Sun, Jun 27, 2004 - Page 8 News List

The nation must value education for future

By Daisy Hung 洪蘭

Newspapers reported that the Control Yuan has suggested that the more than 500 elementary schools and high schools with fewer than 100 students be closed or integrated so as to save about NT$5 billion in personnel costs per year.

I was shocked, because education to a nation is like blood to a human body, and a bleeding person cannot live for long.

Taiwan was poverty-stricken when I was a child, so fewer people could go to school. It was possible for a child to learn to read only if he or she got up before dawn and travelled far over mountains and valleys to get to school.

The grown-ups worked ceaselessly to achieve "a primary school in every village and books in every household." This policy popularized education and strengthened the nation as its economy took off, making the nation one of the four Asian tigers.

However, since we were flooded with money, people have forgotten their past efforts. We have become self-contented and conceited, and have started to do things that may destroy our roots and shake the nation's foundation.

In remote areas, an elementary school is the spiritual center of a village. In today's society, as many families are falling apart, not only does it offer our children a chance to receive an education, but it also has certain family functions.

When a child attends school, at least he or she will have a hot lunch and will not suffer from serious hunger. When the child falls ill, the teacher is often the first to find out. In remote areas, teachers' responsibilities go beyond children's schoolwork.

A good school principal is almost a spiritual figure who can unite the whole village, and can bring different cultures into the village by holding activities and improve the environment by providing resources from the outside world.

Also, a school is sometimes the most well-equipped and well-constructed place in a village. When a natural disaster occurs, residents evacuate to the school, which becomes the village's spiritual castle.

Abolishing the school is killing the village. It will force residents to move out and the community to collapse.

The NT$5 billion education budget is indeed a large amount of money. But it's nothing compared to Taiwan's massive arms purchases budget of NT$610.8 billion. Not to mention that buying weapons will not necessarily save the nation, because our rival can always buy more weapons.

However, closing a school in a remote village will destroy the future of the disadvantaged children who live in remote areas. Please do not forget that even the most sophisticated weapons need to be operated by educated people, and Taiwan will be hopeless without education.

Many things cannot be measured in terms of money. If we truly love this nation, we should think about its long-term future.

Rather than cutting down on the education budget and sacri-ficing the weak, the government should act resolutely to find out the cause of the population decrease and the reasons why young people are hesitant to have children.

Advanced weapons cannot protect Taiwan without the necessary talent to operate them.

We all studied this old saying when we were young: "When the nest is overturned, no eggs can remain unbroken."

I really do not understand why the government leaders are in such a haste to cut down this big tree of education on which the nation's nest rests.

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