Dr. Hsiao-Yuh Ku of the Graduate Institute of Education is awarded the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award for her insights regarding Taiwan’s education reforms from the perspective of educational history and philosophy in the UK

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With a passion for speculating on and being fascinated by educational philosophy and history, Associate Professor Hsiao-Yuh Ku of the National Chung Cheng University (CCU) Graduate Institute of Education has spent many years examining the democratic discourses and educational reforms of the UK during the Second World War, and has written books on the topic. Recently, she was awarded the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award by the Ministry of Science and Technology. Against the backdrop of the government’s 12-year national education policy, Dr. Ku investigated the similarities between the history of education in the UK and the educational reforms in Taiwan. Based on her results, she was able to provide reflections on whether the values found in Taiwan’s educational reforms are truly equal from the perspective of a democratic society.

According to Dr. Gu, “Even though a system is influenced by national, historical, and cultural contexts, our ideas transcend time and borders.” Dr. Gu was deeply influenced by her advisor and delved into the history of Western education during her university days. Her fascination with the values found in educational reforms drove her to research educational philosophy and history. Over the past four years, Dr. Gu has published three dissertations in which she investigated and analyzed the democratic and educational reform discourses of the UK during the Second World War. Her fresh interpretations of this history, which differ from those of other educational historians, have earned her the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award from the Ministry of Science and Technology.

Even though the history of education in the UK is seemingly irrelevant to Taiwan, Dr. Gu feels that Taiwan’s educational reforms can be reviewed from the perspective of socialist policies in British education. According to Dr. Gu, the implementation of socialist policies in British education has enabled children of all backgrounds to receive education and national care services, whereas Taiwan’s capitalist-driven society regards education as a tradable good. An example that she brings up is private schools, which were originally established to address the shortcomings of public schools and provide diverse options to parents. However, the mushrooming of elite private schools has made it difficult for underprivileged families to enroll in these schools, as only a small group of well-off families are able to afford their exorbitant tuition fees.

Dr. Gu argues that “The 12-year national education policy is a fundamental right of our citizens. But why are some children left out?” Following the implementation of the policy, Dr. Gu has proposed different views on other policies, such as free education and non-compulsory enrollment. According to Dr. Gu, the government currently only plans to provide free vocational education for students, and this economic incentive may motivate students with financial concerns to enroll in vocational high schools even when senior high schools suit them better. She also mentioned that even though it is not compulsory for children above the age of 15 to further their studies, nor has the government provided counselling programs, these children who did not further their education are mostly underprivileged, which aggravates social stratification in Taiwan.

Dr. Gu said, “I’m only doing the best I can with the opportunities given by the people around me.” Reminiscing on her student days, Dr. Gu is grateful for the assistance of those who had helped her along the way. She studied in the UK for three years on a government sponsorship, during which she started her exploration of the history of British education as someone who initially knew nothing about this field. In addition, she had to digest ten boxes of handwritten drafts of lectures given by British scholars. Fortunately, her advisor assisted and guided her to compile her research outcomes into a book.

After receiving the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award, Dr Gu’s expectations of herself are now based on the mantra of “forgetting the past, moving forward, and striving hard to achieve goals.” With a smile on her face, she admitted that she felt tremendous stress upon learning of the win, as it put pressure on her to challenge herself and attain new heights. As she gave further thought to it, she realized that she would still be doing research even if she had not won the award, and she should not take her current achievements for granted. In the future, she will continue to work on publishing books on British educational philosophy and history, and hope that more people are able to rethink the existing problems in Taiwan’s education system.

In order to reward and motivate local scholars to conduct long-term research and constantly improve their academic performance, the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award is presented to 45 outstanding scholars aged 42 and below on an annual basis by the Ministry of Science and Technology. The recipients of the Wu Ta-You Memorial Award not only receive a medal and a prize of NTD300,000, but can also apply for a subsidy for their research proposals.