The Ministry of Education’s policy to reduce the number of military instructors nationwide remains unchanged, Minister of Education Cheng Jei-cheng (鄭瑞城) said yesterday, while the justice minister admitted to accidentally telling universities to hire government ethics personnel.
During a question-and-answer session of the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, Cheng said the ministry decided at an administrative meeting on Oct. 23 not to fill vacancies for military instructors at universities for the next three years.
Cheng said statistics showed there were about 1,388 military instructors on university campuses and that this figure would drop by about 100 each year.
There will be around 690 military instructors left at colleges in three years time, he said.
But he said the ministry would not cut the number of military instructors at high schools because they play a role in student safety.
The ministry has sought to reduce the number of military instructors at universities since the term of former education minister Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝), who considered their presence on campuses inappropriate.
The presence of military instructors at high schools and universities dates back to the 1950s, when they were responsible for students’ military training, discipline and political education.
They are now generally tasked with ensuring campus safety. Those at high schools are also responsible for student discipline, counseling and military training courses.
Cheng acknowledge the instructors’ role in campus safety, but said that some of their duties, such as counseling, should be taken over by professionals trained for those tasks.
When asked for comment, National Taiwan University president Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔), who also attended yesterday’s meeting, said that military instructors played an important role in campus security, but that they should not remain a part of university faculty in the long run.
But Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators Hung Hsiu-chu (洪秀柱) and Kuo Su-chun (郭素春) disagreed.
They urged the ministry not to “force military instructors out” simply to follow the ideology of the former Democratic Progressive Party government.
In related news, Minister of Justice Wang Ching-feng (王清峰) said no ethics personnel would be assigned to campuses or government offices.
“It was a misunderstanding. I assure you that such a thing will not happen,” Wang told the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.
The issue was highlighted when the Ethics Affairs Department issued notices to schools suggesting that all schools and government offices assign ethics personnel. The proposal was criticized as a return to the Martial Law era, when ethics staff were used to collect information for the government.
Wang said it was a misunderstanding, adding that she had “signed the document by mistake.”
Wang said the ministry wanted to assign people as campus contacts to provide information about government policies and help schools with legalities concerning their financial declarations.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY JIMMY CHUANG
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