Thu, Jul 24, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Education reform groups squabble over politics

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE Some elements of the movement to rethink reforms to education believe their efforts are being hijacked by the KMT for political gain

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

While the government has come under pressure from groups of academics over the way it has implemented education reforms, the groups themselves have begun squabbling over what some see is their manipulation by political parties.

Hsia Chu-joe (夏鑄九), convener of the Joy to Learn Education Reform Association (JLERA, 快樂學習教改聯盟), which has led the movement to reverse a number of education reforms, has been asked to step down for tainting the education reform campaign with political partisanship.

Members of the Alliance to Oppose High Tuition (AOHT, 反高學費行動聯盟) and New Generation Youth Group (NGYG, 新世代青年團) on Monday announced that they were withdrawing from their campaign with the JLERA, which they accused of collaborating with the KMT in its presidential campaign against the DPP.

The internal split in the education reform movement came after Hsia's association agreed to meet KMT Chairman Lien Chan (連戰) for consultations last Friday.

The move angered the AOHT and NGYG, who had joined Hsia and his association the day before in a protest outside the Presidential Office to demand President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) respond to their appeals to reduce the nation's high tuition fees.

Members of the AOHT confronted Lien to stop him from meeting with representatives of the JLERA, which later visited Lien to apologize for the altercation.

In a joint statement, the AOHT and NGYG accused Hsia's association of turning into a "Joy to Support Lien Chan Association."

"We don't want the public to regard us as instruments of any particular political party," the statement read.

A member of the AOHT, who identified herself only as Huang, yesterday told the Taipei Times, "Mr. Hsia's personal political judgment has seriously damaged the position of the entire campaign effort. Hsia even admitted that he initiated this meeting with Lien as well as the subsequent apology."

"Hsia kept all these activities secret from us. He and Lien even didn't allow us to voice our opinions in the meeting," Huang said.

Hsia, a professor from National Taiwan University, is a long-term social activist. He remarked in a public hearing at the legislature yesterday that "the education reform issue would be an explosive topic before the next presidential election."

In addition to the campaign initiated by social activists, more than 100 college professors led by NTU professor Huang Kuang-kuo (黃光國) and who call themselves the Education Reconstruction Front submitted a petition signed by 10,000 people demanding that government reverse the education reforms begun a decade ago.

The professors singled out Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), Academic Sinica president and the 1986 winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry, as responsible for what they called the failure of the reforms.

However, it was discovered that some of the scholars signing the petition had close ties with the KMT.

On Tuesday, Huang visited the legislative caucuses of all parties to seek their support. While Huang received a warm welcome from KMT lawmakers, TSU legislators questioned him over the timing of his actions.

Political commentator Chin Heng-wei (金恆偉), editor-in-chief of Contemporary Magazine, said the whole education reform debate appeared to be a blatant political conspiracy plotted by the KMT.

As the KMT has started to organize a massive protest in September this year to accuse the DPP government of poorly implementing the reform measures, Chin said, "The professors' and social groups' reform campaign is apparently a tool to be used to attack the DPP in a bid to favor the KMT."

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