Wed, Jul 23, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Education reforms must continue

Last Sunday, more than 100 university professors and educators released a petition calling for an end to Taiwan's chaotic educational reforms. Pointing out 12 problems in the reforms, including constructivist mathematics and the multiple-school-entrance system, they raised suspicions that the policy of establishing more high schools and universities was in fact disastrous to education. Amid this chaos, teachers can't have the peace of mind they need to do their work and students can't concentrate on their studies. Besides, children from rich families get all the privileges while those from poor and disadvantaged families have hardly any opportunities for fair competition.

Once the scholars started advocating reforms, the opposition parties immediately picked up the fight and jumped into the fray. As a result, the education issue, which should have been discussed rationally, has turned into an ugly scene in which the political parties exchange abuse. The KMT and DPP are now once again engaging in a "saliva war," which in no way helps correct the current chaos in the education system.

Taiwan's educational reforms have been a continuous policy. However, implementation of the reforms has been going on for 10 years, and now is the time to review this topic. The good points and bad points of the measures implemented in recent years should be discussed publicly, instead of singling out and blaming a few selfless people who have devoted themselves to educational reform, and taking the opportunity to engage in a political vendetta.

We believe that the government institutions should responsibly and humbly review those arguments contained in the petition, quickly re-adjust the flaws if there are indeed flaws, and insist on the spirit and principles of the existing policies if no flaws are found.

When the educational reforms began, there were predictions in the outside world that the biggest enemy of the reforms would be the residual poison left behind by the millennium-old traditional Chinese civil-service exam system. Today, this system has evolved into the well-known obsession with prestigious schools and certificates, which can only generate college graduates with no ability to think or work independently.

On the other hand, Taiwan's professional licensing and certification systems remain problematic. University graduate certificates still weigh heavily in decisions on the selection, salaries and promotion of professional personnel. As a result, parents will naturally have to ignore their children's interests and "persuade" them to go to university or even graduate from school. However, industries are forced to look for talent overseas or subcontract work to make up for a shortage in domestic manpower.

Whether these reforms are widening the rich-poor gap or causing the students' abilities to decline -- these are concrete and serious accusations -- they should be discussed in-depth in the national conference on education in September. We believe educators throughout the country should think seriously about and propose solutions to the chaos instead of throwing the entire problem at the government's door.

At the same time, if the political parties are so concerned about educational reforms, why don't they also propose solutions and bring in the beef for the public to taste, instead of scattering pepper over everything and starting a blame game in the run up to the presidential election?

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