The Ministry of Education has squandered public subsidies on the private-school system and failed to monitor its development, raising concern about the direction of the forthcoming implementation of a new compulsory education system, lawmakers and civic groups said yesterday.
The ministry appears to have favored private schools through “an unfair and systemic approach,” and this policy could drive the new compulsory education system — scheduled to be adopted in 2014 — off course, DPP legislators Cheng Li-chiun (鄭麗君) and Lin Shu-fen (林淑芬) told a joint press conference with the National Federation of Teachers Unions.
The revised education system would extend free education to 12 years, covering students in all public or private high schools and vocational schools, as well as those in the first three years of five-year junior colleges.
The ministry’s current policy has opened at least six “back doors” for private schools, union secretary-general Wu Chung-tai (吳忠泰) said.
The subsidy the ministry plans to offer private schools — NT$19.8 billion (US$660.4 million) in 2014 — would be a waste of public funds and would go against the government’s goal of helping the underprivileged, Wu said.
Wu added that the ministry also does not have the power to demand that private schools use the subsidy to improve school equipment, curriculum and faculty.
Wu said the average student-teacher ratio in private institutions exceeds 30 — which is about 2.5 times the national average of 13 in public schools.
Citing widespread practices by private schools across the nation, Wu said the ministry has failed to stop those institutions from using entrance examinations to decide admissions (a violation of the basic spirit of compulsory education), accepting student numbers way above their quotas and exploiting teachers with low salaries.
The ministry has also overlooked a mass exodus of public-school principals to private schools and retired education officials’ failure to avoid conflicts of interest by working for private institutions, Wu said.
He added that the union had documented at least 21 such cases.
Union president Liu Chin-hsu (劉欽旭) submitted 11 appeals and said Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) had up to June 30 to consider and answer the appeals.
“We do not rule out all-out opposition to the 12-year education system if Chiang fails to respond in time, because the ministry is not able to monitor, supervise and manage about half of the junior-high schools and high schools in the nation,” Liu said.
Lin said that the “socialization of the private-school system” is an essential spirit of compulsory education, but the ministry has yet to introduce concrete measures to uphold the ideal.
Lin said if private institutions accept subsidies, they should be obliged to improve the quality of education.
“But there is no way for the ministry to monitor them as of now,” she said.
“Neither do the private schools have the right to filter students by examination. That completely goes against what compulsory education is all about,” the lawmaker said.