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President should rethink new 12-year education program

Since President Ma Ying-jeou was elected for his second term, several of his policies have been implemented despite less-than overwhelming public support, including the 12-year education program. Ma is just as determined to carry out the 12-year education program as he is to adjust electricity rates and implement the stock gains tax. Although media attention has been focused around rising electricity rates and the stock gains tax, the 12-year education program is no less controversial.

The new system is scheduled to be implemented in 2014. Under the new system, 75 percent of students can enter schools in their neighborhood directly without taking any exam, while schools can select 25 percent of their students based on their own preferences. According to the Ministry of Education (MOE), the number of students selected by specifically by schools will decrease year by year.

If the number of people living nearby exceeds a school's capacity, the school can choose its students based on tests designed by the MOE. Having made schools unable to choose students based on their academic performances, the MOE has deliberately designed new tests to measure a wide range of abilities, including athletics. But these tests only show whether a student can pass tests for certain subjects — they don't reflect how good a student is in terms of the subject.

It is not clear what the president wants to achieve based on this new system. According to the president, the education system in Taiwan needs to be reformed for Taiwan to “upgrade” itself. The only argument the president keeps repeating is that extending the average number of years of education Taiwan citizens receive is beneficial to development. This argument, however, only takes into account the quantity of education citizens in Taiwan receive, and not the quality.

A good education system should be able to place students into schools where they can develop themselves. A school focusing on academic performance needs to choose those who can perform well academically, and a school focusing on athletics must choose those best in sports. In the new system, however, schools cannot tell how good a student is in anything.

Compared with the 12-year system, the current system can at least select students based on their academic abilities.

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