Last Monday, school authorities in Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung City announced that they would arrange joint entrance exams for senior and vocational high schools starting in 2011. The announcement implies that the region’s “one-guideline, single textbook” policy is just a step toward establishing jointly organized exams.
The Taipei-Keelung region is pushing the textbook policy and joint exams to reduce student pressure, but looking at news reports about the plans, one cannot help but worry.
The president of a prestigious senior high school for girls said the exams would have little impact on enrolment and a teachers’ representative said allowing students to move from district to district would resolve the heavy imbalance suffered by public senior and vocational high schools in different regions of Taiwan.
However, by opening only 10 percent of its seats to students from other cities and counties, the Taipei-Keelung region is purposefully blocking most students from central and southern Taiwan. These policies are meant to combat an expected rise in competition for continued studies.
This is understandable. The problem has never been the current policy. The current system with one textbook compiled by the Ministry of Education was similar to the proposed “one-guideline, single textbook” policy. Were students under less pressure then?
The scoring system of a joint entrance exam together with the standardized answers from the “one-guideline, single textbook” policy would offer a precise screening system. This kind of system, which ranks students from highest to lowest based purely on test scores, is a key component in “promotionism” — seeking advancement to higher levels of education without regard to personal interests or quality of learning.
With “promotionism” guiding education, changing from a system that allows multiple textbooks to a system that allows only one textbook will do nothing to relieve student pressure.
Since the pressure to advance is not quantifiable, it is difficult to prove that joint exams and a single textbook will fail to relieve student pressure. On the other hand, it is also difficult to prove the opposite.
Still, pinning the hope for relieving student pressure on these measures sacrifices educational diversity. A look at daily life shows that not everyone likes to eat rice, but when the educational authorities demand that all students use the same textbook, they ignore individual differences and may even destroy a child’s future.
Taipei City, Taipei County and Keelung City defend their policies by saying that a single textbook does not necessarily lead to uniformity and that the problem can by resolved by teachers using diverse teaching methods. This claim, however, intentionally overlooks how textbooks direct the curriculum in Taiwan.
If teachers could direct the curriculum, any textbook would be equally effective, which raises two questions: How would a single textbook system relieve student pressure and why should the Taipei-Keelung region push so hard for it?
Whether the region’s joint exam and textbook policy can relieve student pressure remains uncertain. But the region’s educational authorities are playing with the core of education — diversity. In this educational reform, the Taipei-Keelung region is showing a lack of fundamental thinking on ”promotionism” by recklessly pushing for jointly organized exams and a single textbook. Whether deliberately or inadvertently, they will end up increasing “promotionism.”
Hsu Yue-dian is director of the Department of Law at National Cheng Kung University, and Ling He is a doctoral student in the department.
TRANSLATED BY EDDY CHANG
Late last month, Beijing introduced changes to school curricula in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, requiring certain subjects to be taught in Mandarin rather than Mongolian. What is Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) seeking to gain from sending this message of pernicious intent? It is possible that he is attempting cultural genocide in Inner Mongolia, but does Xi also have the same plan for the democratic, independent nation of Mongolia? The controversy emerged with the announcement by the Inner Mongolia Education Bureau on Aug. 26 that first-grade elementary-school and junior-high students would in certain subjects start learning with Chinese-language textbooks, as
There are worrying signs that China is on the brink of a major food shortage, which might trigger a strategic contest over food security and push Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), already under intense pressure, toward drastic measures, potentially spelling trouble for Taiwan and the rest of the world. China has encountered a perfect storm of disasters this year. On top of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic, torrential rains have caused catastrophic flooding in the Yangtze River basin, China’s largest agricultural region. Floodwaters are estimated to have already destroyed the crops on 6 million hectares of farmland. The situation has been
In 1955, US general Benjamin Davis Jr, then-commander of the US’ 13th Air Force, drew a maritime demarcation line in the middle of the Taiwan Strait, known as the median line. Under pressure from the US, Taiwan and China entered into a tacit agreement not to cross the line. On July 9, 1999, then-president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) described cross-strait relations as a “special state-to-state” relationship. In response, Beijing dispatched People’s Liberation Army (PLA) aircraft into the Taiwan Strait, crossing the median line for the first time since 1955. The PLA has begun to regularly traverse the line. On Sept. 18 and 19, it
Midday in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 16, was sunny and mild. Even with the pandemic’s “social distancing” it was a perfect day for “al fresco” dining with linen tablecloths and sidewalk potted palms outside one of New York City’s elegant restaurants. Two members of the press, outfitted with digital SLR cameras and voice recorders, were dispatched by The Associated Press to cover a rare outdoor diplomatic meeting on one of these New York streets. American diplomat Kelly Craft, Chief of the United States Mission to the United Nations, lunched in the open air with Taiwan’s ambassador-ranked representative in New York, James