The government yesterday defended the 12-year compulsory education program amid protests from Taipei’s top high-school students, who share concerns that the program will damage the quality of education.
President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) announced that compulsory education would be extended from nine to 12 years in 2014, as the Ministry of Education outlined the details of the program at National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.
Ma said the ministry is “fully prepared” to extend the program, which aims to eliminate entrance exams and encourage multiple school admissions, brushing aside concerns about the negative impact on the quality of education.
“Under the entrance exam policy, some top-tier high schools have stood out among other schools and they attract students with the top scores. In the future, we hope the new program will make all high schools shining stars, bridging the gap between top-tier high schools and other schools in terms of quality of education,” Ma said.
Under the 12-year compulsory education program, exam-free admissions to high schools will be applied to 75 percent of schools in 2014 and all schools will accept exam-free admissions by 2019.
Chiang said entrance exams would account for 25 percent of schools with “special programs” in 2014, which help top-tier schools attract elite students, but the ministry plans to cut the percentage of schools year by year in order to reach the goal of exam-free admissions under the program.
“Our goal is to let every school have elite students, instead of keeping all elite students at a small number of schools,” he said.
The program drew opposition from a group of students from Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School and Taipei First Girls’ High School, who protested against the ministry rushing through the program without a comprehensive plan.
Holding protest signs outside the hall, about 50 students said that without a comprehensive plan, students would still face a heavy burden, as they would struggle with the various kinds of admission channels.
“We are not against exam-free admissions, we are opposing the program because it is being launched without a detailed plan, such as the design of the curriculum. Eventually, students will become guinea pigs for this hasty policy,” a student said.
Chiang said the ministry would not delay the launch of the program, and he called on students and parents to embrace it.
“We are well prepared and the 12-year compulsory education program will not be delayed. The ministry will continue to communicate with high schools and our goal of ending the myth of the top-tier high school will not change,” he said.
At a separate setting yesterday, the Humanistic Education Foundation said it was regrettable that “the Ministry of Education plays the nation for fools and proposes what appears to be a 12-year compulsory education system” when, in fact, it is not.
According to the foundation, a 12-year compulsory program, like the current nine-year compulsory program, should ideally let children enter college without discrimination, learning what they need to learn and being taught in a way that fits the individual student.
The ministry’s version of the 12-year compulsory program is only removing the basic competency tests and the rankings system, the foundation said, adding that the subsequent contraction in the recruitment of higher quality students would lead to vicious competition, benefiting only cram schools.