Students, lecturers deserve better

By Chen Shu-han 陳書涵  / 

Sat, Oct 06, 2012 - Page 8

On Sept. 25, the Taiwan Higher Education Union held a press conference to release the results of a questionnaire in which respondents were asked to assess the university evaluation system.

As many as 80 percent of the university teachers who responded to the survey said that the system has trapped Taiwan’s higher education in a formalistic approach that encourages falsification.

While seriously impinging on the time that lecturers would otherwise devote to teaching and research, the system has also failed to improve the quality of students’ education.

Some teachers even said that in order to meet the requirements of the university evaluation system they had to resort to falsifying data and requiring students to play along with this.

Unfortunately, the Ministry of Education has paid little attention to the results of the union’s survey. It simply responded with poor excuses and argued that any university evaluation system inevitably has its blind spots. The ministry insists that since the second evaluation cycle has already begun it must proceed according to the timetable.

None of the elements of the university evaluation system, from establishing the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council to setting evaluation standards and modes of operation, have resulted from a process of democratic discussion. Some universities have even instituted absurd practices such as telling students to memorize their schools’ mottoes and goals.

The evaluation system’s unitary and standardized indices cause universities and teachers in different fields, departments, positions and locations to all be assessed according to the same standards.

As a result, rigid evaluation reports and complex administrative procedures are choking off the energy of Taiwan’s higher education, while teachers are being bogged down by formalistic evaluation work as if they were taking part in an essay-writing contest.

Moreover, the evaluation system provides under-par school authorities with the means to oppress teachers and even get rid of those who hold dissident opinions.

Taiwan’s higher education evaluation system is market-oriented, and there was no democratic discussion held when the system was being set up.

In its implementation, the system fails to protect teachers’ academic freedom and labor rights. It also undermines the right of students to education, while creating a hierarchical power structure on university campuses.

The system is to blame for the loss of public spirit in Taiwan’s higher education and serious flaws have been laid bare for everyone who works in higher education to see.

Such concerns prompted teachers who care about the future of Taiwan’s higher education and friends worried about the way it has been going to join protests in front of the ministry on Sep. 28, Teachers’ Day.

All those who took part were united in calling for the ministry to suspend the university evaluation system and subject it to a thorough review.

Chen Shu-han is director of the Taiwan Higher Education Union’s office.

Translated by Eddy Chang