More than 100 college professors submitted a petition yesterday demanding that Taiwan reverse reforms made a decade ago that they say have lowered the quality of high school graduates.
In the 10,000-word petition, Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), Academia Sinica president and the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry, was singled out as the one responsible for what they called a failure of the 10-year education reforms.
Lee was an initiator of the "April Education Reform Movement" and was assigned to chair the commission. Lee, together with government officials, as well as educators and academics recruited by the government, drafted the reform programs.
In response to the criticism, Minister of Education Huang Jong-tsun (黃榮村), who was also an initiator of the education reform movement in the early 1990s, said yesterday in Lee's defense that the movement was initiated on university campuses prior to Lee returning from the US in 1994.
In the declaration, the petitioners pointed out that while the reform initiated by some academics and civic groups in the early 1990s stressed a proletarian-orientation education, the mushrooming number of new high schools, colleges and universities are acquiring fewer education resources on average from the government.
Meanwhile, with the elimination of vocational schools, the supply and demand imbalance in the nation's labor force has become ever more obvious.
Citing statistics from a manpower development report by the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the educators said that between 2001 and next year, there is likely to be a supply shortage of 287,000 basic-level workers and an oversupply of 24,000 medium-level workers.
The educators said that over the past three years, increasing numbers of university graduates have been unable to find employment, with the jobless rate among new graduates in July last year being as high as 70 percent.
Referring to reports that large numbers of frustrated teachers who have found it hard to keep up with the "renovated" teaching methods and curriculum have been submitting requests for early retirement, the educators criticized many of the reforms as putting too much pressure on teachers.
Last year, over 9,000 elementary school or junior high school teachers retired, double the number in 1997 prior to the introduction of education reform measures into compulsory-education establishments.
The school entrance scheme which allows students alternatives in applying for entrance into high schools is an abrupt adaptation from the systems of some Western countries, the educators said.
Although the multiple-school-entrance scheme is meant to relieve students from the pressure of examinations, the educators said that as the students are required to pass the state-mandated proficiency tests to qualify as applicants, the agony of preparing for tests is hardly reduced.