The Ministry of Education (MOE) should stop ignoring what students have to say about the 12-year compulsory education program and solve controversial issues surrounding the policy before implementing it in 2014, several student groups and education advocacy organizations said yesterday at a forum.
“Students have always been excluded from education-reform discussions because we are told that we are not ‘professionals.’ But we are subjects, not objects, and our voices deserve to be heard,” high-school student Wang Mu-yu (王慕羽) said on behalf of the National Students Research and Discussion Organization of Twelve-Year Compulsory Education.
Members of the student group, National Federation of Teachers Unions and National Alliance of Parents Organization (NAPO) jointly held the conference to discuss a range of issues relating to the admission criteria and free-tuition policy proposed by the MOE.
Chen Kuang-yao (陳光耀) from Taipei Municipal Neihu High School said that criteria such as volunteer work and a balanced learning experience allow students’ non- academic performances to be quantified into scores and used as a basis for competition. However, the scoring system is unfair as resources made available to students differ among schools, he said.
“For example, schooling resources differ greatly in Keelung, Taipei and New Taipei City (新北市), but they are grouped into the same school district,” Chen said. “We may not know how to make policies, but we know what is unreasonable.”
Chen also questioned whether the exam-based admission for specialty education programs can help to foster a diverse education system the MOE is aiming to create.
Under the new education policy, there are two types of admissions: exam-free admission for general schooling and exam- or project-based for specialty programs that allow schools to develop different concentrations such as science, languages, arts, music and sports.
In the district of Keelung, Taipei and New Taipei City, students who wish to apply for specialty programs would have to take reading and mathematics tests. Meanwhile, the top public high schools including Taipei Municipal Jianguo High School and Taipei First Girls High School reportedly hope to reserve 85 percent of their admissions for specialty education.
“There are so many different ways to encourage schools to develop programs besides exam-based admission. Also, we should gradually get rid of admission criteria,” Liu Cheng-wu (劉承武) of NAPO said. “We don’t want to replace one shackle with a bunch of them.”
Student Chao Pin-chieh (趙品杰) said that the current system fails to foster diversity and respect students’ different interests and aptitudes.
Others, like student Wang Hsueh–cheng (王學承), worried that the free-tuition policy might lead to a rise in demand for private schools.
“Tuition at both public and private schools will be fully subsidized by the government, but private institutes are free to charge all different kinds of fees,” he said. “As public schools are being made equal as MOE plans, parents are likely to choose private schools because they have more resources.”
Chao said that because private schools are exempt from many of the government’s regulations, they are more likely to focus on students’ academic performances rather than fostering balanced learning, hence parents are more likely to send their children to private institutes for “better education.”