Vice President Lien Chan this morning delivered an address on“New Opportunities and Challenges for the 21st Century”at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Higher Education held in National Taiwan University.
The full text of the Vice President's speech is as follows:
Mr. Chairman, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
It is a great honor and pleasure for me to be here at the opening ceremony of the International Conference on Higher Education, held at my alma mater the National Taiwan University, which is honoring its 70th founding anniversary this year.
This conference specifically aims to promote the internationalization of higher education through the exchange of experiences and views among the world community of scholars and university administrators. With the rapid developments in global technology, and changing circumstances in the realms of politics, education, and culture, it is our hope that this conference will provide opportunities to discuss and explore some of the challenges which will be facing higher education in the coming century. Moreover, in a spirit of cooperation, we hope that this conference will further enhance and strengthen our ties of friendship.
This conference is especially honored to have the presence of such distinguished guests. I find it exciting to have such an esteemed group of respected scholars and university presidents from around the world gathered here in Taipei. All of you are outstanding educators from renowned universities that have a long history of good academic relations with your counterparts here in the Republic of China. You are not only professionals within the field of academics, but are also important leaders and visionaries dedicated to discovering and sharing knowledge.
I graduated from the National Taiwan University, and formerly taught political science both here and abroad. Therefore, I am well aware of the importance and need for internationalization in higher education. A nation's social development is closely linked to its education policies. Thus, the internationalization of a nation's higher education system serves as an indicator of that nation's level of success and competitiveness within the world community.
For these reasons, I am happy that the National Taiwan University has invited all of you here to exchange views on this important topic. Your expertise and opinions can help assist this university as it seeks to rise to even greater heights in the world of academia. This conference is also of special significance to our current national efforts to internationalize higher education, to our ongoing preparations to establish a community college system, as well as to the strengthening of vocational education in universities of science and technology as part of our mandate for the advancement of globalized education.
Over the past 10 years, Taiwan's education has undergone great transformations at all levels. Changes in higher education have been the most romarkable, where there has been rapid growth in student enrollments. This expansion is attributable to the upgrading of colleges to university status, as well as the establishment of new private institutions of higher learning. There has also been an obvious improvement in the overall quality of our teachers, which has also contributed to the development of local universities.
Higher education in Taiwan is undergoing a transition also on other ground. First of all, because of increasingly tight financial restraints and the impact of tremendous expansion over the years, it has become necessary for us to recognize that we need to make certain adjustments and changes in strategy to ensure the quality of education and minimize the side effect of rapid expansion.
Secondly, both public and private colleges and universities have recognized the need to be more precise and efficient in their financial planning. Thirdly, administrative structures must also be adjusted in order to meet the challenges of campus democratization and increased autonomy. To this end, the Ministry of Education has had to adjust its relations with schools of higher learning in order to give them greater room to develop their own unique characteristics.
In line with these changes, Taiwan has adopted a strategy in higher education that entails placing equal emphasis on quality and quantity, in order to secure its high standards in learning. To meet the goals of our reform policy, we are actively adjusting urban and rural educational resources while creating more channels for university admission. Financial support measures have been taken to help private schools adjust their financial structures and meet their new reform responsibilities. Efforts have also been made to promote public awareness of the importance of the inseparable interaction which must take place between the freedom to learn and the path to responsible social action. Lastly, in line with our amendment to the University Law, we have clearly stated that our universities must recognize and enforce the concept of "autonomy" in their education systems.
The recent revolutions in communications and technology have made it evident that the forms of education for the 21st century will be of a higher order. To prepare for this new age of information, we have made significant changes in our university administration and schooling methods, along with strengthening cooperation for research development between universities.
"Information," "knowledge" and "wisdom" are three distinct aspects, or maybe even levels, of education. Because of these differences, it has become an important focus and task of educators to employ modern methods to assist students in acquiring knowledge in a manner that will cultivate their minds and lead them to develop broader perspectives in learning. Abundance in information does not necessarily means useful knowledge. Similarly, knowledgeable individuals does not necessarily means they embrace more wisdom. The emphasis on humanistic spirit is therefore of greater importance in an age of science and technology.
In order to ensure that our society can keep apace with the forthcoming changes of the 21st century, it is necessary for all of us to recognize the importance of continuing education. Lifelong learning is a world trend and a major task for our educational reform campaign. Establishing a system for lifelong learning meets the needs of people from all age groups who wish to further their studies. This is important for us as our society advances along the path of modernization in preparation for the new century.
To this end, Taiwan has spared no effort to encourage local colleges and universities to offer on-the-job training courses and recurrent programs for working individuals, as well as extension classes and educational activities for adults. We hope to build a society where educational opportunities are available to people of all ages. We have a saying that best expresses this ideal: "Every person is a student, every place is a classroom."
Higher education can reflect the level of a nation's spiritual and intellectual civilization. This international conference is an excellent opportunity for university presidents and administrators from both home and abroad, to share their observations, views, and insights gathered from their precious experience. It is my sincere hope that our long-standing ties of cooperation will be further strengthened through such academic exchanges. I am positive that these exchanges will be beneficial to universities in all our countries as we face together the same unprecedented challenges and opportunities posed by this new era.
Today, Taiwan has more than 70,000 students studying overseas. Our elementary school system will implement English teaching starting in the year 2001. As you can see, the ROC is well on its way to becoming an international model in global education. At the same time, we realize that we must seek advice and input from all of you in order to continue the revitalization of our education system.
Finally, I would like to thank all of our distinguished guests for participating in this very special occasion, and wish this conference the greatest success. Thank you.