The Ministry of Education decided on Wednesday to discontinue the tri-city high school entrance exam, rejecting a major education policy of Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin’s (郝龍斌) administration. The move came shortly after the exam sparked dispute over its problematic admissions threshold.
The ministry’s announcement was a slap in the face for Hau, who introduced the exam as part of his “single-version textbook” policy in 2008 to oppose the then-Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government’s multiple-textbook policy, which promoted diverse learning. The rights of students in the three participating municipalities — Taipei, New Taipei City (新北市) and Keelung — were sacrificed in the name of politics as the problematic policy was introduced and poorly implemented.
Political confrontation overrode educational considerations in these cities’ policy-making processes. Because of Hau’s collaboration with New Taipei City and Keelung in adopting the policy, students were forced to use different textbooks than their peers in other cities and counties, while they had to take entrance exams that were held on the same day as the national entrance exam.
Mounting opposition from parents and students because of miscalculations of reference scores and complicated admissions procedures finally forced the ministry to put an end to the exam. However, a sense of uncertainty remains for more than 200,000 junior-high school students who used the city-designated textbooks.
Education is a key foundation to the nation’s development, and education policies should be shaped through comprehensive considerations. It is regrettable that the mayor of Taipei set a bad example by allowing political ideology to interfere with education policies.
Hau’s failure to take full responsibility for his erronous policy is especially notable when compared with the recent resignation of the mayor of Seoul after a referendum on his school lunch policy.
Oh See-hoon stepped down on Friday after Seoul residents voted against his policy that free school lunches should only be available for children from poor families.
Oh, 50, was considered a possible presidential candidate for the ruling conservatives. He put his job on the line to stop what he called destructive welfare, and when he lost the referendum, he kept his promise to quit.
In sharp contrast, of all the officials involving in formulating the tri-city policy, including Hau and Minister of Education Wu Ching-chi (吳清基), who helped outline the policy as a former Education Department commissioner in Taipei City, the only one to take responsibility for its failure was former Education Department commissioner Kang Tzong-hu (康宗虎), who stepped down earlier this month.
Hau promised to present a post-exam report on the problematic reference scores and admissions threshold and finalize a list of officials to be penalized, but has not lived up to his promise.
When asked about his responsibility for the policy, Hau simply apologized for the termination of the tri-city entrance exam and said his team would communicate with parents and students while discussing -follow-up measures with schools, revealing his evasive attitude during the biggest storm of his political career.
Some critics said the ministry’s abrupt announcement that it would discontinue the exam aimed to eliminate the negative impact of the policy and pave the way for the 12-year compulsory education policy, a major education reform under President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) administration.