An education reform group yesterday called on the central government to amend the 12-year compulsory education program which the protesters said would cause a negative impact on the quality of education once implemented.
Members from the Civilian Education Union gathered in front of the Ministry of Education and the Legislative Yuan, delivering a petition to officials and urging the ministry to re-examine the criteria used to decide which senior high school a student would attend.
“[The ministry] should get rid of the unreasonable criteria which cannot reflect a student’s performance and use scores from the new examination as an important point of reference in a flexible manner,” the union’s convener Wang Li-sheng (王立昇) said.
Designed to eliminate entrance exams and encourage multiple school admissions, the new program, which extends the compulsory education system from junior-high school to senior-high school, is scheduled for implementation in 2014. The new policy would replace the current high-school entrance exams with junior-high school students taking two-day exams that would be graded to place students into one of three levels: need to work harder; a basic pass; and a well-earned pass.
The grading would then be used as an admission criterion by schools when the number of applications exceeds the number of spaces available.
Other criteria include volunteer work, balanced learning experience in the arts and sports, as well as the record of awards or punishments students receive at school. For students with the same scores, a lottery would be used to decide which school they attend.
The measure to use a lottery and the criteria, such as students’ awards or punishments, are “extremely improper” and elicit great concern and anxiety in parents, Wang said.
“The sense of uncertainty has driven parents to send children to private schools. The program is supposed to offer citizens an equal right to education, but the reality is that students from underprivileged families are likely to suffer from a lack of access,” said Wang, who is also a professor at the Institute of Applied Mechanics at National Taiwan University.
The group suggested using scores from the new examination rather than the three levels of grading as the criterion which should have increased in importance. Moreover, since schooling environments and resources differ greatly in different regions, the decision over what percentage of schools should accept exam-free admission by which time should be left to local governments rather than the central government, Wang said.
In the long run, the government should help to foster a diverse schooling system for students with different interests and talents who can choose to go to general high schools, special schools or vocational schools, the group said in a public statement.
Initiated by a group of university professors, the Civilian Education Union started a petition against the new policy in May and has since gathered more than 14,000 signatures from concerned parents, teachers and students, as well as a number of faculty members from Academia Sinica, presidential advisors and national policy advisors.
Wang said the union would consider taking more “radical” measures if the ministry fails to improve the 12-year education program.