Tsai Ing-wen's Bizarre Proposal
United Daily News editorial (Taipei, Taiwan, ROC)
August 23, 2011
Summary: Tsai Ing-wen has unveiled her public education platform. She advocates fast tracking 12-year national education. She advocates a comprehensive community-based system of vocational high schools within eight years. She advocates increasing the percentage of students admitted to public universities by more than half. She advocates minimum quotas and special concessions for local students. If Tsai Ing-wen has her way, universities may soon be community-based. Such an educational platform is worse than devoid of content. It is downright bizarre. How did Tsai Ing-wen arrive at such a bizarre proposal?
Full Text below:
Tsai Ing-wen has unveiled her public education platform. She advocates fast tracking 12-year national education. She advocates a comprehensive community-based system of vocational high schools within eight years. She advocates increasing the percentage of students admitted to public universities by more than half. She advocates minimum quotas and special concessions for local students. If Tsai Ing-wen has her way, universities may soon be community-based.
Not long ago, Tsai Ing-wen was visiting the United Kingdom. She reminded the public on Taiwan that she received a doctorate from the prestigious London School of Economics. She stressed her outstanding international outlook. But predictably, when addressing higher education back home, she adopted an egalitarian outlook, She championed "Nativization" and state sponsored education, She spoke of quotas and preferential treatment, rather than competitiveness. Her double standards were surprising and worrisome.
They were surprising because Tsai Ing-wen is the beneficiary of her education at elite universities, at home and abroad. She ought to know that the nurturing of talent is an extremely complex undertaking. Yet when she addresses higher education on Taiwan, she frames issues in such simplistic terms. She equates increasing enrollment in public institutions with educational reform. In recent years, the supply of higher education has outstripped demand. Quality has steadily fallen. This is deeply worrisome. Irrational, xenophobic, community-based educational policies will only reduce the international competitiveness of students from Taiwan.
Educational policies such as these may be subject to the imperatives of DPP "Nativism," under which everything must be directed toward the ultimate goal -- Taiwan independence. They must move towards "egalitarianism" and away from "elitism." In fact, charges that higher education on Taiwan is "elitist" are trumped-up. Forcibly altering the educational system in the name of egalitarianism is more likely to sacrifice its essence, and lead to its collapse. Community-based senior high schools may be harmless. But to lump elite schools into the same category clearly represents a naive understanding of egalitarianism. This is especially true for universities. The government should encourage universities to develop their own strengths, instead of binding them hand and feet with all sorts of restrictions.
Over the past half century, Chen Shui-bian, Vincent Siew, Su Tseng-chang and other offspring of farming families have reached the top of the political pyramid, Many entrepreneurs have built empires out of nothing. This means our educational system is an effective channel for social mobility. It enables people who exert the necessary effort, to change their destinies. Nor is that all. It allows them to attend university in foreign lands. It allows young people from Taiwan to experience independent living for the first time. Different towns, different origins, different classes of people communicate with each other in dormitories. Their adaptation, learning, and sharing are important and valuable life experiences. Yet Tsai Ing-wen's policy would require universities to reserve places for local students. Young people would hide out at home for four more years, What will become of those experiences of living abroad and learning from others? Should slots for NTU be reserved for children of Da-an District residents? If so, then what will become of the desired balance between urban and rural areas?
DPP Nativism depicts venturing abroad and foreign competition as a brutal and traumatic experience, It does everything in its power to defend against them. It discourages students from venturing out into the world. It prevents students from the Chinese mainland from coming to Taiwan to compete against them. It attempts to establish a safe haven, sequestered far from the world outside. Competition today is globalized. If we attempt to create a sterile classroom, if we insist on perceiving examinations and competition as snakes and scorpions, what will happen to the international competitiveness of the next generation on Taiwan?
Take Tsai Ing-wen, for example. Her father left his native Chaochou in Pingtung during his youth, and made his fortune in Taipei, As a result, Tsai Ing-wen grew up in Taipei and successfully found her way into National Taiwan University, Cornell University, the London School of Economics, and is now waging a campaign for the presidency. That is social mobility. Tsai Ing-wen still considers herself a native of Chaochou. But would she have preferred that her father had not left home? Would she have preferred attending a community college in Pingtung? She told students at Chungsham Girls High School that she "never attended an elite school." That was hypocritical beyond belief. She was the beneficiary of abundant opportunities for upward mobility. Yet her educational policy would reduce and even eliminate such opportunities for for others. The contradiction is too glaring for wordss.
When the DPP was in power, it introduced its "five year, fifty billion" plan to establish world-class universities on Taiwan. The plan grossly misallocated resources. But at least it recognized the importance of national competitiveness. Tsai Ing-wen's educational platform, on the other hand, offers only such simplistic ideas as community colleges, egalitarianism, and exemption from testing. It promises to implement 12 year national education within eight years, but cannot tell us how it will get there, or how it will be paid for. Apparently Tsai intends to treat education as yet another social welfare program. .
Such an educational platform is worse than devoid of content. It is downright bizarre. How did Tsai Ing-wen arrive at such a bizarre proposal?
2011.08.23 02:26 am