Wed, Sep 07, 2005 - Page 8 News List

Editorial: Education standards are critical

Addressing the 2005 Youth National Affairs Conference (青年國是會議) on Sunday, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) said he would not recognize the academic qualifications conferred by Chinese colleges during his presidency. Chen's pledge runs counter to what Taipei Mayor and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Chairman Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has long supported. How Chen's pledge plays out will have a significant impact on our society and education system. Those in power must consider this matter seriously, to avoid causing our children to suffer in the future.

Generally, only four universities in China are recognized as meeting top-flight international standards: Peking University and Tsinghua University in Beijing, and Fudan University and Jiao Tong University in Shanghai. US assessments rank Peking University, the most prestigious of the four, 170th on a list of major universities. Taiwan's top university, National Taiwan University, ranks around 100th. It is hardly likely that Taiwan's elite students would forgo attending the nation's top universities in favor of going to China, as one pro-unification newspaper has suggested.

There are three types of Taiwanese students studying in China. There are those who performed poorly in college entrance or graduate school entrance exams; those who intend to pursue advanced studies in Chinese medicine; and KMT, People First Party or independent politicians who want to obtain a higher degree while avoiding the more stringent standards they would face at home.

Moreover, entry into universities in China is generally organized by agencies that charge between NT$100,000 to NT$200,000 for admission. Students who are admitted in this way are not required to go through the examinations held by China's Ministry of Education, and therefore only obtain a "certificate of completion" rather than a degree recognized by the Chinese government at the end of their studies.

What is even more absurd is that a number of especially affluent lawmakers, seeking to avoid the fate of KMT Legislator Yu Yueh-hsia (游月霞) -- who remained so long in China that she failed to attend legislative sittings and subsequently lost her seat -- are bringing their "teachers" over from China. In this way, classes can be held at convenient times, between legislative sessions and seeing to constituents.

Others attend classes for a few days at the beginning and end of each term, then settle matters with their professors to guarantee that they pass the exams. There is no need to ask about the quality of graduates produced from this system.

Some education professionals in Taiwan have warned against recognizing Chinese degrees, as the nation's 100 or so universities already have trouble filling spots. If Chinese degrees were recognized, many of these schools might face closure because of a lack of students. The result would be more unemployed teachers. It would also deal a serious blow to education in Taiwan, not dissimilar to that caused by the hollowing out of the industrial base through the transfer of production to China.

If Ma has any concern for Taiwan, how can he countenance a "united front" strategy that attempts to drag Taiwan's education down to the same level as China's? The low standing of many Chinese institutes of higher education is a result of its poor education system. Taiwan has the right not to recognize qualifications of such institutes in order to protect its own institutions.

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