Monday, July 13, 2009

Using Taiwan Test Scores to Apply to Mainland Universities

Using Taiwan Test Scores to Apply to Mainland Universities
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
A Translation
July 13, 2009

On the basis of one's test scores, students from Taiwan will be able to gain admission to any university on both sides of the Taiwan Strait. If one cannot get into National Taiwan University, one can get into Beijing University. If one cannot get into Tsinghua University in Hsinchu, one can get into Tsinghua University at Beijing. If one cannot get into the department of one's choice at National Chengchi University, one will be able to at Fudan University in Shanghai. For students from Taiwan, this is mighty tempting.

Mainland China's Vice Minister of Education Yuan Guiren announced this policy at the bilateral forum in Changsha. Students from Taiwan will be able to apply to Mainland universities using their Taiwan test scores. Some people think this will not impact universities on Taiwan. Others think this may lead to a wave of students studying on the Mainland over the next few years.

Let's talk about some peoples' doubts and fears. If this policy takes effect and spreads, every year as many as 10,000 students from Taiwan will chose to cross the "Blackwater Ditch" (Taiwan Strait) for four or more years of academic studies in Mainland cities. This means that a a significant proportion of young people from Taiwan would be "transferred" to the Chinese mainland. Since these students are the academic elites, how should we interpret such a population movement?

A deeper concern is that because the CCP is authoritarian, it can control the admissions process to elite Mainland universities. It can even give preferential treatment through scholarships. Will this increase the temptation for students from Taiwan to cross the Strait for higher learning? After these students cross the Strait, will these young people from Taiwan eventually wind up as Beijing's political bargaining chips?

This sort of negative thinking begins with the assumption that everything must always be to our disadvantage. As a result, its conclusion will always be that we must take every possible measure to confront and obstruct such a trend.

But one can also adopt a more positive point of view. The final result of bilateral exchanges will not necessarily manifest itself in one or two generations. We hope the two sides will fully understand each other during these one or two generations. Such an understanding is only possible when people on both sides have free access to each others' social environment, educational environment, and lifestyle. Only a generation that grows up in such an environment will be able to internalize and resolve the problems the two sides face.

Over the past sixty years, several generations on both sides of the Taiwan Strait have remained mired in a zero sum game of hatred and confrontation. Governments on both sides of the Taiwan Strait manipulated cross-Strait relations to their own political advantage. The public on both sides of the Taiwan Strait was relegated to the role of an amen chorus, waving flags and shouting angry slogans. If we believe the two sides of the Taiwan Strait should share a vision of peace and mutual prosperity, the first task is to increase bilateral exchanges, enabling the public on both sides to guide cross-Strait relations. If we think in these terms, open exchanges between universities on both sides is a forgone conclusion. Because as university students develop concepts of right and wrong, they will be the ones who introduce and implement a vision for the future. If the Taiwan side lacks confidence even in cross-Strait exchanges between university students, then it is going to have even less confidence in cross-Strait exchanges between ordinary members of the public.

This gesture by the Beijing authorities can be described as audacious. Beijing did not ask Taiwan to open its doors. Beijing opened its doors first. Students from Taiwan need not take any additional exams. Given such an opportunity, they are highly likely to consider such alternatives. Moreover, Beijing opened the door. Once opened, Taipei can hardly demand that Beijing to close it. In other words, the situation is out of Taipei's hands. Therefore, from Taipei's perspective, it must adopt a posture of greater openness. Otherwise it will merely wind up in a posture of passivity.

This gesture by Beijing will make it even more difficult for Taiwan to reject Mainland academic credentials, and to prohibit Mainland students from studying on Taiwan. Because even under the current system, 2000 students from Taiwan went to the Mainland to study. Now that students from Taiwan can gain admission to Mainland universities based solely on their Taiwan test scores, and receive all sorts of preferential treatment to boot, their ranks will rapidly increase. Refusal to recognize Mainland academic credentials will be both infeasible and pointless. If students from Taiwan study on the Mainland, but students from the Mainland are prohibited from studying on Taiwan, such a lop-sided situation will only be disadvantageous to Taiwan.

If the two sides of the Taiwan Strait do not wish to slam their doors shut and engage in confrontation, then they must open their doors and engage in cross-Strait exchanges. Economic and trade exchanges are good, but not as good as people to people exchanges. People to people exchanges on university campuses should be encouraged. After all, young people have a powerful sense of right and wrong, a global outlook, and hope for the future. We look forward to a future in which both sides can win and create mutual prosperity. We hope such a future will germinate and grow on university campuses on both sides of the Taiwan Strait.

2009.07.13 05:55 am











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