While the financial crisis continues to take its toll and unemployment rises, the administration of President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has failed to work out concrete countermeasures. Obviously, the government lacks a vision for Taiwan and has never thought of using the economic crisis as a chance to thoroughly change the fundamental structure of Taiwanese society and push for social transformation.
Social transformation is not merely a matter of economic or industrial change. Although industrial transformation is important given the nation’s situation, solutions depend not only on infrastructure, effective manpower, social connections, creativity and imagination. A culture of respect, trust and cooperation as well as civilized behavior are also key to a successful transformation. How to refine services throughout society and build a service society is key to developing a high-quality humane society.
By “service society” I mean a society that provides commercial and non-commercial services, including educational, social, medical, cultural and environmental services.
The government should use the opportunity offered by the unemployment situation to extensively increase manpower for the aforementioned non-commercial services so that these services can be further developed and refined, which could lead people to treat one another in a more civilized and humane manner. This would also give us the ability to create a better cultural and ecological environment.
Educational services provide a good example. From kindergarten through high school, students are taught in large-size classes. A teacher with a class of between 40 and 50 students cannot engage in meaningful interaction with each student. But education is intrinsically a very personal service. As students have different talents and interests, a good teacher should provide each student with guidance and assistance based on their individual aptitude. Only then can students develop their own identities, interests and skills to achieve self-realization. This is the basis of high-quality societies as well as a fundamental educational principle. However, large-sized classes have had a severe negative impact on the quality of education and manpower in Taiwan.
The decreasing birth rate could have reduced class sizes, but educational authorities appear to have failed to recognize the serious problem posed by large-size classes and decided instead to reduce the number of classes rather than the number of students. As a result, class sizes cannot be reduced, nor can education be personalized. In particular, with unemployment on the rise, the measures proposed by the educational authorities are only aimed at improving hardware or increasing the number of temporary teachers without addressing the real issue and trying to change the entire educational structure. It is a great pity. I estimate that at least 80,000 more teachers would be needed for kindergarten through 12th grade education before it could meet the educational quality standards of advanced countries.
As far as social services are concerned, rapid social change is causing the disintegration of the extended family and increasing poverty. The government must actively extend help. But Taiwan’s social security system is incomplete.
There is such a shortage of social workers, various social relief measures and medical personnel — especially nurses — that the quality of social services cannot be improved. When the disadvantaged are not given proper respect and their dignity is trampled, the humane qualities of society immediately decline and social relations gradually become distorted. The government needs to greatly increase various social services and manpower to improve the situation.