Poet Yu Kwang-chung urges new gov’t to save Mandarin

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Poet Yu Kwang-chung called on the incoming Kuomintang government to save the Chinese language yesterday. On the 88th anniversary of the May Fourth Movement, Yu urged Ma Ying-jeou, the president-elect, and his premier-designate Liu Chao-shiuan to call off a new Chinese teaching program to give students a better chance to learn their mother tongue. Starting the next school year, the new program will shorten the teaching of the Chinese language to four 50-minute sessions a week. “We need at least five sessions a week to enable our students to acquire a better working command of the Chinese language,” said Yu, who taught English and English literature at practically all prestigious universities in Taiwan. Thousands of Beijing University students marched in the capital on May 4, 1919, to protest the cavalier treatment of China by the world powers at the Paris peace conference. One outgrowth of the movement is the adoption of colloquialism in modern Chinese writing. Yu, convener of the National League for Saving Chinese, demanded that at least the teaching of Chinese classics, Confucian classics in particular, account for at least 55 percent of the Chinese lessons. Under the new program, scheduled to be get under way in September, the ratio will come down to a mere 40 percent for senior high school students. The number of Chinese lessons in primary and junior high schools will be reduced to four a week. “It should be raised to at least five,” said the convener of the league, of which both Ma and Liu are founding members. Moreover, Yu said, primary schools participating in the nine-year integrated compulsory education program should offer 10 Chinese lessons a week.

“Junior high school participants in the program should give six lessons a week at the very least,” Yu added.

The teaching of Chinese classics also helps in moral education, said Chang Hsiao-feng, a deputy convener of the league. “As a matter of fact,” Chang said, “Confucian classics teach ethics as well.” Confucian teachings are best expounded in the Four Books, including the Analects.