Thu, Jul 05, 2012 - Page 5 News List

Academics decry state of higher education

Staff writer, with CNA

Some of the nation’s leading academics have expressed concern about what they called the state of increasingly “vulgarized” university education, which aims only to churn out graduates to satisfy job market demand.

During a meeting at Academia Sinica on Monday, Chi Tsung (季淳), a visiting professor at National Chengchi University, said he was anxious, angry and uneasy about the quality of Taiwanese talent in the future.

He said that the government should take the initiative in improving liberal arts education and cultivate ways of nurturing leaders for different sectors of society.

Chi said Taiwan’s higher education is increasingly “job market-oriented” and “vulgarized.”

Liberal arts education should teach students “how to study,” how to achieve “self-enlightening knowledge” and give them the “ability to make bold decisions,” Chi said.

Most important, students should enjoy engaging themselves in lifetime learning, Chi said.

An ideal liberal arts university would have only three colleges, 14 departments, a 100 member-faculty and a student body of 1,000, Chi said.

The three colleges and their departments would be: humanities, with literature, history, philosophy, arts and music departments; science, with mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and psychology departments; and social sciences, with political science, sociology, anthropology and economics departments.

He cited as examples Williams College in the US and Singapore’s Yale-NUS College, which aim to cultivate hundreds of future leaders in various sectors in the coming decades.

Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC) chairman Morris Chang (張忠謀), recalling his year at Harvard University, said it was a “feast” that he has been enjoying ever since.

Chang said his approximately 100 classmates in his dormitory came from different backgrounds, each with their own specialties, interests and hobbies.

Minister of Education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) said it would not be easy for Taiwan to adopt the Singaporean model, which charges NT$1.67 million (US$56,000) per year, compared with Taiwan’s public university fees of little over NT$50,000 a year.

What would be feasible for Taiwan would be to promote liberal arts courses in its roughly 160 universities. First of all, he said, such courses should not be thought of as giving “easy” credits. A good liberal arts course should teach students to be good human beings and good citizens before they become good professionals, Chiang said.

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