Students criticize education system

Kelly Wu, Special to The China Post

Students, parents and educators said yesterday that they were worried about the prospects for the island’s educational system under a new policy of diversified admissions to high schools and colleges. People First Party lawmaker Chao Liang-yen, who is also the mother of a perspective college student, said the admissions process was bewildering. She said she spent almost two days looking over admission documents of colleges suitable for her daughter and still couldn’t figure out how to fill out the necessary admission forms. Meetings with specialists at cram schools and attending introductory sessions held by some colleges her daughter was interested in also did not shed any light on the application process, she said. Parents of junior and senior high school graduates also lambasted the Ministry of Education’s new policy. “My husband had to postpone his retirement so we would have enough money to send our children to cram schools and buy them reference materials,” Tsai Lee-chuan said. Many students also criticized the new system. High school senior Chang Chu-wei said that various versions of textbooks being used in different schools made it even more difficult to prepare for the entrance exam. Even teachers were having trouble figuring out the best way to prepare students for the tests, he said. Student representative Lin Chun-ju said that the interviews that figured so prominently in the application process were weighted toward students who were eloquent, good-looking and popular with examiners.

But some said they actually favored the new admissions process. Lee Hung-teh, a senior who has already been accepted into a university, said he got away with only preparing subjects he was interested in because those happened to be the ones that the college put a greater emphasis on. “I was very lucky. But still it cost me around NT$20,000 to apply to the colleges and travel to different campuses to take the exams,” Lee added.

Some teachers further warned of the far-reaching effects that the current educational reform will have in the future. “I am afraid it may increase the gap between students coming from high-income families and those coming from underprivileged groups since it now costs a huge amount of money to prepare a child for high school and college,” Huang Lee-yun, a junior high school teacher, said. Education Minister Huang Jong-tsun defended the reforms, saying that the new system can bring out the best in students by giving them greater room to pursue their interests. Huang pointed to the three gold medals won by local high school students at the 2002 International Physics Olympiad as an example of how the new entrance policies have pushed students to achieve. However, he said that he would take the criticisms into consideration and make any necessary revisions by the end of August.