Wed, Sep 26, 2012 - Page 4 News List

Education evaluations under fire

FAILING GRADE:The Taiwan Higher Education Union and teachers say the evaluations have become a formality that wastes time and favors rigged answers

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

The evaluation system for universities and colleges has been reduced to an empty formalism, giving rise to sycophancy and feigned compliance, according to a survey conducted by the Taiwan Higher Education Union, a trade union comprised of faculty and staff from the nation’s institutes of higher education.

“The policy is well-intended, but after implementation [in 2006], it has drawn heated criticism and complaints from teachers. As a trade union, we are calling on the government to suspend the project and put it under thorough examination,” said Tai Po-fen (戴伯芬), the union’s chairperson and a sociology professor at Fu Jen Catholic University.

Commissioned by the Ministry of Education to develop and carry out the university evaluation system, the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan completed the project’s first phase by evaluating 1,908 departments at 79 institutes in 2010.

Phase two — to qualify students’ performances and educational effectiveness — began this year.

Using online questionnaires, the council collected 701 valid samples from faculty and staff of higher education institutions, and found that more than 83 percent of the respondents believed the system did nothing to improve teaching quality, while more than 88 percent said their research work and teaching performances were severely compromised by the system. Overall, about 83 percent of respondents did not support the project and said it should be discontinued.

The survey also found the main reason for teachers’ resentment against the system is that it has become a mere formality and a waste of time and resources. More than 80 percent of the respondents said committee members were “opinionated” and “lacked professionalism.”

Chou Ping (周平), chair of Nan Hua University’s Department of Applied Sociology, said fawning behavior has become a common sight on campuses. For example, when members of the evaluation and accreditation committee visited his school, faculty were asked to “line the road to welcome them with cheerful smiles,” accompanied by the school’s drumming troupe.

Moreover, in order to “meet the committee’s expectations,” department heads and management simply borrowed others’ reports that had passed the evaluation rather than actually creating material suitable for a particular department, Chou said.

“The bureaucratic despotism of the ministry has brought out the worst in people. It lets the vices of humanity grow and thrive,” he added.

Tai said students at her school were given notes with answers to the questions the commissioners might ask in relation to the school’s educational goals.

“They even put flags on campus that contained hints and clues to the right answers,” Tai said.

Chou said the system has singlehandedly destroyed general education programs because in order to make the number of professors “satisfactory,” schools chose to dissolve general education centers and transfer faculty members to departments that are deemed more important.

To Chen Cheng-liang (陳政亮), assistant professor of the Shih Hsin University’s Graduate Institute for Social Transformation Studies, the ministry’s top-down approach to policy-making is the reason the system is failing.

“It only makes sense that each department or discipline should have its own evaluation system,” he said.

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