• Directory of Taiwan

Civic groups launch protest against system of education

One student arrested after demonstrators clash with authorities

Civic groups launch protest against system of education

Some two hundred people from various civic groups yesterday launched a street protest against what they called the commercialization of the education system.

The group chanted "oppose the commercialization of education," "implement public education," and "businesses pay tax, free tuition," as they marched from Ximending to the Ministry of Education, where the protesters demanded that Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝) accept their petition.

A physical clash erupted as a surge of protesters attempted to penetrate police lines after they received no response from Tu, who was visiting the outlying island of Kinmen yesterday.

Yang Wei-chung, a member of the Workers Democracy Association and also a graduate student at National Chengchi University (國立政治大學), was arrested and held inside the MOE by the police.

The protesters then staged a sit-in in front of the MOE, demanding that Yang be released. According to local media reports, Yang was released six hours into the protest, after which the demonstrators dispersed.

Call for participation
According to Chung Hsiu-mei, the director of the alliance of working parents, the rally aimed to express the hopes of wage earners to have an opportunity to participate in formulating educational policies on an equal footing.

Taiwan's educational system should allow all students to have equal educational opportunities rather than having them be determined by the extremes of rich and poor, she said.

Chung further urged the education ministry to take the initiative to improve Taiwan's overall education environment.

In response to the appeals, the MOE said later in the evening that to maintain the quality and fairness of education, the education ministry would respect the protesters' pleas, and viewed them with a positive attitude.

Demonstrators dissatisfied
MOE Department of Higher Education Director Chen Der-hwa said that his agency regretted that Yang was arrested during the protest and would follow up on his situation.

But representatives of the protesters who were allowed to enter the MOE to negotiate with government officials were dissatisfied with their discussions with Chen, saying that the ministry failed to stand side by side with the students and protect them.
"How can they let the public believe that there's a future for Taiwan's education?" said Yang Tsu-chun, an assistant professor from Chinese Culture University.