Ministry must face problems at universities 1

In the middle of this month, the Joint Board of College Recruitment Commission held a consultative meeting on the “multiple entrance program.” At the meeting, two professors revealed that when student applications are reviewed, many reviewers only pay attention to the applicants’ appearance, place of residence, and their parents’ social and economic background.

Some parents even admitted that they had prepared the application for their children, while such applications had been used by universities as good examples of recommendation-based university admission, the professors said.

The stunning remarks caused a great deal of discussion.

There have been rumors that application reviewers only cast a quick glance at application material, rarely spending more than five minutes reading each one.

Furthermore, university admission is based on scores from four of the five subjects in the General Scholastic Ability Test (GSAT), instead of all five — Chinese, English, math, science and social studies — as was the case previously.

Moreover, as the math tests were easier in previous years, there were a lot of students with top scores, while admission was based on fewer subjects. As a result, the tests failed to discriminate between those at the top.

Due to this lowered threshold, the number of students applying at top universities or departments through the secondary-stage GSAT exam has surged, so the workload for application reviewers is seven or eight times higher than before crammed in to the same time frame.

Because of the time pressure, it is impossible for reviewers to thoroughly read applications and the material that prospective students have worked hard on.

The fairness of the new policies are highly questionable, and the two professors’ remarks at the meeting are probably not groundless.

Surprisingly, the Ministry of Education said that their remarks seriously hurt the credibility of university admissions, so it would take this into consideration when reviewing admission quotas of their universities.

The ministry’s handling of the case is like a game of whack-a-mole, as it fails to address the underlying problems.

Besides, if the two professors’ accounts are accurate, they are whistle-blowers — bravely uncovering faults. So if the ministry singles out their universities for punishment rather than addressing the issue generally, it is possible that the institutes will take that out on the professors.

This would have a chilling effect, dissuading others from speaking up for fear of retribution.

Since application-based admissions were launched, there has been an argument over the fairness of the system, but there has been no evidence to support the claims. The account of the two professors was the first of its kind.

Putting aside the question of whether the two professors were telling the truth and whether such behavior is common practice, they must be facing great pressure for their statements.

The ministry should take an open-minded approach to the opinions shared at the meeting and face problems with sincerity.

It should not be looking for excuses to alleviate blame leveled at the Joint Board of College Recruitment Commission.

If it does, it would lose the public’s trust.

Chung Pang-yu is an adjunct assistant professor at National Kaohsiung Normal University’s Department of Education.