Fri, Dec 01, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Lowering stress, and the quality of education

By Hsu Hui-huang 許輝煌

The Joint Board of College Recruitment Commission has decided that starting next school year, students who have scored zero in one subject in the General Scholastic Ability Test will still be eligible for admission through application and recommendation, as long as their overall score for all subjects required for the program exceeds zero.

The commission said the change could have positive, as well as negative effects: It could help reduce stress among students, but it could also encourage them to give up preparing for certain subjects early on.

Below are some questions to be considered in this context.

First, what is the primary cause of the low enrollment at universities? Is it the low birth rate or that universities nationwide have become too homogeneous?

As the birth rate remains low, which is amplified by a drop in births during years of the tiger, a dozen universities now face the prospect of possibly closing down after their enrollment rates for the last academic year fell below 60 percent.

There are many public and private universities, but very few of them offer something that others do not. To compete for students, schools have engaged in a “price war,” leaving many private schools at the bottom with few, or even no, new enrollments.

Second, what percentage of students is especially talented in a particular field? While it would be sufficient to simply grant exceptions to such students, allowing them to apply for universities despite having scored zero in one subject, to the bewilderment of many, the commission decided to drastically change the admission rules from requiring students to study every single subject to allowing them to abandon almost any subject.

This “all or nothing” change makes one wonder how many talented students would benefit from it. It is certainly a good thing to try and make sure all students get accepted to a program they like, but is it not better to do so by granting exceptions to the few students who are highly gifted, rather than lowering the admission threshold for all universities?

The government should not use gifted students as an excuse to help diploma mills at the bottom of the ladder recruit more students.

Third, how would lowering the threshold for university admissions help prevent schools with declining enrollment from closing down?

Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) has said that closing down universities is not the only solution, and that the priority is to make good use of existing educational resources and help transform them.

Lowering the admission threshold for all universities is not a long-term solution. It is little different from cutting prices to clear stocks. Only by helping schools transform and develop distinctive features can they attract students.

Fourth, what is the purpose of reducing the pressure on students? Our times and environment are constantly changing, and anything we do necessarily involves stress.

What would students gain from reduced stress from education? Would they be required to spend more time learning additional skills, or would they end up doing nothing with their free time, since getting a diploma would have become extremely easy?

If stress reduction fails to bring about positive change, the nation’s higher education could end up losing its competitiveness.

Hsu Hui-huang is a doctoral candidate at National Chung Cheng University’s business administration department.

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