PhD hawks Fried Chicken, Wu Bao-chun Refused an EMBA
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
March 22, 2013
Summary: Not a single university on Taiwan has been willing to admit Wu Bao-chun
into an EMBA program. Meanwhile Singapore universities are aggressively
recruiting students from Taiwan. This has provoked more "If Singapore
can, why can't Taiwan?" arguments. The Ministry of Education is
reportedly considering modifying the rules for EMBA enrollment. If this
was the result of the Wu Bao-chun controversy, that may not be a bad
thing. But such improvements remain piecemeal.
Full Text below:
Not a single university on Taiwan has been willing to admit Wu Bao-chun into an EMBA program. Meanwhile Singapore universities are aggressively recruiting students from Taiwan. This has provoked more "If Singapore can, why can't Taiwan?" arguments. The Ministry of Education is reportedly considering modifying the rules for EMBA enrollment. If this was the result of the Wu Bao-chun controversy, that may not be a bad thing. But such improvements remain piecemeal.
Having graduated from junior high, Wu Bao-chun now hopes to obtain an EMBA degree. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the spectrum, we find contrary examples. Recently a PhD opening up a hawkers stand and selling fried chicken made the news. Some people blasted this development. Others praised it. Terry Gou said the PhD should be taxed for "wasting educational resources." But reportedly his fried chicken is "selling like hotcakes." Presumably many people are only too happy to patronize this PhD's hawker stand.
Wu Bao-chun lacks academic credentials. But he won a world competition. Others have doctoral degrees, but have set up hawker stands selling fried chicken. These represent polar opposites. But both seem to suggest that academic credentials are worthless. Wu Bao-chun nevertheless wants to return to the "ivied halls of learning" to acquire more knowledge. He heads up a 200 million NT per year enterprise. He constantly encourages his staff to pursue their studies and to learn foreign languages. He is afraid people will cite his example to argue that academic credentials are worthless. He would prefer that people cite his example as evidence that one never knows when book learning will pay off.
Actually the moral of today's story is not that academic credentials are worthless, but that the value of the knowledge should be commensurate with the price tag for academic credentials. The educational system on Taiwan values form over substance. The traditional notion that "through books one attains wealth" needs reevaluation.
PhDs are undervalued. Either that, or academic credentials are overvalued. This is true all over. One need not single out Taiwan. A PhD setting up a hawker stand to sell fried chicken is of course an extreme case. But people with advanced degrees holding down odd jobs, teaching remedial classes, and job-shopping, is a widespread phenomenon. From one perspective, having everyone acquire more book learning, is hardly a bad thing. But from another perspective, its is hardly the most efficient use of the nation's resources. The government spends immense sums of money subsidizing public universities. It provides graduate students with all sorts of allowances. It even provides a minimum salary of 22,000 NT. If university graduates cannot apply what they have learned, it is indeed a waste. Therefore economists should urge the government to reduce such ineffective subsidies.
In the final analysis, parents and students who insist that book learning is an investment, need to reassess the distinction between the price they paid for a diploma, and the value they can expect to receive from it. The Information Age involves rapid change. It values innovation. It considers book learning less valuable than common sense. Its heroes often lack academic credentials. Tsai Pei-ran is able to study at Harvard while working as a male model. Univerity students seek to become disciples of Wu Bao-chun. As we can see, having some sort of skill, is better than having diplomas good only as wallpaper.
The world is rapidly changing. Social values must change in accord. Changes to the existing framework are also long overdue. In recent years, Wu Bao-chun, Jason Wu, and a string of "shining lights of Taiwan" in sports show that young peoples' values are changing. Many of them are learning baking, interior design, carpentry, catering, and auto repair. They are finding their own route to success. The old saw that "All else is beneath contempt, only book learning is exalted." must be amended. Many older generation parents and teachers must learn to respect young people who are pursuing their own dreams. They need to realize that people can excel in any field.
Ensuring that people excel in any field however, is not merely a matter of personal confidence. The system must also offer flexibility. It must encourage people to break out of the mold. It must provide an environment that enables people to excel in any field. In recent years, Yen Chang-shou and other high tech leaders have called for increased technical and vocational training and certification. Rapid growth has resulted in over 150 universities. But this has led to a shortage in technical and vocational education that must be met.
This surfeit of universities was ironically accompanied by the example of Wu Bao-chun unable to gain entry to a single EMBA program. The Ministry of Education should attempt to restore the universities' status as "temples of learning" and not mere diploma mills. Many technical and vocational school trained masters have become university professors. But a master baker who wanted to become a student was turned down. Wu Bao-chun is not the only one who wants to go back to college. Retired Honorary Chairman Bruce Cheng of Delta Electronics confessed that he wanted to return to college to learn astronomy. But under the current system, that is easier said than done. Relying on community colleges to impart systematic knowledge is not enough. The Ministry of Education must encourage existing universities to offer continuing education. They must be flexible and willing to reform. Wu Bao-chun will not be the only one who benefits.
2013.03.22 03:56 am