An education reform group yesterday accused the Ministry of Education of using flawed studies or interpreting research results incorrectly to mislead the public about the 12-year compulsory education program. The group also called on the government to hold public policy debates on related issues.
“We urge the ministry to make public the studies and analyses used to back up the education policy so that members of the public can examine the policy basis,” Civilian Education Union convener Wang Li-sheng (王立昇) said.
One of the studies is a research project commissioned by the ministry in 2007, which reached the conclusion that of the junior-high school students who did equally well at the entrance examination, those who chose to go to senior-high schools in their neighborhoods performed better academically than those who crossed school-district boundaries to attend other schools.
According to the union, the ministry has promoted the concept of neighborhood schools, stating that through the new education program — which extends compulsory education from junior-high school to senior-high school, the between-school variation in student achievement can be reduced, hence students and parents can worry less about choosing between schools in order for the students to obtain the best education.
However, after reviewing the study conducted by Wu Ching-yung (吳清鏞), currently serving as director of the Yilan County Government’s Education Department, Li Ta-jen (李大任), author of a publication titled Secrets Behind the Education Reform (教改不能說的秘密), said the so-called neighborhood schools in the study are in fact well-known top high schools in the areas, rather than community high schools.
The study also shows that many schools adopt the practice of between-class ability grouping, which refers to a school’s practice of dividing students into different classes on the basis of their academic performances, Li said.
Wu Shun-de (吳順德), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), pointed to the likely erroneous reading of a 2006 report on the Finnish education system by the ministry.
Conducted by Finland’s minister of education and science, the report takes an in-depth look at the nation’s education system through a series of analyses of the results of the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development on high-school students’ performance in mathematics, science and reading in member and non-member nations.
“The ministry draws the conclusion from the report that to make students academically competitive, the between-school variation needs to be reduced, but it fails to mention that among the top 15 countries, many have high between-school variations,” Wu Shun-de said.
Wang added that there are other reasons why Finnish students achieve high competence in the PISA assessment.
“The teacher-student ratio in high schools [in Finland] is 1:10. Ours is 1:30,” Wang said. “Also, Finnish students are free to decide what they want to study in high school. My point is that if we want to model ourselves on Finland, we need to look at its whole education system, not just parts of it.”
In addition, both Wang and Wu Shun-de raised concerns about the continuous decrease in students’ academic performance.