Use of new textbooks now delayed until 2020

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Use of new textbooks now delayed until 2020

The Ministry of Education on Wednesday announced it has pushed back the use of new state-authorized history textbooks in classrooms to 2020, two years later than initially anticipated.

These government-approved textbooks were to replace the recently scrapped and unpopular state-issued history textbooks for middle and high schools, which were written under the previous administration.

The Education Ministry announced follow-up measures after scrapping plans for the state-issued textbooks under an executive order by President Moon Jae-in, made after he came into office in May.

It said that the new textbooks will be used in classes starting from the March 2020 school year and that schools may continue to use their current textbooks for the time being.

In 2015, the Park Geun-hye administration authorized state-written textbooks for middle and high schools, replacing privately published ones, a move that sparked backlash.

State-penned textbooks were seen as reminiscent of the government’s control of textbooks in 1974 under the military rule of President Park Chung Hee, Park Geun-hye’s father, a system that ended in 2010.

While drafts of these new textbooks rolled out in November, they were heavily criticized by liberal lawmakers and scholars as glorifying the Park Chung Hee regime, among other things.

Though the textbook underwent revisions, the idea fizzled out following the impeachment of former President Park Geun-hye in December.

The Education Ministry eventually announced that schools will be able to choose between the state-issued textbooks or ones published privately but authorized by the government.

Virtually no schools opted for the use of state-issued textbooks, however, making the Moon administration’s executive order largely symbolic.

The extension of the time for issuance of such state-authorized textbooks was deemed necessary amid worries that there was not ample time to write a quality textbook, or that it may be drafted using the 2015 government-penned textbooks as a basis.

It usually takes at least 18 months for the textbook to be written and undergo review, revision and printing, which would have made it difficult for textbooks to be authorized by the 2018 school year.

The Education Ministry consulted with history scholars and academics, as well as schools, cities and provincial governments to review how to follow up after scrapping plans for the state-penned textbooks.

Following the review, the ministry called for higher-quality history textbooks with diverse views to promote democratic education.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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