Confucianism, Democratization, and Human Rights in Taiwan

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In the following section, we explain the research methods of this study. Through interview conversations with policymakers, it explored the barriers to the implementation of constructivist approaches to science education. Member of the core editorial committee that organized nationwide consultations with science teachers during the development of the reform policies,. Served on the science curriculum review committee to develop the science curriculum guidelines.

Participants were invited to discuss 1 their vision for science education policy changes in Taiwan, 2 their perspectives on the current implementation of the new science education policy in Taiwanese schools, and 3 their views about professional supports during the implementation process in science classrooms. The audio-tapes of the interviews were then transcribed and translated from Mandarin into English by the first author. Both authors discussed and analyzed the translated and de-identified interview transcripts during the interpretive process.

Thematic analysis Creswell was used to categorize important themes and to cluster phenomena associated with study objectives. We identified a number of central themes through this process e. Throughout this analysis, we identified and compared the various factors that posed significant challenges to the implementation of science education reform in Taiwan.

She is currently pursuing research in science education in North America. The second author is a science education researcher and has been conducting research to understand the politics of educational reform in diverse international contexts. This exploratory qualitative inquiry aims to identify and assess the challenges that policymakers have encountered while implementing the mandatory reform-based curriculum in Taiwan. This section is divided into two parts.

In the second part, we focus on the myriad challenges encountered during the implementation of the reform. From their perspective, scientific literacy was crucial in terms of preparing Taiwanese citizens to participate in civic affairs.

Confucius and the Ballot Box

This has become the goal of science curricula at all levels of education. Huai-guo believed that the traditional system lacked diversity and creativity because it focused mainly on preparing students for a professional career in medicine. We can support different perspectives The policy leaders pointed out the importance of supporting teachers to implement the reform-based curriculum in their classrooms.

Designing ongoing professional development programs to support teachers in shifting their practice emerged as a key factor in the implementation process. The policymakers strongly believed in reforming teacher development programs in conjunction with science education reform.

Indeed, the participants explained that they have been making efforts to introduce significant systematic changes into the teacher-education system to enhance the quality of pre-service and in-service programs. The Ministry of Education and the local educational governments give out a lot of money for in-service teacher training. In the same vein, the reform policy documents indicated that teacher-education programs were meant to prepare science teachers to effectively implement the reform-based pedagogy.

Moreover, providing professional resources to teachers through setting up local teaching communities was an important strategy for promoting the reform-based pedagogy. The participants believed that teachers need extensive professional support to understand the reform policies and explain them adequately to the parents as well. However, two policymakers seemed concerned that teachers were not benefiting significantly from ongoing in-service programs, even though the government had allocated a tremendous amount of financial resources to establish these programs.

They were concerned that teachers were not interested in participating in regular in-service training to improve their teaching. Teacher autonomy was also underscored as an important factor in the reform process by these policy leaders. For example, Huai-guo explained that the goal of the new policy was to provide teachers with greater autonomy in the classroom to empower them to make appropriate pedagogical decisions while using cooperative learning and inquiry-based teaching methods.

Ultimately, teachers need independence to use reform-based teaching approaches. Thus, encouraging teacher autonomy was viewed as essential to the implementation of creative teaching strategies in the classroom. The policy leaders stressed the need to infuse creative pedagogical approaches in teacher-education programs because they felt that teacher training programs both pre-service and in-service tended to ignore the importance of cultivating creativity in students. They just want to teach in a traditional way because it is generally acceptable by the society.

It is because we memorize for exams.

Why “Asian Values” Do Not Stymie Democracy

However, parents will never be able to comprehend [open-ended inquiries] because we have always thought that knowledge should be memorized. The influence of examination is a societal value rather than a simple educational problem. Hence, this societal value affected the science education policy and practice. Teachers have no choice but to practice as the society expects them to Whenever you change something new, they [parents] panic.

Parents are so used to sending their children to cram schools [to prepare for exams]. But now, even cram schools do not know how to teach [using inquiry]. Of course, parents panicked, so they rejected this policy. Collective thinking about establishing a balanced social order has led the society to prioritize discipline and rules without considering the long-term effects of these values.

Collectivism affects the format of science education rather than content. All teachers want students to be well behaved and follow cookbook procedure during experimentation. Societal impact definitely exists. People who are making policies are also influenced by society, by militarism, which empowers collectivism.

Confucianism, Asian Values, and Human Rights bibliography

This is how strongly Confucianism is influencing Taiwanese. Widespread acceptance of Confucianism restricts the space for developing new ideas or values in society. The dominance of these values affects science classroom practice, since teachers mainly ask their students to behave in a disciplined manner and conduct structured science experiments by following the directions given in the textbooks.

Teachers do not encourage innovative thinking and other scientific skills, [such as] critical thinking and problem-solving skills,…which affects the development of scientific knowledge in society Huai-guo. In Confucian cultures, functionalism, collective thinking, acting according to tradition…are important characteristics…. These are obstacles to scientific advancement…and the reason why science in Asia cannot advance Qian-hua. Traditional culture within the Confucius heritage and Asian culture often treats science…as a tool.

Since the motivation to move up is strong, students are forced to study knowledge that is being tested.

Keynote address at The 15th Anniversary Celebration of the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy

This would not happen in the West where parents do not force children to study These Confucian traditions thus have impeded the progress of science in this country Qian-hua. In sum, the national examination system was highlighted by the policymakers as the main challenge to the reform. In addition, they seemed to share a fairly clear position in regards to the challenges posed by Confucian traditions to the reform.

We reiterate here that these findings and interpretations of Confucianism may not represent the views of all science policy leaders in Taiwan. The perspectives of the three participants reflect their personal, professional, and political positions on educational reform and offer useful insights into the intricate dynamics of educational reform in a Confucian learning culture.

The primary focus of this study was to explore the dynamics of contemporary science education reform in an East Asian culture.

The goal was to explore the ways in which education reform was intimately related to the political movement for democracy in Taiwan. Before embarking on this research, we examined the policy documents and curriculum guidelines to understand how reform goals intersected with the new vision for social and political change.

The reform policies in Taiwan place a special emphasis on reforming and modernizing science curricula in line with current developments in Western contexts. Our analysis suggests that the political rationale for education reform in Taiwan rested on two key goals: 1 developing and sustaining a democratic political system and 2 strengthening economic growth. The education reform goals are intimately tied to the national vision for industrial and economic progress through building a strong foundation in science and technology education and research.


  • Confucius and the Ballot Box.
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  • Confucianism, Democratization, and Human Rights in Taiwan.

The government enacted various policies and laws to overhaul the existing K—12 science and teacher-education systems. Importantly, the Western model of science education was deployed as a vehicle to restructure the education system to realize the vision for democracy and economic development. Indeed, scientific literacy was viewed as integral to the development of a modern democratic society in Taiwan. The conjoining of political and economic ambitions during the movement for democracy in the s led to the massive reform initiative in science education.

It is also important to note that the science education reform policies were largely constructed by Taiwanese scientists who had received their professional education in the United States. Their exposure to democratic values and science education reform discourses thus inspired them to emphasize the value of fostering critical and independent thinking through scientific inquiry Law Nevertheless, the reform policies met with strong resistance from the public.

Some scholars argue that the rush to implement these policies might have resulted in tremendous resistance by teachers and parents Chou and Ching ; Hwang Within a decade, a series of legal and structural changes was introduced in the education system, including the formulation of new laws pertaining to education, the development of new guidelines for teacher preparation and continuing professional development programs, and the introduction of student-centered and process-oriented pedagogical approaches in the national science education curriculum Chen The policymakers who participated in this study believed that Taiwanese society was not yet ready to accept the rapid changes in education policy.

At the same time, they also felt that the examination-oriented learning culture and traditional teaching approaches that focus mainly on preparing students for the national exams have posed enormous challenges to the reform initiatives. While explaining the possible reasons for intense resistance to the reform, Chou and Ching contended that the reform committee seemingly overlooked the role of social values and learning traditions while articulating the reform policies.

However, the most important finding of this study is that the policy leaders were in fact fully aware of the incongruities between Western models of science education and Taiwanese cultural learning traditions. According to the policymakers, Taiwanese parents and teachers tend to believe that preparing students for national examinations is the primary focus of education. Similarly, many scholars suggest that the primary goal of education in East Asian Confucian learning cultures e.

Confucius and the Ballot Box

Respect for teachers and their knowledge is also deeply rooted in Confucian learning cultures. Teachers are seen as role models for their students within these cultures. They are expected to pass down their knowledge, wisdom, and cultural traditions to their students. Thus, most teachers and parents cannot be convinced of the effectiveness of active learning and student-centered pedagogical approaches which encourage students to actively construct knowledge through discussion, debate, and experimentation see also Berry ; Yang et al.

The emphasis on conformity and maintaining classroom discipline further challenges the implementation of nontraditional teaching methods in local schools. It also inspired science education reform in the s. The Taiwanese education reformers in our analysis believed that traditional values tend to conflict with the development of modern science. They believed that the emphasis on maintaining harmonious social order in Confucianism has led to excessive social conformity, which impedes scientific productivity and technological innovation in East Asian societies.

They seemed to be wrestling with the authoritative controls of the martial law regime while believing they were challenging traditional Chinese ethics e. Aligned with our analysis, Fetzer and Soper found that many pro-democratic politicians and Taiwanese social elitists view traditional Confucian values as inherently authoritarian. Consequently, they claim to reject Confucian morality due to its use by the totalitarian KMT government.

Although the study participants might interpret Confucianism and Confucian traditions differently, this empirical exploration offers readers critical and meaningful insights into political and historical perspectives on the reform. In our analysis of data obtained through interviews with science teachers, we found that most Taiwanese science teachers emphasized the importance of Confucian ethics for society at large Huang and Asghar, in press.

They often found that reform-based pedagogies are not compatible with their cultural beliefs about teaching and learning e. These beliefs have led teachers to feel that policymakers and education reformers seem to not understand the professional needs of teachers. While educational reformers have attempted to use the new science curriculum to diminish the influence of Confucian values in Taiwanese schools, most science teachers felt that policymakers have proposed a reform agenda that is not aligned with the professional needs of teachers.

This lack of consensus between Taiwanese teachers and policymakers has led teachers to feel a general lack of commitment to the new curriculum Huang In light of the above, this study examines the effects of governmental rationality on the development of education reform in Taiwan. The goal is to provoke discussion about the necessity of confronting traditional Confucian values while improving science education in Taiwan and other East Asian countries.

This work unravels the intricate connections among economic, political, and educational reform agendas in Taiwan.