Fri, Jul 01, 2016 - Page 3 News List

Minister pans faculty as directors

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) yesterday said that he is against a proposal to assign faculty members to the board of directors at private schools to safeguard workers’ rights, saying that teachers serving as directors could see them serving for “certain groups,” which could violate schools’ purpose of serving in the public interest.

Pan made the statement during a meeting of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, where he was asked to comment on a draft amendment to the Private School Act (私立學校法) proposed by Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chang Liao Wan-chien (張廖萬堅).

The DPP caucus tabled its own draft amendment, with the two drafts differing greatly.

Pan said that unlike corporations, which are aimed at making profits, schools aim to serve in the public interest, adding that assigning faculty members to the post of board member could cause a school’s policymaking to lean toward certain groups.

He said that allowing faculty members to serve on the board of directors would interfere with the policymaking carried out by deans.

During a question-and-answer session with Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩), Pan said that “directors of public interest” selected from objective members of the public could fulfill the purpose of faculty members doubling as board members.

Ko questioned the legitimacy of the DPP’s draft amendment, which states that only private high schools and technology or vocational universities receiving more than NT$40 million (US$1.24 million), or ordinary universities receiving more than NT$80 million in annual subsidies from the ministry should be required to hire directors of public interest.

Citing as examples scandal-embroiled Nan Jeon University of Science and Technology and Chi Jen High School, Ko said that directors at schools receiving grants ranging from NT$20 million to NT$30 million are more prone to corruption, while those at well-financed schools are less prone.

Ko asked if the ministry had compiled a watchlist of private schools that could have engaged in illegal dealings or are on the verge of bankruptcy.

Pan said that there were a dozen on the list.

Ko said the ministry should publish the list to avoid public censure when new scandals erupt, but Pan said an evaluation panel would watch the schools and that the ministry would not publish the list.

DPP Legislator Rosalia Wu (吳思瑤) said that Pan is under immense pressure at the helm of private school reform, given the far-reaching collusions often associated with private schools.

Wu called on Pan to sign a declaration stating that he has no suicidal intentions, lest he is murdered.

When asked if he supports designating public interest directors and supervisors to make school finances more transparent, Pan said he does.

The minister also said that he is against the rigid stratification often seen on private schools boards of directors, where seats are often “hereditary” and controlled by families.

Chang Liao underlined the importance of private school management, citing a 2014 corrective report filed by the Control Yuan, which said that the ministry had been negligent in its management of private schools.

Pan ascribed the prevalence of scandals involving private schools to the way the act was written, saying that the ministry often finds out about malpractice after a scandal erupts.

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