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Education groups call on President-elect Lai to hold national conference

04/09/2024 09:13 PM
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Hou Chun-liang (center), president of the National Federation of Teachers' Unions speak at a press conference with union members Chung Cheng-hsin (right) and Lo Te-shui (left) in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo April 9, 2024
Hou Chun-liang (center), president of the National Federation of Teachers' Unions speak at a press conference with union members Chung Cheng-hsin (right) and Lo Te-shui (left) in Taipei Tuesday. CNA photo April 9, 2024

Taipei, April 9 (CNA) Over 10 education groups issued a joint statement Tuesday urging President-elect Lai Ching-te (賴清德) to hold a National Education Conference after his inauguration in May.

Referring to the agenda the groups proposed during the presidential election campaign and promises from all presidential candidates to hold a ninth National Education Conference if elected, the statement sought to remind Lai of his commitment, one day ahead of the 30th anniversary of a demonstration calling for drastic education reform on April 10, 1994.

According to Huang Cheng-chieh (黃政傑), who heads the National Academy for Educational Research, the eight previous conferences were held by the government in response to domestic and global changes.

It is time to hold a ninth conference given the tremendous changes Taiwanese society has undergone since the last one in 2010, Huang said.

However, education workers have also called for a deeper reflection on -- and reform of -- the entire system, with many critical of the education reforms led by then Academia Sinica President Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), Taiwan's only Nobel laureate, 30 years ago.

At that time, demonstrators called for small-size classes with fewer than 30 students, more high schools and universities, modern teaching, and the drafting of an Educational Fundamental Act, which sought to protect people's right to learning and education, while establish guidelines for basic education.

The demonstration led to the seventh National Education Conference two months later and the embrace of education reform, with the Act passed in 1999.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Hou Chun-liang (侯俊良), president of the National Federation of Teachers' Unions, said the reforms had largely failed in terms of realizing their stated goals.

While the reforms led to the establishment of a lot more high schools and universities, the increase did not relieve pressure on students as promised, Hou said, adding that the increased number of high schools actually marginalized vocational schools.

Similarly, the federation's deputy secretary-general Chung Cheng-hsin (鍾正信) said high school classes still have at least 35 students, with up to 45 in private high schools.

Only schools impacted by Taiwan's low birth rate have seen classes with fewer students, he added.

Citing the closure of many higher education institutions, Lo Te-shui (羅德水), another official from the federation, said the reforms had neglected to factor in population growth, adding that the country needs to reexamine the development of education over the past three decades to avoid making the same mistakes going forward.

On the same day, Kuo Wei-fan (郭為藩), education minister from 1993-1996, expressed agreement with the calls for a National Education Conference, describing it as a "physical" for the country's educational system.

Such an event will not only draw public attention to education related issues but also allows experts to exchange opinions and draft plans for the future, he added.

(By Hsu Chih-wei and Chao Yen-hsiang)

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