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Disapproval over draft to reduce Taiwan's maths requirements

A proposal to reduce the number of required mathematics credits in Taiwan's education programme has been criticised by leading business leaders and academics.

TAIPEI: Mathematics classes may become elective courses for the last three semesters of Taiwan's senior high school programme.

That is the draft proposal by the Economic Ministry's National Academy for Educational Research, to offer more variety to students. It plans to cut required maths credits from 16 to just 12, and replace the four credits with elective courses.

"If students want to take more maths courses they can,” said Fan Hsin-hsien, director of the National Academy for Educational Research’s Centre for Curriculum and Instruction. ‘But for those who plan to major in arts or social science may not need so much maths. They can choose electives that they're interested in."

But the plan has already caused an outcry among business leaders. "Technology is getting more complex. How can you reduce the number of required maths credits? If we do that, Taiwan will lose its pool of technology talents in 10 to 20 years," argued MediaTek chairman Tsai Ming-kai.

Taiwan was ranked fourth in Asia for its global competitiveness by the World Economic Forum. Observers now fear Taiwan's ranking could fall if high school maths courses are reduced.

"Taiwan is a world leader in the semiconductor industry, including integrated circuit design, foundry and packaging,” said Chang Chien-yi, director of the Taiwan Institute of Economic Research Division. “This sector requires a lot of engineers, which must have strong maths training. So we're concerned the semiconductor industry would be affected."

Nearly 100 members from Taiwan's top research institution Academia Sinica have petitioned against the draft. They say senior high school students now take four maths classes a week, which is already lower than the United States, Germany and many Asian countries, and to lower the classes any further would be detrimental to the competitiveness of the next generation.

"High school maths is the basis for many college curricula, they cannot be replaced,” said National Taiwan Univerisity math professor Lin Chang-shou. “There is no country in the world that allows maths to be become elective courses from the second semester of junior year. Taiwan would be the first."

The draft has already been submitted to the Economic Ministry for review. Officials said they will take the criticism into consideration before approving the draft, which is due to be implemented in 2017.