Sat, May 24, 2003 - Page 1 News List

Education ministry ruling on examinations reversed

U-TURN After announcing that the essay section of the university entrance exam had been dropped, the ministry then caved into pressure from legislators and parents

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村) apologized for the ministry's about-face decision concerning the exclusion of essays from the Joint University Entrance Exam in an attempt to protect teachers from SARS.

The ministry said the essay section would be included in the exam in addition to the multiple-choice section.

In an attempt to reduce the chance of teachers becoming infected with SARS when correcting students' essays, the ministry said on Thursday that this year's exam would not include the essay section and would only consist of a multiple-choice section in both the Chinese and English sections of the exam. The multiple choice portions of the exam are graded by computer.

However, a day after the announcement was made public, an impromptu meeting was called yesterday afternoon by the Joint College Enrollment Committee, during which a resolution was passed to keep the essay section in the exams.

"We've received [negative] feedback from students, parents and alike about the decision to do away with the essay section in the exams," Huang said at the meeting. "After consulting with members of the committee and SARS specialists, we've decided to keep the essay section in the exams in order to safeguard the students' rights."

Chen Wei-jao (陳維昭), head of the Joint College Enrollment Committee, said the changes to the exam policy were made in part because of public opinion and in part because of optimism expressed by the head of Taiwan's Center for Disease Control (CDC), Su Yi-jen (蘇益仁), on Thursday about the SARS situation.

In order to gain a better understanding of the SARS situation, Chen said that the co-chairman of the Cabinet's SARS prevention committee, Lee Ming-liang (李明亮), was invited to take part in the meeting.

"Lee said, if all goes smoothly, the SARS situation in Taiwan would slowly subside soon" Chen said.

"Since the SARS situation was the original factor that led us to eliminate the essay section in the exams in the first place, Lee's assessment [during the meeting] had prompted us to reconsider our decision concerning the exam," Chen, who is also the president of National Taiwan University, said.

Chen also said that it is unlikely that the exams will be postponed unless the SARS situation grows significantly more severe.

The annual college entrance exam will be held between July 1 and July 3.

Chen said the committee would seek assistance and advice from the Department of Health on SARS-prevention measures when the teachers are summoned to correct the students' essays.

"For example, one precautionary measure we will take is to have the teachers placed away from each other while they are correcting the students' essays," Chen said.

Expressing discontent with the ministry's about-face decision, the PFP legislative caucus yesterday paid a visit to Huang at the ministry, demanding an explanation about the changes made to the exams.

Upon noting the ministry's announcement on Thursday to do away with the essay section in the exams, PFP Legislator Diane Lee (李慶安) had urged the ministry to reverse its decision, and lambasted the ministry's announcement as "a mistake and an irresponsible decision."

After explaining the ministry's stance, Huang told the legislators that, as a precautionary measure for the students, all participants will have their temperatures taken before entering the classrooms to take the exams.

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