Fri, Jun 14, 2013 - Page 1 News List

Lawmakers criticize education U-turn

ELECTION PLEDGE:Lawmakers across party lines criticized the decision to backtrack on the president’s vow to implement a free-to-all 12-year education system

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  Staff reporter

KMT Legislator Chiang Hui-chen (江惠貞) said she opposed the policy because “every citizen has a right to education under the Constitution.”

Jiang called an impromptu meeting of KMT lawmakers yesterday to seek their opinions on the issue.

Afterward, KMT Legislator Wu Yu-sheng (吳育昇) said he proposed raising the annual income threshold to between NT$1.45 million and NT$1.5 million, the average household income of families who can afford to buy a house in Taipei.

Jiang has instructed the ministry to assess the possibility, Wu said.

According to a survey by the Research, Development and Evaluation Commission published yesterday, 64.2 percent of respondents support the implementation of the 12-year program, while 63.9 percent support having a threshold that excludes students from “wealthy” families from tuition support.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) caucus reaffirmed its support for a tuition-free compulsory education system yesterday, saying such a policy would prevent students from being labeled by financial status.

The DPP also said that the central government should be responsible for all educational subsidies because local governments are already being run on tight budgets.

“Children have the right to education and should not be separated by wealth... Labeling a student a ‘rich kid’ is wrong,” DPP Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) said.

The biggest problem with the government’s proposed policy is that “it is completely different to the policy Ma promised during his presidential campaign,” DPP Legislator Lee Chun-yi (李俊俋) said.

Lee criticized the Ma administration’s habit of “implementing policies hastily instead of drafting them carefully,” adding that education policy should not be experimental.

However, the DPP caucus did not recommend pushing back the implementation of the new system because schools, parents and students across the country have been preparing for it.

Asked about the issue yesterday, former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) said he supported a tuition-free compulsory education system. He urged the government to improve its communication with the public before making major policy changes because “that is what democracy is all about.”

Hau yesterday also expressed his support for the 12-year program, but said the ministry should consider raising the income threshold.

“The ‘anti-rich’ clause should not be aimed at middle-class families. I agree that the NT$1.14 million threshold may be too low. The clause should also apply to vocational school students,” he said.

Additional reporting by Chris Wang and Mo Yan-chih

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