The Ministry of Education’s project to evaluate universities and colleges has severely compromised teachers’ performance and hinders the actualization of an open and diverse school environment, the Taiwan Higher Education Union said, urging the government to suspend the policy and reform it through a democratic process.
About 50 members of the union, mostly professors and other faculty members from universities and colleges across the country, gathered in front of the ministry’s offices in Taipei on Teachers’ Day on Friday to deliver their petition to ministry representatives.
“The system has been reduced to an absurd formality. Some teachers are physically and mentally exhausted from trying to cope with the evaluations, while others are forced to leave for not conforming to it. It goes against everything that higher education stands for,” associate professor at National Chung Cheng University Kuang Chung-hsiang (管中祥) said.
Developed and carried out by the Higher Education Evaluation and Accreditation Council of Taiwan — a “quasi-official agency” whose board of directors include a number of current and retired high-ranking MOE officials — the evaluation system fails to take in dissenting opinions, or respect diversity, the union said.
“From how the council is organized and operated to the way the evaluation standards are set, the whole process has never been transparent and open to public debate,” said Tai Po-fen (戴伯芬), the union’s chairperson and a sociology professor at Fu Jen Catholic University.
Tai said that many of the council’s board members also serve on the board of directors of the Taiwan Higher Education Society, an institute commissioned to assess the evaluation system.
“So basically it is like you are evaluated by your own guys,” she added.
With its fixed, uniform evaluation indexes, the system blatantly disregards the fact that each department has its own attributes and differences, Nan Hua University’s Department of Applied Sociology chair Chou Ping (周平) said, adding that department managers end up borrowing others’ reports or contracting out the work in order to meet the evaluation committee’s requirements.
By the end of 2010, the council had completed the project’s first phase by evaluating 1,908 departments at 79 institutes.
More absurdities will follow, Tai said, as phase two — which aims to qualify graduates’ performances and educational effectiveness — began this year.
“For example, the Department of Religious Studies at our school now has to come up with jobs that students can do after graduation. Soon the department will be evaluated on how many of its graduates become nuns, clergymen or undertakers,” Tai said. “Higher education is not vocational education. It can not be evaluated on the number of certificates and jobs students obtain.”
Currently, the MOE is planning to allow schools that get high evaluation scores to set up their own self-evaluation systems. However, the policy is likely to divide the nation’s higher education classes into “good students” and “bad students,” the union said.
“Good students get all the resources from the government and are exempt from examinations, whereas bad students get nothing and are fastidiously evaluated and examined,” Tai said. “The unequal distribution of resources is the main problem with higher education and an evaluation system is not the solution.”
For former teachers like Tsao Jui–tai (曹瑞泰), the measurements and standards school administrations adopt to evaluate faculty members have become equally arbitrary and one-dimensional.
According to the union, many universities and colleges have imposed the “six-year clause” on assistant and associated professors, requiring them to get promotions within six years, or be dismissed from their posts.
Tsao, a former associate professor at the Department of Public Affairs and Management of Kainan University, has experienced the injustice of the clause. Having earned two doctorates in Japan and China, Tsao wrote about 40 research papers in Mandarin and Japanese during his tenure at Kainan. He said he failed to meet the “six-year clause” because the school only recognized papers written in English.
“Universities have increasingly become business-like, focusing only on profits and efficiency,” Tsao said.
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