Fri, Sep 07, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Public `fails' geography quiz at Taipei university

FLUNKED Shen Su-min, associate professor at the department of geography, said that the public tends to do better when it comes to topics that are in the news

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The public "failed" a geography quiz given by the National Taiwan Normal University, the school's Department of Geography professors said yesterday.

The result of the seven-question multiple choice survey showed that the 1,090 men and women between the ages of 18 and 50 only got an average of 52.6 percent of the questions correct, below the 60 percent threshold department professors consider a passing grade.

"I was very surprised, shocked even, by some of the results," Shen Su-min (沈淑敏), an associate professor at the department of geography, told a press conference yesterday.

"Twenty-one-point-one percent thought that rich coral habitats could be found at the Taroko National Park," Shen said.

The public fared even worse when asked: "In which country is the city of Dubai located?"

Only 40.5 percent chose the United Arab Emirates, the right answer.

Shen observed that the public tends to do better when it comes to topics that are in the news or might directly affect their daily lives. A total of 68.2 percent correctly identified a drought in Australia as the reason why powdered milk prices recently spiked in Taiwan.

The challenges of globalization means that Taiwanese cannot afford to be ignorant about the wider world, Shen said.

"The starting point to understanding the world is knowing where things are," Shen said.

"We do not have the luxury of being inward-looking because we are a small country that is seeking survival in the interstices of the world," she said. "We must be aware of what's going on globally."

While the majority of Taiwanese might have flunked the geography quiz, 15 year-old Peng Tzu-huan, an incoming freshman at Song Shan Senior High, found it a piece of cake. Peng was a part of the team that represented Taiwan at this year's National Geographic World Championship in San Diego.

The team placed sixth out of the 18 competing countries.

Peng said that he was worried that geography and history would become increasingly marginalized as a subject at the high school level with the introduction of other topics such as citizenship and society as part of educational reform.

"Citizenship and society are important, but I hope that geography does not get squeezed out as a result," said Peng at the press conference.

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