Tue, Mar 03, 2009 - Page 8 News List

Government must tackle the gap in education

By Pan Yu-Fong 潘裕豐

In the 1950s, the government started giving extra points to students of indigenous heritage to ensure they would have opportunities for education. The fairness and necessity of this policy has often been questioned.

As exams such as the General Scholastic Ability Test and the Basic Competence Test for Junior High School Students purportedly emphasize fairness, the system of extra points seems flawed.

Each year, people write articles criticizing the policy, which fuels ethnic tension.

Giving indigenous students extra points but no complimentary educational measures is like giving a stimulant to a sick patient: After first feeling invigorated, he or she slips back into the same state once the effect wears off.

Later in their schooling, indigenous students who have had lower results often experience a lack of confidence, high stress and difficulty adjusting to their school environment, sometimes leading them to drop out.

“Benefits” is a beautiful description for a system that is essentially a form of educational welfare. It is not education, however, the goal of which is to increase a student’s abilities. Regardless of how many extra points are doled out — be it the current 25 percent or even 100 percent — it will not improve the academic abilities of students.

Research by Kao Shu-fang (高淑芳) shows that the academic performance of indigenous students remains below that of other students in languages, math and sciences, even when an additional 20 percent to 127 percent of their original score is tacked on.

Would indigenous students do better if teachers had a better idea of cultural diversity and could teach according to a student’s capabilities and needs? What would the average performance of indigenous students be if they were given individual tutoring and counseling after entering a school with lower scores thanks to extra points?

Educational content must, after an assessment, be designed to fit the abilities of gifted students, such as in the Individualized Education Program. Yet in the case of indigenous students who lag behind, boosting their scores is seen as a adequate to solve all problems. This is preposterous.

The problem of lower scores among indigenous students has been around for decades, yet the Ministry of Education has not come up with any solutions.

There are two possible reasons for this. The first is that there are no indigenous senior officials at the ministry and so it does not understand the importance of this issue. Secondly, those in charge of indigenous education might not know what to do. Who is in charge of education of indigenous students at the ministry, how much is spent on indigenous education annually and what are the ministry’s policies?

The gaps in education levels between indigenous and Han students have widened over the decades. Dropout rates among indigenous students are eight times that of other students, surveys indicate, and the graduation rate is only one-sixth that of other university students.

The potential and skills of our children, regardless of their ethnicity, are a precious asset. Every child should receive education suited to their abilities and cultural diversity should be respected.

Educational authorities should release a white paper on this subject and consider proposing amendments to the law, establishing an indigenous education unit and organizing a conference on the subject.

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