Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Don't rush into more reform plans

By Lee Chia-tung 李家同

On July 20, 100 people from educational circles issued a joint statement criticizing the nation's educational reforms. This statement has become a focus of media attention. The public is also concerned about Minister of Educa-tion Huang Jong-tsun's (黃榮村) response to the statement.

Why did the statement attract such great attention? I believe it's because "educational reforms" have become a sacred term. The reforms have always carried a noble and moral halo. Everyone has been used to saying good things about the reforms, so we are not accustomed to hearing criticism of them.

Educational reforms involve not only concepts but also many concrete measures. We all know that some basic concepts for governing a nation are sacred, but no concrete measure by any government is holy. Sometimes, we might think that tax cuts are a good thing. As time changes, however, such a policy might need to be amended.

It is the same for educational reforms. Some of the measures are good and some are bad.

I suggest that Huang deal with this matter in a relaxed manner. Education is closely related to a nation's competitiveness and it should be reviewed once in a while. The Ministry of Education should take the opportunity to examine the flaws in today's education. Whether these flaws resulted from educational reforms is beside the point. Society only hopes that Huang can find these problems and work out solutions.

We used to regard educational reforms as sacred. We cannot reverse the thinking now and believe that going against educational reforms is holy. Society should allow some time for the education ministry to deal with this issue. Perhaps some politicians will hype it into an issue but I hope Huang can reduce such interference with wisdom. He had better not make any response right away. Reacting too soon is dangerous because some pleasure-seekers love to see a hot debate. Politicians especially love it because large disputes are their only chance for grandstanding.

Neither supporting nor opposing educational reforms is sacred. Next year's presidential election is even less sacred. What is holiest is education for the nation's numerous students. What Huang now should do is to examine whether our millions of high school and primary school students are getting a good education.

Sometimes we still have to look at figures. In the just finished college entrance exams, the higher standard score (高標, average score of the better 50 percent of students) in the subject of English is 60 and the lower standard score (低標, average of the other half) is only 18. If I am right, around 10,000 students have an English score of less than 10. Seeing these unpleasant figures, I don't think we can call Taiwan's education perfect.

There is nothing wrong with being for or against educational reforms. There is only one problem: whether serious faults exist in our education. It is unlikely that these faults were created solely by the current government. There is no need for the education minister to admit to all these mistakes. But society would definitely require that the minister resolve these problems.

How can the minister settle these problems? Pragmatism should be the most important factor. Feasibility should be considered for any new measure, rather than whether it is derived from sublime ideals. To put it straight, we should keep an eye on the possible after-effects to be created by the implementation of this new measure.

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