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Fri, Jan 28, 2000 - Page 3 News List

Lien asked to be clear on education

REFORM A spokesman says that Lien's promises can be kept, but reformists want to know where the money will come from

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Educational reformists yesterday pressed KMT presidential candidate Lien Chan (連戰) to spell out its position on a proposed legal stipulation for educational funding, in light of the many expensive promises he has made to upgrade Taiwan's education system.

The government's policy on education funding has been a concern among educators since a constitutional stipulation was removed in 1997.

The Constitution had required the central government to earmark at least 15 percent of its annual budget for education, scientific research and cultural affairs.

In a plan to restore a legal stipulation for education funding, the Ministry of Education has recently proposed a bill specifying that the nation's total education funding should constitute at least 7 percent of GNP. But the administration branch has so far not reached a consensus on this proposal.

Educational reformers believe that the funding issue is the key to ensuring the nation's ongoing educational development.

The DPP's Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) has pledged to protect education funding by law, although he has stopped short of mentioning any specific percentages. Independent James Soong (宋楚瑜) has also promised to "strengthen the education funding for local governments."

Lien is the only major candidate who has not yet addressed the issue of guarantees on education funding.

"Financial resources are key to whether the policies of presidential candidates can be realized," said Michael Tseng (曾憲政), former executive secretary of the ad hoc Educational Reform Evaluation Committee under the Executive Yuan. "Under the present circumstances, we don't know how Lien is going to cash his checks," he said.

Lien has made promises such as issuing nursery education vouchers for children studying in private kindergartens and nurseries and extending the length of government-funded education to 12 years from the present nine years.

While the nursery plan is expected to cost the government NT$1.4 billion during its first year of implementation, the second plan could cost between NT$4 billion and NT$20 billion per year, depending on how thoroughly it is implemented.

Lin Chao-cheng (林朝成), a philosophy professor at National Cheng Kung University and a key member of the ROC Educational Reform Association (中華民國教育改革協會), criticized the government's failure to adopt any reasonable standards to finance the education spending of local governments.

In response, Lien's campaign spokesman and legislator Eric Chu (朱立倫) said education promises that Lien has made will cost only NT$5.4 billion in the initial stages.

"This won't be a problem for the government, as the amount will constitute only 2 percent of the current education spending," Chu said.

Chu said it is a goal of the government to make education funding constitute at least 7 percent of GNP, but there is still room for discussion upon whether there should be a legal stipulation.

Hsu Jan-yau (許璋瑤), director of the budget bureau of the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics, said a legal stipulation is not recommended because it will stiffen the government's budget planning.

Hsu said budget allocation should be based on the priority of policies, rather than any legal guarantee.

"From an economic perspective, the guarantee will only lower the efficiency of resource utilization," Hsu said.

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