School reform fails: group

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

Thu, Aug 09, 2012 - Page 3

If the central government does not amend the 12-year compulsory education program, parents will be compelled to send their children to private schools, while students from underprivileged families are likely to be denied access to quality education, the Civilian Education Union said yesterday.

Scheduled for implementation in 2014, the new program — which extends compulsory education from junior-high school to senior-high school — is designed to eliminate entrance exams and encourage multiple school admissions.

However, without a complete set of complimentary programs including properly designed criteria to decide which senior-high school students can attend, the new policy will have a negative impact on the quality of education offered, resulting in parents losing confidence in public schools, the education reform group’s convener Wang Li-sheng (王立昇) said.

“Half of my friends who have kids have decided to send them to private schools,” he said. “Those who can’t afford private schools will likely lose their right to an equal education.”

Signs that private schools are rising in popularity have already begun to show, Wang said, citing statistics compiled by Business Weekly. The report showed the number of applicants for private institutes has increased, slashing the admission rate for Taipei Fuhsing Private School from 15 percent last year to 9 percent this year. For Taipei Private Tsai Hsing School, the rate has decreased from 22 percent to 16 percent during the same period of time.

This has happened despite that, on average, private schools cost ten times more than their public counterparts, Wang said, adding that the difference in costs can run between NT$12,000 to NT$120,000 per year.

A survey conducted by the union, with 578 valid samples, shows a similar trend, with 80 percent of respondents saying that by going to private institutes, students have a better chance of being admitted to a good university. In addition, 96 percent of respondents felt that human resources competitiveness in Taiwan has decreased, while 92 percent of the respondents attributed the decrease is related to the country’s education reforms.

To avoid decisionmaking bias, the union said that those who have served at the Ministry of Education should not be allowed to work at private schools for at least three years after they retire.

Another pressing matter is to have the curricula for the new education program ready by 2014 so that teachers and educators can design teaching materials and methods accordingly, the union said. Although it had originally planned to complete the curricula in 2020, the ministry later decided to advance the deadline to 2017.

“There is still a three-year gap. Students will be the government’s guinea pigs,” said Wang, who is also a professor at National Taiwan University.

Initiated by a group of university professors in May, the union has actively sought communication with several government institutes, including the ministry, the legislature and the Executive Yuan. Wang said their next stop will be the Presidential Office.