Wed, Jul 12, 2006 - Page 8 News List

Civics not another test subject for university

By Chang Ruay-shiung 張瑞雄

The Ministry of Education's proposal to include civics education in the Joint University Entrance Examination is not a bad plan; the question is whether or not it is necessary. If the goal is to raise civic awareness, then implementing this plan should be further discussed. Examinations only help develop a person's intelligence quotient, but not his or her emotional quotient -- which is what students need.

Universities have started accepting children born after 1987 -- a period during which the nation's economy prospered and society became more diverse. These young adults' experience of life differs greatly from those who were born in the 1950s and 1960s.

If we were to introduce civics and moral education, it must be done in step with the times and with an understanding of the new generation's needs, rather than relying on the ideas of the older generation. Neither must we seek to project things that we once thought natural on the younger generation.

Students nowadays express themselves better, have a higher sense of self-awareness, accomplish more multi-faceted tasks, and place more importance on enjoying life.

Therefore, when stressing the importance of civic and moral virtues, we must be empathetic and try to understand their values to be able to win their trust and approval and reach the goal of promoting civic and moral virtues.

Teaching students civic virtues should of course be the responsibility of schools, but doing it through examinations is not the best way.

Teaching by example and possessing the courage to admit wrongdoing are a better way of serving as a good role-model for students.

Given the country's educational system, where examinations are often a good inducement to studying, introducing a civics education test is a sure step to forcing students to take it seriously.

However, the Joint College Entrance Examination is already composed of nine elective subject tests, from which universities sometimes choose only three to six of the subjects in the calculation of the overall score. It is questionable then that civics education would even be included in the final score.

Having students prepare for nine subjects is already burdensome. The government should seek to simplify the joint examination and reducing its content to cover only basic subjects like Mandarin, English, natural science and social science would be better. Including another subject will only increase the pressure and study load for students.

This is similar to the addition of Chinese composition to the High School Entrance Examination. Although a good idea, it only gave rise to a large number of cram schools offering Chinese composition courses.

If civics education were to be added to the university entrance examination, a similar phenomenon would occur and we would see students spending more time preparing for this subject in cram schools. Will the ministry be willing to promote the emergence of civics education cram schools?

In the Analects (論語), Confucius said, "The virtue of a gentleman is like the wind; the virtue of a common man is like the grass. Let the wind blow over the grass and it is sure to bend."

In other words, moral education should be promoted through the improvement of social mores that encourage students to learn the habits of virtue, rather than taking examinations.

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