The Public Television Service (PTS) yesterday denied that it had mishandled a national competition to select potential diplomats from high schools, after some parents of participating students criticized the competition's grading process.
The competition, initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Ministry of Education, is part of the government's response to President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) call for "people's diplomacy."
In the first round of the competition, high school teams from around the country were divided into three groups according to their geographical location. Winning teams from the three groups are to take part in the final round of the competition, which is slated to take place at the PTS studio in Taipei on Dec. 4.
Teams taking part in the first round are required to stage group singing, dancing or dramas in English. In addition, each team has to choose a representative to take part in an English speech contest. The group performance counts 70 percent of the team's final result and the English speech contest counts for 30 percent.
At the weekend, 66 high schools from the northern Taiwan regional group, took part in the first-round competition at Jingmei Girls' High School in Taipei.
After six school teams were announced as winners, students and parents from the losing teams poured out complaints about the way judges had graded the performances on the opinion board on the PTS' Web site.
According to the China Times Express, one parent, identified only by his surname, Cheng, accused the PTS and the judges of manipulating the results by giving absurd marks to certain teams.
Cheng said that he had approached a judge after the group performance of the Keelung Girls' Senior High School, where his daughter is a student. He said he was stunned to discover that the school got zero points in the group performance.
"I could not believe it. Every school was supposed to get some points, no matter how bad its team performed," Cheng said, adding that the judges would not allow him to see the other teams' results.
An organizer of the competition at PTS said that the station has received a number of phone calls from schools and parents complaining about the way the teams' performances were graded.
The organizer said that a technical mistake was to blame for the judges awarding Keelung Girls' Senior High School zero points for their performance, but that the mistake has been corrected.
"We cannot publicize other school teams' results in the competition," the organizer said.
MOFA spokesman Michel Lu (
"It would be too far-fetched indeed for some people to suggest the ministry was carrying out some behind-the-scenes manipulation of the competition," Lu said.