms should the country need defending.
The government aspires to cultivate modern citizens with a humanistic spirit through the implementation and promotion of native cultural education.
With voluntary support and participation of civilians, Taiwan could shape a communal, democratic society that highlights the Taiwanese spirit, inspires patriotism, safeguards universal values and defends our homeland against aggressors.
Lee Chuan-hsin is a member of the Northern Taiwan Society and chairman of the Taiwan Society.
Translated by Rita Wang
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