Thu, Jan 03, 2019 - Page 8 News List

Ministry failing supervisory role

By Lin Terng-yaw 林騰鷂

A public outcry has followed the resignation on Tuesday last week of former minister of education Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮) after he “reluctantly” approved the appointment of National Taiwan University (NTU) finance professor Kuan Chung-ming (管中閔) as the school’s president.

NTU electrical engineering professor Wu Ruey-beei (吳瑞北), one of the candidates for the post to which Kuan was elected on Jan. 5 last year, applied to the Taipei High Administrative Court for a provisional injunction to the effect that Kuan should not be appointed until a final judgement has been made in the administrative action regarding the case.

The university affairs committee of the NTU Student Congress also issued an urgent statement calling on the Cabinet to revoke the Ministry of Education’s decision to appoint Kuan.

The case, which has dragged on for a year now, is clearly still not settled. It has revealed the tip of an iceberg, namely the breakdown of administrative supervision of education.

A number of irregularities have been exposed concerning Kuan’s activities during the selection process. He is accused of having withheld information about other jobs he held while working as an NTU professor, as well as conflicts of interest and lapses in academic ethics.

Kuan has never directly responded to these controversies and when the Control Yuan invited him to an interview, he did not show up.

The ministry, misled by a formalistic interpretation of university autonomy, failed to promptly and decisively cancel a selection decision that broke the rules of administrative procedure. It did not fulfill its constitutional responsibility to supervise education administration.

It is these failings that have led to the bitter consequences of sectoral confrontation and social divisions that have arisen in connection with this affair.

As a specialist in the legal field, what I am most concerned about is the shortcomings in the legal system that have caused the administrative supervision of education to break down.

For example, Article 48 of the Private School Act (私立學校法) is listed under Chapter 4, the “supervision” chapter, but it stipulates that school authorities may ask land management authorities to facilitate the sale or leasing to the school of land belonging to the state, or to state-run enterprises or corporate juridical persons.

This is effectively profit-seeking under the guise of supervision and has allowed large quantities of land belonging to Taiwan Sugar Corp to be leased by private universities, high schools and elementary schools at extremely low prices, yet these same schools charge their students twice as much as those of state-run institutions, thus severely infringing on parents’ and students’ property rights.

Poorly performing private schools whose boards of directors have not managed to attract adequate funding can still receive state incentives or subsidies. The ministry’s budget for last year included NT$60 billion (US$1.95 billion) for subsidizing private universities, colleges, and senior and vocational high schools.

In effect, the ministry has almost been reduced to a ministry of subsidies to private schools. It gives money to the directors and supervisors of private schools to use as they wish, rather than using the money, as Germany does, to directly assist financially disadvantaged students so that they can be free to attend the school of their choice. This is another critical failure of the administrative supervision of education.

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