Wed, Jul 30, 2003 - Page 8 News List

Academics' hatred behind criticism

The recent joint petition by more than 100 academics calling for a "restructuring of the education system" listed 13 perceived failures of the last decade of educational reform and four general appeals. The petition criticized educational reform as being guided by "figures in the liberal faction," thereby seeming to imply that the critics have themselves adopted a conservative stance.

Conservatism is not necessarily bad. However, at the conclusion of the press conference publicizing the petition, directly calling on Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲) to take responsibility for the failure of educational reform and, especially, emphasizing that no aspect of educational reform has been done right showed that they are in fact throwing down the gauntlet and have no intention of seeking compromise.

Has educational reform really been a complete failure? Is it such a threat that it must be ferociously repudiated in this manner? Stated simply, our feelings about the 13 listed "failures" and the proposals to rectify them is that basic principles of education have been confused. We believe public opinion is being misled with an intent to deceive. The standards used to criticize reform reek of opportunism, as they encompass only superficial issues that resonate with the perceptions of a shallow audience. There is no attempt to solve problems by proposing practical and effective solutions.

For example, the definition of "quality education" presented among the four appeals raises doubts, because while no one would quibble with the apparent meaning of the words, further explication reveals that the last decade of educational reform has been labelled "universal education" for the masses. Thus, wouldn't so-called "quality education" be precisely the opposite of universal education -- ie, elite education?

Reading down the list, we see the demand for a return to class formation based on ability and opposition to the proliferation of senior-high schools and colleges. These aspects of reform, which were originally intended to look after the underprivileged and realize the ideal of universal education, have now come to be reviled in the eyes of those most privileged as "forcing the hare to wait for the tortoise."

They claim such policies will hurt the nation's international competitiveness. They utterly fail to comprehend that learning in an environment of equality won't necessarily obstruct the progress of the most talented students and may even liberate them from narrow-mindedness.

Apart from groundless libel about "eradicating the star high schools" and "abolishing vocational schools," the critics have even trumped up charges about the already scrapped "high-school admissions preferences plan" and the unrelated issue of "constructivist mathematics." Perhaps this could be dismissed as scraping the bottom of the barrel, but most strangely of all they have also proposed "class formation based on proficiency in each subject" and "including [in the calculation of admission grades] class performance in junior-high school."

Anyone with the slightest concern for education issues knows that the side-effects of such policies are very serious. Can't "class formation based on proficiency in each subject" easily become a form of "class formation based on proficiency?"

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