Gov’t textbooks make progress

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Gov’t textbooks make progress

The drafts of the new state-authored history textbooks for middle and high schools to be used in classrooms starting next year have been completed and are undergoing final internal evaluation.

These new textbooks will put a heavier emphasis on ancient history than current textbooks, according to a Ministry of Education official.

The drafts will undergo review by various history organizations and a manuscript for each grade will be printed by July. After further revisions, they will be printed at the beginning of next year.

But the Ministry of Education has yet to reveal the list of authors of the textbooks as well as the guidelines given them in advance.

An Education Ministry official told the JoongAng Ilbo on Wednesday, “At the end of last month, the drafts were completed and underwent internal review by the National Institute of Korean History,” which is overseeing the textbook process.

The drafts, written by 46 authors, were completed within four months and will undergo review by various academic institutes such as the Northeast Asian History Foundation and Academy of Korean Studies.

The manuscripts will undergo revisions over the next few months before being subjected to a public survey process in November.

Feedback from experts and teachers will be sought through the end of the year and the textbooks will be finally be confirmed by December before being sent to the printers in January or February.

Another Education Ministry official elaborated, “The emphasis on ancient history has been increased compared to the current textbooks in order to respond to distortions of history in neighboring countries,” such as China’s claims over ancient Korean kingdoms such as Gojoseon, Goguryeo and Balhae through its government-backed study Northeast Project.

The official added, “In order to lessen the burden of students, the overall study material has been decreased by 20 percent.”

The Education Ministry denied a request by the JoongAng Ilbo for detailed information on the history textbooks, a draft or the names of their authors.

The Park Geun-hye administration last year announced a contentious plan for the government to take control of history textbooks from private publishers.

The Ministry of Education announced in October that it would take administrative steps to change the regulations governing history textbooks, which resulted in a backlash from academics as well as the general public.

The JoongAng Ilbo requested the Education Ministry to reveal the guidelines given the authors in accordance with the Act on Disclosure of Information by Public Agencies.

The request, however, was rejected by the ministry on the grounds that this could “disrupt carrying out the task in a fair manner.”

A ministry official said, “If the guidelines are revealed, there could be a lot of societal controversies, and this can also give psychological pressure to the authors.”

However, this highly non-transparent method for drafting the state-written textbooks has drawn criticism from historians.

Ju Jin-oh, a history professor at Sangmyung University, said, “If the government decided to publish textbooks, the process should be transparent and disclosed to the public and should incorporate criticism from academics in order to increase the trust of the people.”

Yoo Jin-sik, a professor at Chonbuk National University Law School said, “The government needs to improve its trying to hide information out of fear that something can interfere with its task. There is no legal ground for the criteria to not be made public.”

BY NAM YOON-SEO, BAEK MIN-KYUNG [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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