Thu, May 15, 2008 - Page 8 News List

Making the education system work for all of us

By Tony Huang 黃翔麟

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has promised to allow Chinese students to enroll in Taiwanese universities. Given Taiwan’s education system, it may be unwise to undertake such a policy lightly. Ma has stated that many private universities have trouble attracting students and hopes to open up enrollment to students from China. However, the real problem can be found at the core of the education system.

A high-quality education system is pyramidal, but Taiwan’s is wide all around, making for an abnormal system. Since nearly everyone can enter college or obtain a graduate degree, what is the point of distinguishing between middle and high-level education? During the presidential election debates, Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said that schools or departments that do not make the grade should be eliminated. This makes sense, because failing to meet standards means failing to uphold educational obligations. In that case, why should the money that taxpayers provide for education be allocated to such schools?

Quite a few private universities and even some public universities that receive public funding have been increasing their tuition rates. The reason for this is that there are too many schools, which has resulted in fewer funds available for each school. Consequently, they find themselves short of money.

Another question that needs to be asked is whether students who attend degree “factory” schools are really serious about their education. In most cases, probably not. Why, therefore, should educational funds be used for them? Would it not be more useful to allocate these funds to help Taiwanese universities break into the world’s top 100?

Furthermore, does a college education mean that one’s salary will be higher than that of someone who attended a vocational school? Not necessarily.

If this is not the case, then why invest in a college education? The answer, in short, is that we are afraid of not being able to get a job. In the past, a high-school degree was sufficient for applying for a job. Nowadays, you need to be a college graduate.

Let us hope, therefore, that Ma will take Hsieh’s ideas into consideration because our dysfunctional educational system is already starting to have a negative influence on the economic issue of employment.

Education is not necessarily the only means to ensure one’s future. Regardless of the profession one chooses, there is always a chance that outstanding results will be obtained. The biggest disgrace for Chinese was the Song Dynasty-era concept that “only the educated are of esteem. Everyone else is inferior.”

What happens if children are struggling with their studies? Does this mean that their future is doomed? This concept must be changed and we should not place so much pressure on children. Instead of forcing them to study, would it not be better to allow them to learn different skills and abilities that would help them later on in life?

To change this type of thinking, low-quality schools and departments must be weeded out. This would help highlight the strengths and advantages of Taiwan’s educational system and encourage students who are unable to obtain the results they need to get accepted into higher-level schools to learn more diverse skills that will help them find jobs in future.

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