Taiwan’s education innovator visits campus

by Brett Knapp

The University will receive a visit today from an international pioneer in education reform.
Taiwanese Minister of Education Dr. Wu Jin will lecture on educational reform in the Republic of China at 2 p.m. in the Cowles Auditorium at the Humphrey Institute. Wu, known in the Taiwanese press as “the king of new ideas,” has proposed and helped implement several controversial education reforms in his country.
“(The lecture) is open to everyone. I think it’s probably for administrators, professors, students, anyone interested in education policy,” said Kate Walker, the office specialist in the China Center.
Wu, who graduated from the University of Iowa, is touring the United States to bring publicity to his reform proposals. He has also met recently with U.S Secretary of Education Richard Riley to compare education systems.
Although it is unclear what ideas Wu will be discussing today, he has been visible in Taiwan in recent months on a number of issues. He has proposed several progressive education reforms while maintaining a respect for Taiwanese traditions.
Wu opened up military training for women in college for the first time in Taiwan’s history. He also suggested that students have easier access to top-notch education opportunities that are only available to students at the highly competitive Taiwan National University. Only about 30 percent of Taiwanese students gain admittance to the school, while the rest must return to less prestigious vocational schools.
But the education minister also insists that his country must remain true to its traditions. He defends Taiwan’s right to prohibit foreign high school students from enrolling in Taiwan, citing the country’s long-time tradition of requiring students to complete their education at home.
Wu also recently endorsed a large expedition to retrace the journey of Confucius and his disciples through mainland China 2,500 years ago. The expedition comes as a part of President Lee Teng-Hui’s effort to achieve “spiritual reform.”
“The great master is still relevant,” Wu said, after hearing of the expedition.
Following Wu’s presentation, University President Nils Hasselmo will present the education minister with the Regents’ Distinguished International Service Award.