Fri, Jul 25, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Politicians, schools get failing grade

By Liu Kuang-ting 劉廣定

In the hot examination season of July, long-running educational problems have been put under the spotlight once again. The expensive tuition fees of colleges and universities are closely related to today's trend of attending cram schools and each family's economic factors as well. These problems were caused by mistaken efforts at educational reform over the past decade and the inappropriate methods of educational reformers and the authorities based on their closed-door, wishful thinking. I will briefly explain the development of these problems.

First, the education reform advocates "happy learning," hoping to improve the performance of all children. However, the Ministry of Education has simplified teaching materials, claiming that "knowledge is not important" while adopting some unsuitable teaching methods such as the controversial "Constructive Mathematics" for elementary-school students. As a result, students are unable to learn modern knowledge and lack the ability to learn on their own.

Meanwhile, schools are teaching three languages: Mandarin, English, and Taiwanese -- by different phonetic systems -- at the same time, which creates learning difficulties for students and reduces the effectiveness of learning.

Since students are unable to learn the skills and information they need in regular elementary and senior-high schools, most parents send their kids to cram schools, apart from the few who are capable of teaching their children by themselves.

Second, educational reforms have not only lowered the standard of the Nine-Year Education Program -- which aims to integrate our primary and secondary-education systems -- but it has affected the original curriculums that are still being implemented. As junior-high school students' performance levels drop, they have a hard time catching up with the scheduled curriculums after they enter senior-high school. To solve their learning problems, they have no choice but to attend cram school again.

Educational reform also advocates establishing more senior-high schools, colleges and universities, and therefore created numerous unqualified schools nationwide. To avoid entering such schools, students have to attend even more cram schools in order to get in better schools through the Diversified Enrollment Scheme.

Third, the number of colleges and universities has increased drastically over the past 10 years. But these schools have neither enough funds nor qualified teachers. As a result, they have no choice but to constantly increase tuition fees in order to slow down the decline of their academic standards -- or they will be unable to continue their school operations.

Also, due to the "knowledge is not important" slogan, the standard of our teaching materials is unable to compete with those of advanced countries. Affected by this, students' learning attitude is bad. Their academic performance is poor and they do not desire to advance. The level of our college education has naturally dropped under such circumstances.

Many students can never compete with others in the workplace if they do not attend graduate school. What a waste of educational resources! Plus, they also have to attend cram school in an effort to get into graduate school. So much money is spent on cram schools at every stage of the educational system. How can students from financially-disadvantaged families hope to compete?

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