China's Ministry of Education on Monday announced punishment on 27 people, including senior officials of People's Education Press, a publishing house supervised by the ministry, after a three-month investigation into the controversial, "ugly" illustrations in primary school textbooks.
The people involved either received serious warnings or were removed from their post. Some of the primary school textbooks by the publishing house stirred up a wide online controversy as netizens found many illustrations in the textbooks were "ugly" and "vulgar."
The Party chief of the publishing house, Huang Qiang, was given serious warning and major demerit, and editor-in-chief Guo Ge was removed from the post.
The designers of the illustrations were also punished. Wu Yong Working Studio is barred from engagement in national textbook design, illustration drawing and other related work, according to the MOE.
The MOE launched an investigation into the controversial math textbooks in May. The investigation concluded that the People's Education Press failed to understand the educational function of the textbooks illustrations, did not have a complete selection system on illustrators, did not pay attention to readers' suggestions, and failed to timely rectify on the problems of illustrations. The publishing house also lacked guidance and supervision to textbook review, the MOE said.
The illustrations were found to have three major problems, according to the Monday announcement. The illustration style was not in line with the publish aesthetic habit and some illustrations can be deemed as "ugly"; some illustrations were incorrect; some others were misleading, with improper elements or scale.
In May, discussions over the primary school math textbooks took over Chinese social media platforms, with many netizens calling the illustrations in the textbooks "ugly, racist, spooky and sexually suggestive" as some illustrations featured characters with crooked mouth, tongue sticking out and in bunny girl outfit, or wearing clothes with the U.S. flag.
After the incident sparked uproar, the People's Education Press started to redraw the illustrations in May and has completed the work recently to ensure that textbooks with new illustrations will be delivered to schools before new semester begins in September, the MOE said.
To ensure the quality of the illustrations, the publishing house strictly selected the illustrating team and the version drawn by the professional team of the Central Academy of Fine Arts was finally approved.
The MOE also launched an inspection into illustrations of all national middle school and primary school textbooks as well as off-class reading books to ensure that they could reflect the correct value orientation, carry forward the Chinese culture, and are in line with the public aesthetic habits.
So far 2,487 types of textbooks for primary and middle school students were reviewed by 350 experts organized by the MOE.