Those who went through Taiwan’s education system will remember their trepidation when the results of the semester’s major exams were about to be released. It was judgement time, when each student was assigned a ranking based on their scores. The teacher would heap praise on the top students and berate the ones who finished at the bottom, even if they were good in other areas, such as sports or art. Each student was handed a sheet of paper revealing to the entire school in what place they finished, with their whole worth determined solely by their academic performance.
While still lacking in areas such as creative and critical thinking, the nation’s public education has come a long way from those dark days. The government many years ago prohibited making such rankings public. Opponents have argued that the new practice decreases competitiveness and makes the students “soft,” but their argument makes no sense, as the teachers and students still know how they performed.
Those who earned good marks or made significant improvements can still be rewarded, and if a student wants to know where they stand among their peers, they can refer to score percentiles. There is absolutely no reason to make everyone’s scores public, much less rank the students based on them.
However, the tradition of making public the college entrance exam scores endured. A few days before this year’s scores were released on Monday, the Taipei Times reported that high-school students in Kaohsiung launched a petition to stop schools from making the exam results public and praising those who perform the best.
Their goal, they said, was to prevent the media from focusing on the top students, discourage academic elitism and end the practice of focusing solely on test scores instead of students’ personal interests and non-academic accomplishments.
Surprisingly, the petition worked, but it also caused much controversy.
The top students can still be celebrated, as it would be unfair to detract from their accomplishments.
However, it should be done at their own discretion. Those who want the attention can contact the media or ask the school to hold a news conference.
However, people should not forget how things got completely out of hand last year, with the media circus that even delved into the love life of a top Kaoshiung Girls’ Senior High School student. A year later, the frenzy still has not let up and the story has become juicier as new reports emerged this week. People must remember that the only reason these people lost their right to privacy is because of a student’s test scores. They are regular students who are not even 20 years old. What kind of values is Taiwan promoting with such incidents?
Score-focused education is quickly becoming outdated worldwide, and the changes made to the nation’s education system in the past two decades show that the government is aware of this.
However, despite all the adjustments the Ministry of Education has implemented over the years, it still seems that society has yet to catch up.
Taiwan cannot maintain its competitiveness if it does not implement a well-rounded education program that focuses on critical thinking and practical knowledge, and prepares students for actual careers instead of pressuring them to obtain high scores in college entrance exams.
As creativity becomes a valuable commodity, Taiwan does not need more people who can memorize and recite answers from a textbook, but those who can think outside the box and create their own answers.
Tests are important and will always have their place in schools as a measuring system. However, paying so much attention to them will only discourage students from thinking for themselves.
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