The Taipei City Council yesterday demanded that the Taipei City Government apologize for its education plans, with Taipei City Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) responding that educational policies had not been set in stone.
City councilors across party lines lambasted the city government when Hau gave a presentation on the city government’s education policy.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City Councilor Tung Chung-yen (童仲彥) said the cause of the “chaos” in state education was constantly changing policies by the city government.
The city government has repeatedly changed its mind on educational policy, Tung said, adding that it never made its meanings and intentions explicit.
In response to Taipei City Department of Education Commissioner Ding Ya-wen’s (丁亞雯) denial that she had ever said examinations would be similar to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Tung replayed a video of Ding during a talk at the private Wesley Girl’s High School in August last year.
“The examination questions would be like the questions appearing on PISA,” Ding said in the video.
PISA, organized by the by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), is a worldwide program for 15-year-old school pupils in math, science and reading.
Ding and Hau have lost all credibility by lying to the public, and they should immediately apologize and step down, Tung said.
DPP councilors Wang Shih-chien (王世堅), Lin Shih-chung (林世宗) and Chiang Chi-ming (江志銘) ordered a large pizza to give to Hau. Wang said that the literacy of students was not like fast food and cannot be arranged to order.
The city government’s actions treat students like guinea pigs, Wang said, adding that someone should shoulder the responsibility for the retraction of the PISA policy.
The councilor’s move to order a pizza, which transliterated into Chinese is pi sa (披薩), sounds close to the PISA policy.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) councilors Dai Hsi-chin (戴錫欽) and Wang Hong-wei (王鴻薇), DPP councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青), and New Party Taipei City Councilor Vivian Huang (黃珊珊) presented questions on how the city government intended to deal with a NT$300 million (US$10 million) budget shortfall, the result of city policy not to charge senior high schools and vocational high schools for tuition.
The councilors also asked how the city government intended to exclude richer families from taking advantage of the policy.
Meanwhile, Hau said the city government never supported the notion of employing examinations that followed or were similar to PISA.
Every report of the city government about to employ the PISA method had been met with firm rebuttal and clarification by the city government’s bureau of education, Hau said, adding that he had emphasized that every time the issue cropped up.
National Taiwan Normal University will be tasked with providing all specialty student admission examination questions in future, Hau said.
The comprehensive assessment program is scheduled to replace the Basic Competence Test for Junior-High School Students next year and become the main channel to assess student capability for further study. It will be held every May and attendance by all students in the third year of junior high will be mandatory.
As for the NT$300 million budget shortfall, Hau said that the city government intended to appeal to he Ministry of Education for subsidies, adding that should the city government implement the no student tuition policy, then it should also make sure richer families do not benefit from the policy.
However, Hau said that elite schools had their raison d’etre, adding that some had existed for some time.
One cannot simply erase and forget the meaning and value these schools hold on a whim, Hau said.
Ding said education circles had often talked about the PISA method, but the city government had not said it would employ it, adding that the ministry would decide whether or not there would only be one comprehensive assessment test.
The central government makes the decisions and the local bureau of education merely carries them out, Ding said.