note﹞The following article is an English translation of one of the more
important documents issued by the New Century Youth Group and the Coalition
Against High Tuition in Taiwan. We welcome organizations of student
movement and social activists that focus on opposing high tuition and
commercialization of education to contact us and to share their experience
with us. Thank you, and best wishes in solidarity.Our website:
http://youth.ngo.org.tw/ Our e-mail address:firstname.lastname@example.org
Against commercialization of education
The New Century Youth Group and the Coalition Against High Tuition have been engaging in the movement protesting against high tuition. Our demands are:
A. Against high tuition, against commercialization of
Some may argue that, according to capitalist logic, there seems contradiction between opposing commercialization of education and levying tax on extra profit. Furthermore, so many organizations are talking about opposing commercialization of education. Exactly what do we mean by commercialization of education? And what are the differences between what we mean and what others mean?
Just as we did in opposing the unreasonable price increase
for rice wine, we used a concrete example to expose the ignorance and
appeasement of the current government with regard to WTO. When we say
we oppose commercialization of education, we imply two things. First,
we are against commercialization; second, we are against capitalism.
Commercialization and capitalism, however, have their positive and negative
characteristics. In the case of commercialization, it has liberated
education in Taiwan from
In the case of capitalism, it has played a positive role
in opposing special privileges and feudalistic practices. For instance,
president of a college and principal of a middle school can now be recruited
from among teachers. This is due to the market orientation and liberalization
in a capitalist society. Yet, we are against pushing education into
the sphere of market orientation and profit making. Obviously, the policy
of permitting as many colleges to be established as requested is to
educate and cultivate many more highly qualified workers to accommodate
the need of multinational capital and corporations. This is exactly
why we oppose rendering education into the profit-making sphere of international
capital. The labor force that Taiwan needed in the past required only
middle school education. Junior high school graduates were welcome to
become factory workers. But now even factories require a college degree.
Education belongs to non-profit segment
From our analysis above, we can see that commercialization
and capitalism do not always have negative characteristic of profit
making only. For example, enterprises in capitalist society sometimes
In our action against the unreasonable price increase of rice wine, the New Century Youth Group appealed to a concept of "quasi-commodity". We demanded that the government intervene and ensure that living necessity such as rice wine as well as education should remain in the non-profit sphere. As to the policy of permitting more colleges to be established in order for more people to receive higher education, we certainly approve. But business conglomerates should be made aware that educational enterprises might not be profitable all the time. Unless quality and standards of a university are superior enough, as in Harvard, for people to be willing to pay exorbitant tuition, higher education doesn't always offer good returns for business investment.
Tax on extra profit
In 1997, the Minister of Education Wu Ching proclaimed that opening up higher education segment to private sector was to prepare Taiwan for joining WTO with a competitive labor force in the international market. In truth, joining WTO should not be the reason for this policy. In 1999, when WTO convened a meeting of its ministers in Seattle, hundreds of thousands of people gathered there to protest. It is obvious that different people have different ideas and opinions with regard to WTO. Even President Bush, among others, has steered away from the early new economic liberalism and begun to adopt strategies from the new Keynesianism and to protect American industries within the country. Hence, joining WTO is not good enough a reason to further commercialize education in Taiwan. Educational policies in Taiwan are already geared to providing highly qualified labor force for developed capitalist countries anyway. As one can easily notice that national universities in Taiwan are attended mostly by children of middle and upper middle classes. Many of these students go abroad, usually United States, for further graduate studies, and they don't go back to Taiwan. This highly educated labor force doesn't remain in Taiwan and, instead, it provides other countries with free training and education of highly qualified manpower.
Our second demand is to levy tax on extra profit of big corporations and conglomerates and to use this as a special fund for education only. In Taiwan's movement to reform its educational system, the demand to levy tax on corporation's extra profit reflects a class position in the struggle between the bourgeoisie and the labor. Just as on May 1 Labor Day workers demand reduced working hours, one should remember that 8-hour working day did not fall from heaven, rather it was the result of blood and sweat of countless number of workers' efforts and struggle. Similarly, educational reform movement should show its class position. Educational reform cannot be achieved by simply presenting statistical data and by devising different levels of tuition for family of different levels of income. More alarming is that there has been proclamation of inalienable human rights by people in certain quarters, claiming that the very basic legal protection of workers under the current basic labor law in Taiwan was the result of the inalienable human rights, totally ignoring the fact that it was the result of years of labor movement and struggle. Nowadays labor consciousness has become more prevalent, even teachers are talking about forming a union. If teachers can come to realize that they belong to the labor class, how can some social activists retreat to the realm of differentiating workers into high income and low income, obscuring the real class conflicts in today's society in Taiwan?
In recent years, the Ministry of Education has presented
strategic planning to overhaul the structure of scientific and engineering
training in universities. It also indicates its intention to establish
high technology training apparatus on college campuses in order to address
problems in shortage of highly qualified
Furthermore, Taiwan has a most unfair tax system. The
salaried class not only has to pay for close to 80% of the national
tax revenue, it also bears the major burden of training and educational
cost for corporations
﹝Brief description of the New Century Youth Group﹞
The New Century Youth Group was founded in 1999 by a group of progressive students and young people who care deeply about the social, economic, political, and environmental issues faced by Taiwan today. It is a leftist group rooted in theoretical studies as well as active participation in social movement.
Their theoretical thinking is grounded on Karl Marx's "Capital", based on which they develop their political economic analysis and social critique. They focus on workers class movement.
Their practice: Participating in the movement demanding reduced working hours for workers; initiating the movement opposing unreasonable price increase of rice wine (opposing the Government's unsound policy in joining WTO); initiating the movement opposing high tuition; etc.
Their mission and vision: Revolutionizing intellectual's thinking, raising class consciousness in worker's politics.
﹝Brief description of the Coalition against High Tuition﹞
The Movement against High Tuition started in 1988 and has its long history of activism. It has been one of the most important student movements in Taiwan. Beginning 1998 and following the logic of "reproduction of labor", the Movement has aligned itself with labor unions, educational reform organizations, parents associations, and community groups in pursuing its goals.
The Coalition calls for four actions:
A. Against high tuition, against
commercialization of education.
Members of the Coalition include undergraduate and graduate students from public and private universities, key figures from various social movements, workers, teachers, and parents.
Main activities: Bonding together students, teachers, and employees to put pressure on the government; lectures and presentations all over Taiwan in propagating their demands and goals; issuing social critiques and distributing relevant pamphlets.