10 Aug 2007

96% of university entrance exam takers can enter the university now: is it a good sign for higher education in Taiwan?

The university education in Taiwan is going nowhere. What can we expect from the university students now when the university entering score is only 18, which means students only need to score 2.8 out of 100 for each subject!

According to the Department of Higher Education in Taiwan, there are 158 universities in Taiwan including 2 Open Universities and 7 special universities/academies for the training of the police and military. If we count in 15 vocational colleges, which are junior colleges for junior high students, the total number of higher education institutions is 173. Do we really need so many institutions for higher education?

We shouldn't be shocked by this terribly low entering score. There are too many universities here, and each of them wants students. When they cannot get the funding from the government, when they are having difficulty raising money from private sectors, the only way for them to survive is to get as many students as possible. So they keep opening new departments with fancy names that can attract high school students. When the offer is way more than the real needs, in order to take enough students to keep the new department, new universities risk taking in students who are truly not able for higher education. This explains why the entering score for universities is getting lower every year. Not surprisingly, now we have universities with students whose education level is only in junior high school. They don't speak and write English, they totally have no idea of algebra , they cannot identify Dubai on the map, and the worst of all is that they can't even talk and write Chinese, which is their mother tongue.

I agree with the idea that everyone living in this society deserves the right for education. However, what happens here now is not the correct way to do. The ministry of Education should set up standards for universities. They can group them into research universities, vocational training universities and community colleges. Research Universities are set up to further all types of research that can foster the academic quality of Taiwan. Vocational training universities provide students with all required skills and train them to be professionals for their future career. Communities colleges should act as an alternative that provide basic training and knowledge to those who are not qualified for higher education but want to learn and develop their skills. If we do so, each university will has its goal and target students, and students will be guided by parents and teachers to select what really is the best for his/her future. We would be able to avoid such a shameful score.

In Taiwan, what we have now is a very tricky policy from the Ministry of Education. They provide NTD 50 billions for universities that are evaluated as the so-called "good universities". The purpose of the Ministry of Education is awkward here. It is a good intention that they give this money to help universities to be ranked as one of the top universities in international ranking. Indeed, if a university receives a high rank in international ranking, the university must be good in its teaching and research qualities. When they use this money to build up their strength, they are truly fostering the academic quality of Taiwan. However, what about all the other universities? The ministry seems to ignore them completely. If you don't help them and you ignore them, they will be just like this, in such an awkward situation. They still try hard to survive, they still take in low quality students, and they still try to compete with good universities but keep failing. This only brings one result, that is, they can never contribute to the academic environment in Taiwan but only produce bachelors without proper knowledge and professional skills.

It is truly sad that the policy makers do not see this truth. They are totally blinded by politicians and businessmen. I believe some of these new universities are not set up to provide qualities but only to gain money. University education is way more expensive now, and the tuition fee is getting higher every year. For those who consider education as business, this is really a good chance to make money. Corruption has found its way into the academic field already. How could we expect new changes to be happened in higher education when policy makers are so corrupt? Is it possible for us to have a healthy higher education when the whole government is so corrupt? Maybe it is a good thing for the new generations in Taiwan because everyone can go to the university now. However, it is also such a shame. Taiwan probably will become a country with the highest unemployment rate for bachelor holders in the world. By that time, we will have beggars and homeless people with high degrees everywhere!

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