The National Alliance of Parents’ Organizations has taken to the streets to demand that junior high school students be allowed to attend senior high schools and senior vocational schools in their communities without taking entrance exams and that only a few of the nation’s prestigious senior high schools be preserved.
Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城) said that until the quality of senior high schools and vocational schools had improved and a consensus had been reached on whether to preserve a level of elite schools, the question of switching from a 10-year to a 12-year compulsory education system must wait.
Some individuals in the education sector agree that the first priority should be to improve high school education before making senior high or senior vocational education mandatory.
The problems with junior high education, the need to improve senior high school and senior vocational school education, the integration of senior highs with local communities and the question of whether to preserve elite senior highs are delaying the implementation of 12-year compulsory education.
The Ministry of Education should not wait to solve all these problems and win over public opinion, but should establish a timetable and set to work.
Each problem must be addressed effectively.
First of all, the main problem with junior high school education is the pressure on students to do well on exams to get into good senior high schools. This distorts the entire educational process.
Any attempt at partial reform of the junior high school education system will be futile until a 12-year compulsory system is implemented. This would take the focus off the entrance exams. In a system that is overly focused on these exams, it is difficult to implement the qualitative education that the ministry envisions.
Second, as far as improving the quality of senior high schools and vocational schools goes, the differentiation between these schools makes senior vocational schools less attractive to applicants. Vocational education should be incorporated into the curriculums of senior highs.
The government should take charge of senior vocational schools and transform them into senior high schools.
This is the only way junior high school students will be willing to attend such a school in their community.
At the same time, a few select, competitive senior vocational schools should be kept as an option for students with specialized interests in those fields.
Technical education should not be abolished, as it is very important to the development of students’ physical and mental abilities. Once 12-year compulsory education is implemented, basic technical education should become compulsory. Advanced technical courses can be offered as electives.
A 12-year compulsory system should offer greater course diversity, including technical classes, crafts and public and social services, with students choosing according to their interests.
By incorporating compulsory and elective subjects, technical education can be incorporated into the 12-year system. Doing so would solve the problems of vocational schools and, more importantly, make high school education more comprehensive.
Lastly, the question of whether to preserve the nation’s most prestigious senior high schools is the easiest to answer.
Before junior high was compulsory, there were prestigious junior highs. Once junior highs were integrated into their communities, however, these elite schools gradually disappeared.