Sunday, 8 November 2009

Life "Sustainability"


In response to Sunday's news item ("Ma calls for more university classes taught in English" - by Mo Yan-chih), I'd like to offer some critical observations relevant to Ma's announcement.

Mo Yan-chih reports Ma as saying:

“If we refuse to make changes, great teachers and students will be gone and it will be more difficult for us to raise competitiveness...”

This reported fragment is ambiguous. In what sense did Ma intend his use of the notion "competitiveness"? Was it in relation to general economic activity or was it in reference to the universities of Taiwan, i.e. making them more competitive against universities in other countries? Unfortunately, nowhere in the remainder of Mo Yan-chih's article is Ma's meaning clarified. If Ma had intended it in the former sense rather than the latter, then that is substantially different although I suppose it would strike most people as obvious that more competitive universities would improve general economic competitiveness.

Yet there is overwhelming evidence that this is simply not true.

Two months ago, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in China, reported that graduates from Chinese universities were earning salaries equal to or in many cases even less than those of migrant field laborers from South East Asia. The situation in Taiwan is not vastly different. How is it that a young person spending large sums of their parents' money (often financed by debt which they may or may not be able to afford) and using up to four crucial years of their young lives only to graduate to employment at a deli counter or a KFC a way of "raising" general economic competitiveness?

It is transparent lunacy.

Earlier in Mo Yan-chih's article, he reports Ma as saying this:

“Higher education in Taiwan should not keep its doors closed any more."

Might I suggest that the imperative is precisely the opposite - it is high time that many of Taiwan's universities and technical colleges were deprived of all State funding. Such a policy would not only result in the closure of many smaller, less prestigious universities, but, perhaps more importantly, it would force the government into repealing and relaxing many other laws and regulations that stand in the way of entrepreneurial start-ups. For the simple fact is this: the best way to raise economic competitiveness is - to allow young people to learn to compete economically. The traditional Chinese attitude of reverance toward education, along with disproportionate State support for education, is destroying the potential for many young people to create and sustain their own lives.

Yours sincerely,

Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Sunday 8th November 2009. Published by the Taipei Times Monday 16th November 2009)

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