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New Taipei to scrap 'special exams' in high school admissions
Central News Agency
2014-08-14 09:49 PM
Taipei, Aug. 14 (CNA) New Taipei Mayor Eric Chu fired the first shots at the nation's controversial new high school admission system Thursday, announcing that his city would scrap the "special entrance exams" beginning next year in a bold departure from central government policy. Chu, an influential figure in the ruling Kuomintang, lashed out at the much maligned new system, describing it as erratic and crediting it with causing "great misery" for students and parents. He said it has "taken a wrong and chaotic direction" that requires righting. The system has left many frustrated due to confusing rules for students to select their preferred high schools. In the Greater Taipei area, criticisms also focused on the weight given to the essay portion of the June entrance exam. If high school applicants are not accepted by their first-choice schools after the test, they can take special entrance exams that emphasize certain subjects for a second crack at the most exclusive schools. A third chance at selection allows students still unhappy with their options to use the grades from the original entrance exam and draw up a new list of preferred schools. But by the time all of this is finished, the process can take as long as two months. Chu explained that Taiwan's most populous city will put an end to the special exams because even though the whole system means well by trying to do away with elite "star" schools, he called this year's experimental implementation troublesome. He announced that all schools in New Taipei will scrap special exam admissions next year, and enrolment in senior high schools citywide will be completed in a single round. The changes mean that students next year can have their enrolment settled by June, as opposed to this year's students, some of whom are still fretting over school selection just one month before the school year begins this fall. Education Minister Wu Se-hwa responded to the move by saying he "respects Chu's decision," noting that this year some cities and counties held special exams while others did not. Wu explained that the special exams were designed for students with specific strengths in given fields, but he said that if local governments think the first-round of exams are sufficient for enrollment, special exams can "of course be scrapped." Education officials in Kaohsiung and Taoyuan echoed Chu's decision later in the day, saying they will scale down the number of schools holding special exams. Tainan and Taichung, meanwhile, said they favor keeping special admissions but suggested scrapping the special exam, letting schools instead choose based on students' scores in specific subjects during the regular exam. Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin called for the Executive Yuan to convene a national conference to discuss issues related to the new admission system, the core of the government's overhaul of elementary and high school education. Cabinet spokesman Sun Lih-chyun said Education Minister Wu will convene a meeting in the near future and is "open" to any options. (By Wang Hung-kuo, Hsieh Chia-chen, Chen Chih-chung and Lilian Wu)
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