The education system in Taiwan is the responsibility of the Ministry of Education. The system produces pupils with some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in mathematics and science. It has been criticised for placing excessive pressure on students and eschewing creativity in favour of rote memorisation. Recent educational reforms intended to address these criticisms are a topic of intense debate in Taiwan.
Although current law mandates only nine years of schooling, 95% of students go on to high school, trade school or college. The literacy rate in 2003 was 96.1%.
Taiwan has long been and, with the growing popularity of learning Chinese, a destination for learning Standard Mandarin.
The public education system in Taiwan spans nursery schools through university. Public education has been compulsory from primary school through junior high school since 1968. In 2001 roughly 16% of the central budget was spent on education. Private educational institutions are pervasive in Taiwan ranging from private schools at all levels to supplementary cram schools or buxiban.
While many public kindergartens and preschools exist in Taiwan, private kindergartens and pre-schools are also quite popular. Many private pre-schools offer accelerated courses in various subjects to compete with public pre-schools and capitalise on public demand for academic achievement. Curriculum at such pre-schools often encompasses subject material such as science, art, physical education and even mathematics classes. The majority of these schools are part of large school chains, which operate under franchise arrangements. In return for annual fees, the chain enterprises may supply advertising, curriculum, books, materials, training, and even staff for each individual school.
There has been a huge growth in the number of privately owned and operated English immersion pre-schools in Taiwan since 1999. These English immersion pre-schools generally employ native English speaking teachers to teach the whole pre-school curriculum in an ‘English only’ environment. The legality of these types of schools has been called into question on many occasions, yet they continue to prosper. Some members of Taiwanese society have raised concerns as to whether local children should be placed in English immersion environments at such a young age, and have raised fears that the students abilities in their mother language may suffer as a result. The debate continues, but at the present time, the market for English immersion pre-schools continues to grow.
Elementary schools span grades 1 through 6, classes are held from Monday through Friday, typically from 7:30 am through 4 pm (or noon on Wednesdays). Subjects include: Mandarin, Mathematics, Science, English, Native Languages, Social Studies, Music and Art.
Like middle schools, students are typically assigned to the elementary school closest to their registered place of residence. This leads some parents to file their children's household registration with other relatives or friends for the purpose of sending their children to what are perceived as better schools.
See more information on the next page... (next)