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Talk of the Day -- Vulgarization of Taiwan's higher education

2012/07/03 18:21:46

Leading academics in Taiwan have expressed concern about the increasingly "vulgarized" university education, which aims only to churn out graduates to satisfy job market demand.

During a meeting at Academia Sinica Monday, Tsung Chi, a visiting professor at National Chengchi University, said he was anxious, angry, uneasy and worried about Taiwan's talent in the future.

He suggested that the government should take the initiative in improving liberal arts education and figure out ways of nurturing leaders for different sectors of society.

Following are excerpts of a report by the United Daily News on the issue:

Chi said Taiwan's higher education is increasingly "job market-oriented" and "vulgarized."

Liberal arts education should teach students "how to study," how to achieve "self-enlightening knowledge" and the "ability to make bold decisions." Most important, students should enjoy engaging themselves in lifetime learning, Chi said.

An ideal liberal arts university would have only three colleges, 14 departments, a faculty of some 100 members and a student body of 1,000, according to Chi.

The three colleges and their departments would be: Humanities, with departments of literature, history, philosophy, arts and music; Science, with departments of mathematics, physics, chemistry, biology and psychology; and Social Sciences, with departments of political science, sociology, anthropology and economics.

He cited as examples Williams College in the United States and Singapore's Yale-NUS College, which aim to cultivate hundreds of future leaders in various sectors in the coming decades.

Morris Chang, chairman of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (SMC), recalling his year at Harvard University, said it was a "feast" that he has been enjoying ever since.

Chang said his 100-odd classmates in his dormitory came from different backgrounds, each with their own specialties, interests and hobbies.

Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling said it would not be easy for Taiwan to adopt the Singapore model, which charges NT$1.67 million (US$56,000) per year, compared with Taiwan's public universities, which charge only a little over NT$50,000 a year.

What would be feasible for Taiwan would be to promote liberal arts courses in its 160-odd universities. First of all, he said, such courses should not be thought of as giving "easy" credits.

A good liberal arts course should teach students to be good human beings and good citizens before they become good professionals, Chiang said. (July 3, 2012)

(By S.C. Chang)