Integrated Social Studies
Curricula in Taiwan

Cheng-Hsiung Lu

The social studies curriculum in Taiwan has recently moved toward inclusion of many stories from various cultural groups. These stories represent the habits, traditions, and expertise of different ethnic peoples. This multicultural model may serve as the center of information center that allows students to understand human experience.1 Presenting cultures from many different ethnic groups expands the cultural repertoires of the Taiwanese people, increases tolerance, and helps shape a broad understanding of history.2


Background of Curriculum Revision

In the past fifty years, the official curriculum guidelines for social studies have been revised five times. The most recent revision offers guidelines for nurturing children to be citizens of the twenty-first century and helping them to meet the challenges to come. There are five guidelines for teachers to follow when preparing students:

1. to focus on manners and character education;

2. to value democracy, law, and citizenship education;

3. to enrich the teaching of local cultures;

4. to reflect on the needs of future society; and

5. to take into consideration the individual needs of students.

The four goals for the social studies curriculum3 are

1. to cultivate a positive self-concept, to build harmonious relationships with others, and to foster good living habits, so as to develop a well-rounded character;

2. to guide children so they understand the environment in which they live, and to introduce the history, geography, and culture of their mother country so as to cultivate genuine love of their home, society, and mother land;

3. to help children gain a wider understanding of the world, broaden their horizon, and cultivate a global view of equity and cooperation; and

4. to cultivate children’s abilities in value judgment, critical thinking, and problem-solving, so as to build solid foundations for a democratic society.

To fulfill the goals of the new social studies guidelines, the missions of teaching are divided into three levels, namely, lower, medium, and higher classes. The lower level consists of first and second grades (ages 7 and 8); medium level, third and fourth grades; and higher level, fifth and sixth grades.

For the lower level classes, the teaching missions are

1. to understand the relationship among school, family, and society so as to cultivate polite manners and an optimistic outlook;

2. to introduce the local culture and festivals to generate affection toward the traditions of the country;

3. to explore lifestyles in other schools or regions in order to broaden children’s knowledge of diversity; and

4. to learn how to make good use of time and money and to choose healthy amusements and recreations.

For the medium level classes, the teaching missions are

1. to become familiar with the function of school, and for students to be able to engage in independent activities;

2. to understand the social, economic, and political development of Taiwan and to cultivate an appreciation of society;

3. to understand the interaction among economics, politics, and society, and to promote far-reaching ideals for the society; and

4. to cultivate appropriate learning attitudes, and to empower students in their problem-solving abilities.

For the higher level classes, the teaching missions are to help students:

1. to understand the relationship between the government and its citizenry, to and develop respect for living in a society governed by law;

2. to study the geography and traditional culture of the country and cultivate patriotism;

3. to learn about the geography of the Earth, the variety of modern societies, and environmental issues so as to forge a view of a global village;

4. to acknowledge the essence of a multicultural society, and to prepare students to accommodate themselves in such a multicultural environment.


Comparing Textbooks

Content and subject matter vary by grade level.4 Generally, there are six units of study in each of the six grade levels (Table 1). Several researchers that performed content analyses of different versions of government-sanctioned textbooks found a discrepancy in the selection of content.5 The content analyses used four social studies textbooks published by four different private publishing companies.6 All four textbooks follow the official guidelines of the social studies curriculum, namely, the units on Taiwan’s geographic position, its folklore and art, and its developmental stages. However, under the same unit, the teaching time and the focus of the lessons vary according to the company’s individual preference. For example, for the unit of folklore and art activities, the Senseio textbook contains abundant detailed description of the folklore of the indigenous people of the island of Formosa. It specifies the exact name of the aboriginal folklore, the time in history, and location for the event, while other textbooks emphasize different topics. Therefore, the availability of various textbooks allows each elementary school to choose what may best fit its needs in terms of its students’ background and the local community.



To prepare students to face the challenges of tomorrow, social studies should not consider isolated topics. Rather, it must be designed as an integrated subject interwoven with related disciplines, such as geography, history, politics, economics, anthropology, and health. Only by integrating the social studies curriculum with other crucial elements of learning may students earn sufficient knowledge to fit in the society of the future. Social studies can expand the students’ view of the social sphere of the neighborhood, the country, and the global village. The Taiwanese social studies curriculum serves to promote this concept of curriculum integration.



1. E. Hutchins, Cognition in the Wild (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 1995); B. Shore, Culture in Mind: Cognition, Culture, and the Problem of Meaning (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996).

2. Y. S. Ou, “Retrospect and Expectation for Social Studies Education in Taiwan,” In D. Wang, ed., Proceedings of the Asia Pacific Social Studies Conference (Taipei: National Taipei Teachers College, 1998): 8-35; L. Q. Zou, “Developmental Issues in the Social Studies Curriculum,” Social Studies Educational Research 2, 1997: 209-224.

3. B. C. Chin, Introduction of Social Studies Curriculum (Taipei: Provincial Elementary School Teacher Training Association, 1997).

4. Ministry of Education, Curriculum Standards of Elementary School (Taipei: Tai-Jie International Culture, 1993); Ministry of Education, Structural Study of Social Study Curriculum Integration at Elementary School (Taipei: Tai-Jie International Culture, 1993).

5. B. C. Chin, “Comparison of the Social Studies Textbooks of the Fourth Grade,” Yan Shi Zh Xuang 16, no. 6, (1999): 33-42; S. Y. Chu, R. J. Huang, and T. Z.Ye, “Content Analysis of Social Studies Curriculum of the First Grade,” Citizen Education 37, no. 3 (1997): 39-54; H. B. Wang, “Content Analysis of Social Studies Textbooks of the Third Grade,” Guo Jiau Xuei Bao 11 (1999): 411-430.

6. Eighth Issue of Social Studies Textbook (Tainan; Kan Xuang Wun Jiau Company, 2000); Eighth Issue of Social Studies Textbook (Tainan: Nan-Yee Bookstore Company, 2000); Eighth Issue of Social Studies Textbook (Taipei; National Compilation and Translation Institute, 2000); Eighth Issue of Social Studies Textbook (Taipei, Senseio Bookstore Company, 2000).



Lu, C. W., H. F. Wang, and M. Q. Liu. “Design of Social Studies Curriculum and Action Research of Teaching.” Jiau Sh Ten Dee 112 (1999): 39-44.

Ou, Y. S. Curriculum and Instructional Innovation. Taipei: Shi Da Shu Yuan, 1996.

Ou, Y. S. “Commentary on Textbook Issues.” Citizen Education 37, no. 3 (1997): 26-32.

Wang, H. F., and C. W. Lu. “Experience Sharing of the New Curriculum: Case Study of Action Research at Yon-Ho Elementary School.” Humanity and Social Studies Teaching Newsletter 10, no. 6 (2000): 155-166.

Cheng-Hsiung Lu is an associate professor at the National Hualien Teachers College in Hualien City, Taiwan.



Table 1. Social studies content is organized by units of study in the first through the sixth grades. The units of study for grade one are shown here for example.

Grade Unit Content
First Grade One Friendship

1. Importance of friendship.
2. Getting along with your friends.
3. Mutual respect of friends.

Two Family members

1. Organization of a family.
2. Parents and children.
3. Get along with your family members.


Family activities

1. Teamwork among family members.
2. Arrangement of family schedules.
3. Learning activities.
4. Getting along with neighbors.


Class at school

1. Your seating and the location of your
2. Homeroom teacher and classmates.
3. Activities during recess.

Five Administration of the school

1. Location of the schoo#146;s main offices and equipment.
2. Principal and office personnel at school.
3. School activities.


Life at school

1. The meaning of schooling.
2. Regulations for getting along with others.
3. Arrangements and routines at school.