I have to say I value the opportunity to hear what first-year students have to say about this issue. They brought up some interesting points, illustrating, perhaps, some of their own anxieties about education in Taiwan. They evidently frequently hear about how hardworking students in China are--several groups mentioned stories about Chinese students studying under streetlights when the dorm lights go out, for instance, and compared these stories with examples of university students in Taiwan who play computer games and chat on MSN all night long. (Evidently Mr. Ma has mentioned this at some point in his argument in favor of allowing Chinese students here.) In the end, I found my own point of view about this issue complicated a bit by what they said.
I found, not surprisingly, things to criticize about the students' debates, but also things to praise, like the way many of them arranged their arguments, rebutted opponents' arguments, and cited sources. One thing I forgot to say, that I wish I had the opportunity to say to them, is that we teachers sometimes forget that what we ask students to do is something that has taken us years to be able to achieve. (This is true at least in my case. I'm still terrible at impromptu speaking!) So my hat's off to the students and teachers of Comp/Oral I this year!
Michael Turton asked about the arguments students were making in the debates, so I thought I'd mention some of them here. I'm just listing some out here without comment. Also, some arguments might overlap.
For allowing Chinese students to apply:
- Will stimulate/promote cultural exchange between Chinese and Taiwanese students
- Will promote cultural understanding between Chinese and Taiwanese society
- Can give students from the PRC a chance to live and learn in a more open society
- Will help promote colleges in Taiwan that have declining enrollments
- Will help internationalize education in Taiwan by encouraging foreign students to apply
- If we accept students from other countries, why not accept students from China?
- Will help motivate Taiwanese students to work harder (the Mr. Ma argument)
- Will bring more elite students here from China
For not allowing Chinese students to apply:
- Will require Taiwan to provide Chinese students with scholarships, causing a further drain on the educational budget
- Schools with declining enrollments are not high quality, so should be allowed to close
- Students coming to Taiwan from China might not be all that elite (especially if they're sent to low-ranked schools)
- Will result in a lot of illegal labor from China (workers pretending to be students)
- Could result in legal problems concerning whether students from China are to be considered "international" or "domestic"
One thing I wanted to hear that I didn't hear until the very end was a number: how many Chinese students are we talking about? No one had a clear number for how many might be accepted to Taiwan, but one "pro" debater mentioned that in Hong Kong, only 205 of the 2000 Chinese students who applied in 2005 were accepted. This eased my mind a bit--some of the "con" debaters' arguments made me think that perhaps we were talking about allowing millions of students in. (One person on the "con" side expressed concern about traffic problems that might be caused by an influx of Chinese students!)
[Update, 23 June 2008]