Foundation Advances Democracy Education in Taiwan

Jan 10, 2014 / Civitas International Programs
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The Civic and Law-Related Education (CLRE) Foundation in Taiwan is a nonprofit organization that began its programming in 2003 and has experienced significant success over the past decade. Spurred by the interest of Taiwanese attorneys to help the country invest in high quality civic education for democracy and with the support of Taiwan’s Rotary Clubs, the Foundation has developed and disseminated curricula marked by “active learning” and high levels of civic engagement. These curricula include adaptations of the Foundations of Democracy and Project Citizen materials of the California-based Center for Civic Education. The CLRE Foundation has also sponsored numerous teacher training workshops in order to help teachers implement the curricula. In just ten years the Foundation’s programs have expanded to schools and libraries throughout Taiwan with many noteworthy accomplishments.

Students in Taiwan participate in Project Citizen

Students in Taiwan participate in Project Citizen

Civic and law-related education curricula have been adopted in primary and secondary schools in every county, and numerous universities have also embraced the program. Teacher and student interest in the curricula is very high. Students who study FOD and Project Citizen have become much more engaged in their other subjects as well.  Teachers report that the learning environment in classrooms has improved, with students displaying fewer disruptive behaviors and showing much more consideration for the views of others.  Students’ intellectual skills are showing gains as well.  Their reasoning abilities are improving and their ability to build arguments based on evidence and fact has grown.  As a byproduct of these enhanced analytical and communication skills, student participation (an area in which Taiwan has been ranked low historically) has shown a marked increase.

Taiwan3Teachers have noted that they, too, have changed for the better.  No longer are they just supervisors; they have become facilitators of learning instead, an essential shift in outlook and pedagogy.  In response to this change in teacher behavior, students are responding to the high expectations imposed on them and benefit from the positive reinforcement of their peers.  Students demonstrate much more maturity than before and take responsibility for their own learning progress.  Importantly, the improved knowledge, skills and dispositions gained as a result of their exposure to CLRE are being demonstrated at all grade levels and across all subject areas.

The translation of Jessica Fish Learns About Privacy

The translation of Jessica Fish Learns About Privacy

The high-quality teaching materials used in Taiwan have been put to very good use.  The translated versions of Center materials received Best Publication Awards for Human Rights Education from the National Institute of Compilation and Translation (NICT) in 2005, 2006 and 2008.  The Foundation’s own publication on legal issues of school discipline, jointly authored by lawyers and teachers, won an NICT award in the same category in 2005.

The influence of the CLRE Foundation has spread beyond the schools. The 582 public libraries managed by the Ministry of Education have received CLRE publications and many have incorporated the Center’s FOD principles into story-telling programs for young children.  A number of public lectures have been hosted in these libraries as well.

Probation and correction officers in Kaohsiung Youth Court have incorporated FOD content and materials into their counseling of young offenders, as have local prosecutors.  Films based on CLRE content have been produced by the National Institute of Educational Resources and Research, and eighteen of Taiwan’s twenty-five County Educational Offices now include FOD in their teacher training courses.

The reputation of the CLRE Foundation has also spread beyond Taiwan’s borders. On October 26–27, 2013 the Foundation sponsored a very successful Asian Citizenship Education International Conference in Taipei.  The conference brought together Taiwanese educators and educational leaders, attorneys and other legal experts, and scholars and leaders of international civic education organization from Japan, Mongolia, China, Korea, Thailand, and the United States. The conference also included civic education presentations by students. Both the Taiwanese educators and students impressed the international visitors with their dynamism and eloquence. They demonstrated CLRE’s rich understanding that education for capable and responsible democratic participation requires more than civic knowledge.  It also requires young people to be able to articulate a point of view and understand different perspectives; develop skills of communication and critical analysis of issues, events and laws; and to be able to collaborate, inquire, question and give voice to democratic ideals.

All of these activities have been made possible by the generous financial and volunteer support of the Foundation, Taiwan’s Rotary Clubs, and numerous bar associations. Hundreds of lawyer-volunteers have been involved in providing training to more than 20,000 teachers, who also are eligible for grants for extra training and course preparation.  In addition, several mastery-level students have received scholarships for writing theses on law-related education, and many of those same students are already becoming involved as volunteers in the program. Taiwan’s unique partnership, involving the Foundation, Taiwan’s Rotary Clubs, and its many bar associations, has not only made a great contribution to Taiwan but can serve as a model for other countries around the world.

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