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Higher Education Reform in the Republic of China


Dr. Lu Mu-lin Vice Minister of Education

For me, it is a sincere pleasure to have the opportunity to visit Latvia for the opening of the Exhibition on Chinese Seals and the Miniature Beauty of Seal Carving and this occasion to speak to you, on behalf of Taiwan's Ministry of Education about the current status of our educational reform movement.

Technology and a shrinking world have quickly pushed Taiwan into the global arena. As we encounter, an array of new questions and challenges, we sometimes wonder what our efforts to prepare and adopt to change, will bring.


In order to create something of value, like a Chinese seal or chop, it is necessary to have the proper materials, the knowledge and skill on how to use such materials and the creativity or imagination on how to implement a unique design for the creation of an object that will have long lasting value and beauty. This concept or step-by-step process also constitutes the approach that Taiwan is taking with respect to its educational reform movement.

Technology and the fact that countries, such as Latvia and Taiwan, are no longer isolated from each other and the rest of the world, have presented new sets of challenge. For Taiwan, the impact of such global interaction has made education an important cornerstone for helping our society to bring about needed improvements and change. Education can also be an important key for innovation and successful reforms. Therefore, in order to fully understand the significance behind our reform movement, a brief overview will be necessary.

Transformation And Change

Taiwan has come a long way in transforming itself. Since the establishment of the education reform evaluation committee, which was organized by the Executive Yuan, in 1994, educational reform has become a national topic.

In 1996, the Executive Yuan also organized an educational reform promotion team to work on implementing suggestions, which were proposed by members of the education reform committee. The Ministry of Education (MOE) then proposed a 12-point plan, which if implemented would create a monumental shift for Taiwan's educational transformation.

On May 14, 1998, the Ministry of Education's Educational Reform Action Program was approved by the Executive Yuan, with the allocation of a special budget equivalent to $5 billion US dollars, for this unprecedented project, to be completed within a five-year period, thus, pushing Taiwan forward into an "era of educational reform".

There are several key points regarding Taiwan's current higher education reform movement. Special emphasis has been placed on examining the number or quantity of opportunities being made available to Taiwan students and the quality of these reforms.

Development of Programs For Increased Student Enrollment and Academic Excellence

At the beginning of the 2000 academic school year, the number of students reached more than fifty-three thousand or 2.43% of Taiwan's total population. As our student enrollment continues to rise, universities are faced with the challenge of having to provide more opportunities to students. As a result, the quantity, of student educational resources and opportunities, has increased and the level or quality of education has been greatly enhanced.

Establishing an International Component

International education is an important component of the learning experience for Taiwan's students. In many countries today, travel and overseas study are being recognized as a valuable part of a student's education. School systems, organizations and parents are working diligently, in order to provide opportunities for their young people to have at least one international or global educational experience, before they finish their formal academic training.

Such programs, like those, which exist between Latvia and Taiwan, can greatly enhance educational and cultural understandings for our students. With the approach of a WTO association for Taiwan, such understandings will become invaluable.

Important Policies of ROC Higher Education

1.The Establishment of a Legal Foundation for Universities

In order for the Ministry of Education to be in compliance with the Administration Procedure Law, which took effect on January 1, 2000, it actively had to modify the "University Law", the "Private School Law" and the "Degree Granting Law". The key modification point with regards to the "University Law" was to clarify universities' self-governance and the identification of national universities. Modification of the "Private School Law" granted more flexibility for self-governance, while the modification of the "Degree Granting Law" established additional flexibility within the school system and allowed universities more room for development in the areas of teaching, research and services.

2.Active Promotion of a Multiple-channel Entrance System

Universities, in the past, have used a national examination process called the Joint University Entrance Exam (JUEE) to recruit and obtain students. Preparations for this exam began years in advance, and for most high school students, they had to give up a "normal teenage life" and put all their efforts into studying. Even though this examination process had the earmarks of transparency and fairness, universities still were not able to recruit students, who were suitable for the universities areas of academic expertise. Students were not able to select areas of study, which would motivate and encourage their interest in education.

This past June, after 40 years, the Joint College Entrance Examination ended. Taking its place is the education reform program for multiple-channel entrance admission. Universities will now be able to recruit students from high schools and students will have the choice of either completing a recommendation/exam procedure or file an application to select a university and department of their choice.

This system will provide more of an "even matching" of students and universities. This also does away with a system that had "an exam that decided one's whole life". By the same token, this reform strengthens university rights for self-governance, along with acting out of respect for students' rights and choices.

3. Continuation of University "Academic Excellence" Development Projects

As of 2000, Taiwan now has a total of 135 universities and colleges. This is quite a change from 1950, when Taiwan only had one comprehensive university, 3 four-year colleges and 3 junior colleges. The number of students has reached more than fifty-three thousand or 2.43% of the total population. In the past three years, the admission rate, using the Joint College Entrance Examination was around 60%. As the numbers of universities have increased to meet the needs of our growing student population, the quality of education and services have needed to be addressed.

In order to improve the quality of university standards, a five-year US$400 million dollar "Academic Excellent Development Project" was launched. The first phase of 16 projects will award a total of US$130 million in grants. Currently, the second call for projects is now underway and we expect to complete project proposal evaluations by the end of this year.

This past July 2001, a sub-project entitled "Improving University Fundamental Education" was implemented. Its purpose is to explore how to best utilize and develop the teaching and research resources within our university settings. The promotion of this project will also push our universities to conduct research and refine their teaching methodologies.

According to the statistics of the National Science Indicators, on Diskette 2000, ISI Co., USA, the total number of research papers published in journals, listed in the Science Citation Index (SCI) for Taiwan between the years of 1994-1999 was around 19 or 20. This indicates that the research capability for Taiwan university professors placed them as leaders for the world.

4. Establishment of an Internationalized Environment for Higher Education

The ancient Chinese saying, "Reading tens of thousands of books should be coupled with traveling tens of thousands of miles away from home" is as true today as it was in ancient times. International education or the establishment of an internationalized educational environment is the trend for the 21st century.

However, Taiwan is facing a challenge. Due to our present research and study facilities, international students are hesitant to come to Taiwan for further study. Few of our schools provide lectures in the students' native language or foreign language journals or publications. Most schools have not set up offices, which have full-time staff to help administer international academic exchange programs.

In order to correct our current situation regarding our institutes of higher learning and their facilities for international students, serious attention is being paid to these existing conditions, especially since WTO is just around the corner. Students from all over the world will be attending international exchange programs and enrolling in international degree granting programs, therefore, Taiwan needs to be better prepared to be available to the international educational community.

5. Establishment of Lifelong Learning Society

Presently, the enrollment for high school students remains high, however the rate for individuals who are outside the formal walls of academic training and study, is comparatively low. This seems to indicate that the concept of continued lifelong learning has not been well received or understood.

For this segment of the population, we need to reconsider appropriate methods to stress the importance for continued study and the need to strengthen our society, so that it can become a "Lifelong Learning Society". We do have at present, a "Lifelong Learning Law", which supports and officially recognizes off-campus learning. This will assist individuals who are willing to pursue courses that support their learning needs and goals.

Institutions of higher learning are crucial to our societies. They provide avenues for opportunity and resources for renewal or the broadening of an individual's horizons. Since 1998, the Ministry of Education has actively encouraged to focus on developing Adult Continuing Education Graduate Programs and Advanced Two-year Professional Programs. The public feedback for these two programs has been positive and enthusiastic. Our goal is to adjust the ratio of "general students" and "students from the workforce" in order to have a more balanced manner for implementing the programs that come within the jurisdiction of our "Lifelong Learning" program.

The Ministry of Education has also implemented the "University Continuing Education Regulations" policy, which allows all universities to offer credit or noncredit courses for the general public. This is another alternative avenue for citizens to study, build credits so that they will be able to qualify for taking the university transfer exam or the joint entrance exam for Two-year Advanced Professional Programs. All sectors of Taiwan's society are feeling the effects of the present internationalization of business trends. Many Taiwanese businesses have relocated their factories to Mainland China or Southeast Asia. This affects the goals of those individuals who are earnestly trying to pursue their educational goals.

In order to offer support of this segment of the lifelong learning population, the Ministry of Education is in agreement that universities can extend the scope of their continuing education programs outside of Taiwan. This will also ensure that overseas Taiwanese workers and foreign citizens will have the proper academic channels to receive high quality education from universities in Taiwan.

6. Developing a Knowledge-based Economy Educational Foundation

Change happens. In order to face the challenges that accompany change, Taiwan's Ministry of Education is actively working to establish an educational foundation to support the concept of a "knowledge-based economy". Engaging as many members of our society to become "lifelong learners" and to become fully capable of receiving new knowledge or information, in order to support their advancing nation, is a current challenge. Therefore, university education is very important for providing citizens with re-education or updated educational opportunities. The more, that the general public can learn and preserve, the greater the knowledge base. The results would contribute to the continuing development and security of the society.

According to some statistics, more than 70% of all Nobel Prize Winners and new discoveries come from well-known international universities. This alone, is a testimony and a sign of encouragement for us to continue with our mission to develop and utilize those human resources within our society.

7. Promoting Cooperation Between the University and Business Sectors

Taiwan has overcome some tough challenges in its climb to become a society that strives to offer citizens a balanced, healthy and secure environment for living. As mentioned before, one of the key cornerstones has been "education". Our present society and its economy, relies on its "knowledge-based" workers or the "power of knowledge" concept.

In order to nurture and increase the competencies, of the members of our society, our institutions of higher learning need to become important links to Taiwan's business sector. Close and supportive relationships need to be developed.

Mr. Tseng-joun Hsen, Chairman of the ACER Group and developer of the "Smiling Curve Theory" observes that our country can no l onger rely on the development of manufacturing sectors. We need to focus and concentrate on developing our existing human resources or knowledge-base sectors of the society, for this is our "economy of the future".

The following three-point plan of cooperation between universities and business offers a path for achieving this connection:

  1. "The Cultivation of Human Resources" within an university setting, structured guidance to assist graduates to meet their professional needs for the workplace and on-site internships or training opportunities by employers and the business sector will utilize the existing wealth of human resources that Taiwan's society has to offer.
  2. "Research and Development" funding by the business sector for university research and teaching projects will strengthen the connection between academia and business. Businesses will also receive up-to-date research information. Combined with their professional experience and knowledge, this becomes a winning combination for Taiwan's economy and its mission for becoming a "knowledge-based society".
  3. "Sharing Resources" is a cooperative approach, which will allow students to experience an "hands-on learning" situation, within a business environment. This is a win-win situation for it utilizes human resources, cuts expenditure costs and allows for the up-to-date sharing of information.

Making Visions into Realities

Taiwan is currently in pursuit of quality assurance and the internationalization of higher education, which it is addressing, in conjunction with the concept of a knowledge-based economy. By striving to create a new atmosphere for research and teaching, we are trying to enhance our view of higher education. We are also trying to work out our problems, in the area of research, by emphasizing leadership, teamwork, productivity and discipline. These are ambitious goals. But like the Chinese seal or chop carver, who knows that he must exhibit care, knowledge, creativity and effort for the creation and completion of his work, so must we continue with a firm spirit of cooperation, hope and hard work, in order that our visions can become realities.

Thank you.