Several groups yesterday said calls by mayors of three special municipalities for military education officers to help make schools safe were misguided and that social workers and consultants were better suited for the job.
As local governments launched a nationwide anti-bullying campaign on Wednesday, Greater Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊), Greater Taichung Mayor Jason Hu (胡志強) and New Taipei City (新北市) Mayor Eric Chu (朱立倫) said the presence of military education officers on school grounds would help keep schools safe.
Chen has requested that the Ministry of Education help the Greater Kaohsiung Government take over command of military education officers from the now-defunct Kaohsiung County.
Hu said military officers should help with patroling school grounds, while Chu was mulling whether to bring military education officers to junior high school campuses.
At present, military education officers are only present in senior high schools and colleges.
However, the mayors’ calls have drawn opposition from a variety of organizations involved in education affairs.
Humanistic Education Foundation executive director Joanna Feng (馮喬蘭) said she opposed the presence of military education officers in schools.
“During such a time of change, it’s the best opportunity to bring about reforms,” Feng told the Taipei Times via telephone. “I regret that the mayors cannot grab hold of that opportunity and prefer to hold on to the old system instead.”
Greater Taichung and New Taipei City both gained special municipality status in December last year, while Kaohsiung City, already a special municipality, was merged with Kaohsiung County.
“Our students need education ... there should be professional social workers and counselors on campus, not military officers,” she said.
In Torng-jiuan (殷童娟), vice director of the National Teachers’ Association’s counseling department and a teacher at a junior high school in New Taipei City, emphasized the need for good -examples over restrictions.
“Students need guidance, not control,” In said. “Military officers may be able to exercise ‘control,’ but they cannot answer questions related to relationships or confusion about the future, which are often the problems high school students struggle with.”
Despite the fact that professional psychologists and social workers have yet to appear in schools to help students resolve their problems, In said many teachers were already doing a better job meeting their needs than military officers ever could.
“I see a lot teachers who voluntarily stay after school to spend time with students, give them help not only with schoolwork, but also on problems they may have in their private life,” she said.