Fri, Jan 27, 2017 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: College students need leeway: deputy minister

Deputy Minister of Education Chen Liang-gee told ‘Liberty Times’ (the ‘Taipei Times’ sister paper) reporters Jennifer Huang and Rachel Lin that universities should review their educational philosophy and seek to return to the roots of education in the light of declining birth rates in the nation

Liberty Times (LT): Last year has been referred to as the final year before the government begins closing down multiple universities. What is the future of Taiwanese higher education?

Chen Liang-gee (陳良基): The nation’s declining birth rate is a pressing issue, but more important is a lack of motivation to learn — and in addition the inability to focus social resources in nurturing talent.

High rates of absenteeism or the lack of interest during class is reflective of low motivation. It is as if Taiwanese children are seeing their college days as a late childhood period where they are free to do as they please.

More than 50,000 students delay their graduation for various reasons each year. Higher education must question how universities can gain a competitive edge via faculties and resources.

University education is supposed to foster skills that would be useful to society. In line with that thought, my own educational philosophy is that educators must employ different educational methods for different students to better motivate them and cultivate their potential.

The educator should be like a gardener, cultivating and rearing different plants, instead of a carpenter that makes rigid wooden frames.

LT: If higher education aims to make the graduates useful to society, what practical abilities should they learn during this stage of education?

Chen:I think universities’ prime goal is to boost students’ initiative to learn. Vast social resources have gone into universities in hopes that the knowledge, techniques and abilities learned there would help solve society’s problems.

Only when students feel they are needed and that their education can be applied, will they be more inclined toward learning.

Universities must change their model of educating and teaching. Previously, universities were the font of education; now information could be found on the Internet. Universities must adapt by teaching how to assimilate knowledge, train students in detecting problems and foster the ability to solve them.

A number of renowned educational institutions around the world are making said changes. In the case of engineering education at Stanford University, it required that students take courses in calculus, then progress toward hydrodynamics and engineering mathematics.

Under such a learning model, the student is encouraged to work on projects based on the knowledge of hydrodynamics. The student would then be motivated to take courses on hydrodynamics, which requires another course on calculus.

Corporations have constantly complained about the gap between application and knowledge, which is due to the expectations of hiring the “T-type” employee, which is defined as an employee who is sufficiently knowledgeable in both their professional subject and a side subject, so that they could work across different departments.

In regards to this shortfall, colleges should seek to provide more opportunities for cross-subject learning.

Universities should also provide students with the experience of failure, as students would thereby be conditioned and learn from their mistakes instead of giving up. Even students from Stanford have been shown to have a 90 percent chance of failure when starting an entrepreneurial business.

Taiwanese universities should offer chances for students to practice founding businesses. Such training would provide the students the experience and courage to continually strive to establish their own business in the face of failure.

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