Education strategy needed
A photograph published in the Taipei Times (“Leadership Protest,” June 11, page 2) shows that the overabundance of universities caused by a policy to increase the number of higher education institutions has begun to take its toll.
The protest against the decision to shut down the Asia-Pacific Institute of Creativity is but the tip of the iceberg.
Education economists clearly indicate that having too many colleges is counter-constructive. The Ministry of Education should recommend shutting down underperforming colleges to maintain a quality of education that meets international standards.
However, no comprehensive planning to refine colleges has been provided, leading to protests and long-term complications.
The problem has three major aspects: There is a lack of a higher education blueprint, which leads to overlaps and a distillation of expertise; faculty and student welfare is not prioritized; and management is poor in terms of putting school assets to good use.
The Ministry of Education raised the idea of a new blueprint for higher education, but the government disapproved and legislators openly pressured the ministry to put a halt to it in February 2016.
In other words, there are no comprehensive plans for higher education transformation.
The only document regarding transformation is the private higher education transformation and exit strategy/mechanism act, the draft of which was passed on Nov. 23, 2017, by the Executive Yuan, which is responsive and not preventive.
It also does not state which schools should be shut down. This has resulted in schools being reluctant to withdraw from the market since there are no binding laws or overarching blueprints to follow.
Furthermore, the most recent university to shut down — Kaomei College of Health Care and Management — failed to manage its faculty and students properly, leading to much discontent.
It reportedly delayed paychecks for months, yet the school board was able to sell school property and transform the school into a “social purpose” organization, effectively controlling school assets and leaving the due payments to the government.
Some also doubted that the sale of school property was transparent and specific groups’ pockets might have been lined by selling assets at a lower-than-usual price.
Legislators have commented that this could encourage other school boards to sacrifice their school’s welfare for personal gain.
These are structural problems that the government needs to deal with immediately.
With the ministry recommending that at least 60 schools be shut down and only three following through, many schools risk accelerating toward their doom as student numbers plummet due to the declining birth rate. This would drastically affect Taiwanese education and ultimately strain socioeconomic stability.
The government, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and the Democratic Progressive Party, interest groups and the public should swiftly come up with a comprehensive plan to transform higher education in light of the overabundance of universities or see it bring the nation down with it.
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