Tue, Jan 11, 2000 - Page 1 News List

Lien wants kids in school longer

EDUCATION The vice president calls for a 12-year school system and an end to college entrance exams

By Oliver Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Vice president and KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) yesterday pledged that universal education (國民教育) would be extended to 12 years from the current nine within three years, and that college entrance examinations would be abolished if he becomes president.

In a speech to high school principals from across the country attending an educational forum in Taipei, Lien said a 12-year universal education program should be implemented as soon as possible to achieve his ideal of "full personal education."

Lien did not elaborate on the issue, but education minister Kirby Yung (楊朝祥) told reporters afterwards that the 12-year system will be put into practice in September 2003.

Details of the plan's implementation have yet to be worked out, Yang said.

Expounding on the ideas under consideration, he said there are three possibilities.

The first is subsidizing students at private high schools with education coupons worth NT$10,000 per person -- a plan that would cost a total of NT$4 billion a year. The second is subsidizing private high schools for the differences between their tuition costs and public schools -- which would cost around NT$16 billion a year. The third is to make education free of charge for all high school students, which carries a NT$20 billion-a-year price tag.

Lien's proposal received a reserved welcome from some of the educators at the forum.

"Education rarely receives much attention, and elections are forcing candidates to pay attention and write checks on educational investment," said Shih Ying (史英), co-founder of the Humanistic Education Foundation (人本教育基金會). "This is good and welcome. Judging by experience, the down side is that it is not easy to trust that the [KMT] will deliver what it promises. But still, I do appreciate their good intentions."

DPP presidential candidate Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) also set a goal for an eventual 12-year education system in a position paper on education released last week. But Chen said Taiwan was not yet ready for such an increase and should make more preparations to avoid repeating mistakes made when compulsory education was extended from six to nine years some 30 years ago.

Asked why Chen is more conservative in his time schedule for 12-year universal education, Kuo Sheng-yu (郭生玉), a professor at Fu Jen Catholic University and a Chen education advisor, said it would take a massive amount of work to finish the necessary preparations for the change.

"It will involve the preparation of laws and regulations, teaching staff, curriculum and budget, which all take time to do," Kuo said.

"Establishing a single new high school takes at least four years. How could a 12-year universal education system be set up properly within three years?" he asked. "It was a disaster when nine-year compulsory education was implemented in haste, and we should learn from that."

But Shih appeared more accommodating.

"At least it shows determination," he said. "It is worth considering where money should go within the area of education if the government is willing to spend it, since 12-year universal education is not necessarily a good idea."

Apart from extending universal education, Lien also pledged to abolish college entrance examinations in 2002 and to issue education coupons worth NT$10,000 a year per head, starting in September 2000, to children at private kindergartens.

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