During the last 10 years, under a system calling for Taiwan’s educational reform, there have been a variety of indications of educational disorder and derailment, a development that needs immediate checking and adjusting. The focal point, however, has to be the higher education, which is facing a severe test in competition and challenge in a world trend of globalization. This study probes into the island’s higher education with the aim of finding out is current status and problems as well as of coming up with new approaches to revision and innovation.
This study makes an international comparison between Taiwan’s higher education indicators, such as funds for higher education, enrolment rate, tuition and fees, performance in scholarly journals, and those of major industrialized countries. The following findings emerge:
Funds: Spending by the government on higher education is less than that of advanced nations.
Enrolment rate: The rough enrolment rate of college students is quite high, indicating a vigorous development in higher education in Taiwan.
Tuition and fees: Tuition and fees for Taiwan’s public and private schools are not necessarily higher than those in industrialized countries, providing better educational opportunities for students on the island.
Ratio of Female college faculty: This ratio has reached a point where sexual equality is achieved.
Taiwan’s SCI, SSCI, and EI impact and the number of scholarly papers are behind many advanced nations, leaving much room for improvement in the island’s academic standard.
Number of students in the United States: This number has been decreasing over the past five years in comparison with that of India, Mainland China, South Korea and Japan, a secret worry for Taiwan’s internationalization in higher education.
This study offers nine suggestions in the hope that the quality of Taiwan’s higher education can be upgraded and that the level of Taiwan’s colleges and universities can be raised to that of the world’s top institutions of high education.
Key words: education indicator, higher education, international comparison
Globalization has been a subject that all human being in this new century have to tackle squarely. As people, products, money, and information are moving much faster than ever before without any obstructions, the earth has thus become an “object of tight schedule” . No country or business can stay aloof from globalization; therefore, a global system in which politics, economy, education, and culture are integrated into one pot is firmly established. To articulate with this trend, education must go through a constant adjustment and innovation .
In the last 10 years, Taiwan’s education has been undergoing a drastic change in many respects, including an increase in the number of colleges, a rise in the acceptance rate for universities, a decrease in educational funds, and a reduction in the number of children. This phenomenon poses difficulty in the survival of institutions of higher education. It also brings up a question of repositioning for conventional universities. The problems in relation to Taiwan’s higher education can be summarized as follows:
Number of colleges and universities: The number increased by 69 in 10 years, from 78 in academic year 1997 to 147 in academic year 2006.
Acceptance rate for colleges and universities: The acceptance rate through entrance examinations in 2006 reached 90.93%, a record high.
Funds for education: The ratio of spending by the government in education decreased from 5.37% in fiscal 1996 to 4.39% in fiscal 2005, down 0.90% in 10 years.
Average funds for each college student: The amount was NT$204,795 in academic year 1993. It was reduced to NT$149,260 in academic year 2002, down NT$55,535 in 10 years. That was the only negative growth among the average funds for each student at all levels of schools.
Population growth and birth rate: According to the Ministry of the Interior, there were 326,002 people born in 1997, or 15.07% in terms of the birth rate, compared with 204,459 people in 2006, or 8.96%. That means a decrease of 121,543 people, or down 6.11%, in 10 years.
Change in number of elementary and secondary school students: There has been a gradual decrease in the number of school-age children, with a total of 1,905,690 for elementary schools in academic year 1997, down 107,254 in comparison with that of academic year 2006, which stood at 1,798,436. As for the number in secondary schools, there were 1,074,588 in academic year 1997, down 121,946 from the 2006 academic year of 952,642. The decrease of students at the elementary school level is clearly evident, a foreseeable problem for Taiwan’s higher education.
Change in number of students at all school levels: According to statistics made known by the Council for Economic Planning and Development, the number of school-age children is going to decrease in the years to come, with a reduction of 40% in the 6-11 age group and 38% in the 12-17 age group by 2051. That figure is to be halved in the 18-21 age group by the same year, indicating there will be a big setback for college student recruiting in the future .
Because of the problems mentioned above, this study aims to inquire into the current situation and developments of Taiwan’s high education. As to the methodology, an “education indicator” approach is to be taken, which has been extensively used by scholars and others interested in the subject. Thus, the study will concentrate on international comparisons of higher education indicators between Taiwan and major industrialized countries.
2. FUNCTIONS and CONTENTS of HIGHER EDUCATION INDICATORS
Indicator, Education Indicator
Definition of Indicator
Indicator refers to something that shows what condition something is in. It can be defined as something that helps us to understand where we are, where we are going and how far we are from the goal. Therefore it can be a sign, a number, a graphic and so on . It must be a clue, a symptom, or a pointer to something that is changing. Indicators are presentations of measurements . They are bits of information that summarizes the characteristics of systems or highlights what is happening in a system, a result that displays principles of universality that can be used as references for problem solving or policy formulating.
Education indicator refers to statistics that reflect important aspects of the education system and serve as yardsticks – telling a great deal about the entire system by reporting the condition of a few particularly significant features of it . The use of it can help generate a set of principles of universality, thereby acting as references for shaping educational policies.
Functions of Education Indicator
As education indicator can reflect current educational situation and forecast future educational trends, it therefore has the ability to serve a useful function as a guideline and evaluation for information provision and quality enhancement. OECD lists the following functions in the education indicator system: evaluating student performance in learning, analyzing achievements of the education system, pointing future directions for educational development, providing references for educational policies, reflecting change in educational ecology. The foregoing illustrates the importance of education indicators in the development of education.
All in all, the functions of education indicators lie in the fact that they can reflect the status of educational development through availability of objective material and serve as yardsticks of educational evaluation, a practice that can ensure educational quality and improve educational performance . In other words, the establishment of education indicators can serve a valuable function for description, diagnosis, supervision, and forecast of problems and difficulties in the education system to be used for references in the handling of educational issues.
Functions, Benefits, and Contents of Higher Education Indicators
Functions and Benefits of Higher Education Indicators
As education indicator has the functions of description, diagnosis, supervision, evaluation, and forecast, higher education indicator can fulfill the same functions as well, leading to the gaining of benefits accruing from an understanding of the current status of higher education, an analysis of its problems, a set of guidelines for its operations, a measurement of its achievements, and a detection of its trends.
Contents of Higher Education Indicators
There are already studies of education indicators for various school levels in Taiwan. For example, on preschool education, there are reports on comparisons of social and economic backgrounds for families of preschool children, on the ratio of preschool educational funds at various governmental levels to the entire educational funds, and on the ratio of qualified teachers at public and private kindergartens; on elementary and secondary education, reports on the ratio of the number of teachers to that of administrative supporters, and on the ratio of qualified teachers at elementary and secondary schools; on vocational education, reports on the ratio of the number of vocational students to that of the total students, and on cooperation between vocational schools and industries. There are also education indicators for adult and special education.
Based on the practice adopted by UNESCO, OECD, and various industrialized countries, Taiwan’s Department of Statistics of the Ministry of Education has compiled corresponding material for use as general and higher education indicators, which can be served as information in international comparisons of higher education indicators. The indicators include those ranging from the number of colleges and students, the ratio of graduate students, the ratio of college faculty with doctoral degrees, the college acceptance rate to the distribution of faculty specialties, the ratio of full-time faculty, and the number of books allotted to each student.
3. International Comparisons of Higher Education Indicators
As the education indicators, made available by the Ministry of Education in the form of raw material only, have not been deeply explored and analyzed, this study intends to make international comparisons for nine items in the hope of gaining a better understanding of the status of Taiwan’s current higher education, so that policies of higher education in future can be formulated and qualities of higher education improved.
Ratio of Funds for Higher Education to GDP
Funds for Taiwan’s higher education represent 1.83% of the country’s GDP, behind South Korea , Japan , and the United States , but higher than the Netherlands and Australia , New Zealand and Britain , Italy , France , Germany , and OECD . As for the government spending on higher education, the ratio is 0.73%, higher than Japanand OECＤ , but lower than the U.S. , South Korea and Spain , Britain, Belgium and New Zealand , France , Italy , and Canada . The statistics show that Taiwan is still behind industrialized nations in investment in higher education .
Rough Enrolment Rate of College Students
Under a policy calling for greater expansion of colleges and universities, the number of higher learning institutes is increasing rapidly, with the rough enrolment rate of college students standing at 78.6%, following South Korea at 89% and the U.S. at 82%, but higher than Australia , Spain , Italy and New Zealand , Britain and Canada , the Netherlands , France , Germany , Japan , Thailand , Malaysia , and Vietnam , indicating the development of Taiwan’s higher education is not behind other countries . The rough enrolment rate of college students standing at 78.6%, following South Korea at 89% and the U.S. at 82%, but higher than Australia , Spain , Italy and New Zealand , Britain and Canada , the Netherlands , France , Germany , Japan , Thailand , Malaysia , and Vietnam ,
Ratio of Female College Faculty
With a universal education, the level of education for women in Taiwan is improving.
The ratio of female college faculty is 33.2%, higher than Italy at 32.9%, Germany at 30.1%, Canada at 28.9%, South Korea at 27.4%, and Japan at 14.1%, but lower than Mainland China at 45.4%, New Zealand at 44.7%, Malaysia at 43.5%, Australia at 41.8%, India at 38.5%, and France at 36.3%, indicating women in Taiwan have a reasonable opportunity to teach in colleges .
Annual Tuition and Fees for College Students in Major Countries
The ratio of tuition and fees of Taiwan’s public schools to GDP is 11.51%, lower than the U.S. at 12.93%, South Korea at 25.08%, but higher than Britain at 6.19%, and France at 0.66%. The same ratio for the island’s private schools to GDP is 21.12%, lower than the U.S. at 62.46% and South Korea at 30.05%, indicating tuition of Taiwan’s colleges is not necessarily higher than that in advanced nations .
SCI Impact of Major Nations
Taiwan’s SCI impact stands at 2.74%, lower than 6.62% of the U.S., 6.34% of the Netherlands, 6.17% of Iceland, 5.98% of Britain and Switzerland each, 5.66% of Finland, 5.40% of Canada, 5.60% of Germany, 5.28 of Israel, and 5.16% of France, indicating the impact is not strong enough .
Number of SCI Papers Published and Ranking
The largest number of SCI papers published goes to the U.S., with a total of 370,064 in 2006, followed by Britain with 95,801, Germany 89,553, Japan 88,550, and Mainland China 87,592. In terms of ranking, Taiwan has been listed at 18-20 in the past five years, with its total papers published reaching 18,906 in 2006 .
Number of SSCI Papers Published and Ranking
The greatest number of SSCI papers published also goes to the U.S., with the total aggregated at 70,438 in 2006, followed by Britain at 19,653, Canada 8,607, Germany 6,985, and Australia 6,330. The ranking for Taiwan’s published SSCI papers over the last five years has been between 17 and 22, with the total number amounting to 1,191 .
Number of EI Papers Published and Ranking
Again, the U.S. has the largest number for EI papers published, with the total arriving at 83,923 in 2006, followed by Mainland China at 71,010, Japan at 37,958, Germany at 22,451, and Britain at 20,648. The ranking for Taiwan’s EI papers published during the past five years has stood at 11-12, with the total rising to 11,299 .
Number of Students Studying in U.S. and Ranking
The largest international student group comes from India, with the number reaching 83,833 in 2006, followed by Mainland China , South Korea , and Japan . Taiwan has been ranked at 5-6 in the recent five years, with the number in 2006 adding up to 29,094 .
In general, although the ratio of the overall funds for higher education to GDP is higher than the average 1.3% for OECD, the amount is still lower than those in industrialized countries. Government spending in Taiwan for higher education is particularly low at 0.73%, far less than that in such nations as the U.S., South Korea, Spain, Britain, Belgium, New Zealand, France, Italy, and Canada. There is a need for Taiwan to increase funds for higher education. On the other hand, Taiwan’s rough enrolment rate for college students has reached 78.6%, much higher than that in advanced nations like Britain, Germany, and Japan. It is suggested that both quality and quantity be treated equally and that quality be improved in future.
Turning to the ratio of female college faculty, it is higher than that in Italy, Germany, Canada, and Japan, a sign that indicates sexual equality has been achieved in Taiwan. Although the ration of tuition and fees of Taiwan’s public and private schools to GDP is higher than that in Britain and France, it is lower than that in the U.S. and South Korea. In terms of the overall tuition, Taiwan is not expensive than most industrialized nations, giving students plenty of opportunity to get access to higher education.
As to the academic standard, impact of scholarly papers of Taiwan maintains at 2.74%, lower than that for the U.S., the Netherlands, Iceland, Britain, Sweden, Finland, Canada, Germany, Israel, and France. Over the last five years, the number of Taiwan’s SCI, SSCI, and EI papers has amounted to 31,396, with rankings ranging from 11 to 22, far less than that for such countries as the U.S., Britain, Japan, Canada, and Australia, a phenomenon that shows much room for improvement. And the fact that the number of Taiwan students traveling to the U.S. for advanced studies is lower than that in other Asian countries like India, Mainland China, South Korea, and Japan prompts worries of internationalization for Taiwan’s higher education .
3. CONCLUSION and SUGGESTION
On funds for higher education: Government spending is less that that in advanced countries.
On enrolment rate: The rough enrolment rate for colleges is quite high, indicating a vigorous development in higher education.
On ratio of female college faculty: Female college teachers enjoy a satisfactory ratio, indicating an achievement in sexual equality.
On tuition and fees: Not higher than those in advanced countries, meaning plenty of opportunity for schooling.
On academic standard: Impact of scholarly papers and ranking for SCI, SSCI, and EI papers are far behind those for many advanced nations, which means there is still much room for Taiwan to improve in its academic standard.
On number of students studying in U.S.: Taking a look at the figures shown in the last five years, Taiwan is behind India, Mainland China, South Korea, and Japan, arousing worries of internationalization for Taiwan’s higher education.
On funds for higher education: As subsidies to schools are not increased in proportion to the increased number of schools, resulting in bad performance, there is a need for greater investment so as to help enhance the quality of higher education.
On enrolment rate: Although the enrolment rate for college students is high, the unemployment rate for these students is also high. Tougher quality controls are therefore to be imposed.
On ratio of female college faculty: Since sexual equality has been achieved on campus, the characteristics of the female faculty should be well reflected to create an environment suitable for them to become educational leaders, introducing a new kind of culture and innovation to the campus.
On tuition and fees: The economic slowdown and the coming of an M-Shape society have led to a situation where many students cannot afford to enroll even though they are already accepted for admission. Therefore, a system calling for the convenience for the underprivileged students to get students loans, financial aid, and scholarships has to be introduced.
On academic standard: Schools are encouraged to segment their functions on the basis of their individual properties and advantages, so that those with academic potential can deliver a better performance in the number of scholarly papers while those with teaching potential can do a better job in the improvement of teaching quality.
On number of students studying in U.S.: College students are encouraged to go abroad for advanced studies for the benefit of helping accelerate academic exchanges. The establishment of sister-tie schools and the introduction of dual degree programs with overseas educational institutions should also be encouraged. Ways must be explored to attract foreign students to come to Taiwan for advanced studies, a practice that can help Taiwan to become much more internationalized in higher education.
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