Thu, Aug 11, 2011 - Page 8 News List

Rash move to change education

By Lee Chia-tung 李家同

A few days ago, I read two news reports related to the rights of the public. The first was about how the current freeway toll collection system will be replaced in 2013. The second was about how the nine-year compulsory education system will be extended to 12 years in 2014.

The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said the implementation of the first issue required a public consensus and then a legal amendment.

The switch to a fully automated toll collection system is not a very frightening issue, but the ministry still said a consensus was required and that the law would have to be amended before the change would be implemented.

However, the 12-year compulsory education system is a very different matter. It is crucial to the next generation’s rights and quality of education, and is something everyone should be concerned about. Still, the Ministry of Education is taking direct action without consulting anyone. Isn’t that strange?

If the 12-year program adopts a system with large school districts, some students might be sent to remote schools. For example, someone living in Greater Taichung could be sent to a school in far away Puli Township (埔里), Nantou County. Is this acceptable to parents?

It seems that under the 12-year program, many students would be assigned to schools by drawing lots. This would be a massive undertaking and it would not be satisfactory, since all lots cannot be drawn at the same time.

It is easy to see that students would have to wait in line to draw their lot one by one, but what about the order of drawing and who has the right to decide that order? So then authorities would need to hold another drawing of lots just to decide the order of this drawing. These are certain to trigger protests from students and parents.

More importantly, will the 12-year program be beneficial or detrimental to the quality of local education?

This is what educational authorities should pay the greatest attention to. Will junior-high they knew their future school is determined solely by the luck of the draw? That is one question the ministry has to provide an answer to.

And will the pressure on those students who now have a better chance of entering top senior high schools be decreased under the 12-year program? The number of top schools is limited. When high-performing students realize there will be fewer top schools, they will have to study even harder.

Moreover, can the 12-year program reduce the number of private cram schools in the country?

None of the government’s past educational reforms have reduced the number of cram schools, but have instead had the opposite effect.

The controversy over the tri-city senior high school entrance examination policy of Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung should be a warning to the central government, showing that one technical flaw could cause widespread public discontent.

The 12-year program will foreseeably have a much greater impact than the tri-city entrance exam. The government should not only pay attention to the public’s rights, but also to whether the new program will result in a drastic drop in student proficiency. This is a big issue and it should not be unilaterally implemented based on rash idealism.

Not even the revision of the toll collection system can be implemented without amending the law based on consensus. How can the mandatory 12-year school program be directly implemented after a mere announcement by the education ministry?

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