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Education in Taiwan


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.

Primary Education

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.

Secondary Education

Junior high school spans grades 7 through 9 and is the last half of compulsory education. Unlike the slower pace of elementary school, junior high students typically have a single goal in life: to score high on the national senior high school entrance exams at the end of 9th grade. Consequently, the pressure on students from teachers and parents is intense. Though instruction officially ends around 4PM, students often stay in school till as late as 8 or 9PM for "extra classes" (which typically consist of extra quizzes and review).

Subject matter covered includes:

Literature: Classical and modern Chinese literature and poetry, composition and public speaking;
Mathematics: Covers single and two variable algebra, geometry, proofs, trigonometry, and pre-calculus;
Science & Technology:
Biology – taken during first year, includes more in depth studies and lab work;
Chemistry – taken during second year;
Physics – taken during third year;
Earth Science – taken during third year;
Technology – taken during the whole three years;
Social Studies:
Civics – basic demotics, politics and economics;
History – focus on the history of Taiwan and China during the first two years, and world history during third year;
Geography – contain introductory geography accompanied with geography of Taiwan during first year, geography of China and East Asia during second year, and the world geography during third year.
Home Economics & Crafts;
Art: Inclusive of three independent part: Fine Art, Music, and Drama;
Scout Education: Outdoor survival skills.

At the end of their third year, students participate in the national senior high school entrance exams and are assigned to senior high schools based upon their scores. Students may also participate in a separate national vocational school entrance exam if they wish to attend vocational school. In both cases, public schools are usually the most popular while private schools have traditionally been viewed as a backup for those unable to score high enough for public schools.

Roughly 94.7% of junior high school students continue on to senior high or vocational school. But 5.3% don't continue to senior high or vocational school.

Senior High School

Senior high school spans grades 10 through 12, again the main goal of students is to score highly on the national university entrance exams at the end of their third year. The pace is just as, if not more intense than junior high school.

Discipline in educational institutions from high school and up (including vocational schools) are the responsibility of military officers stationed at the individual schools (as opposed to elementary and junior high school where teachers and school administrators were responsible for discipline). In addition to the normal subjects, students are also required to attend a military education class covering issues such as civil defence, military drills, national defence, and basic firearms training. In the past, high (and vocational) school students were expected to take on civil defence duties in the event of national emergency.

In many high schools incoming students may select science or liberal arts tracks depending on where their interests lie. The different learning tracks are commonly referred to as groups. Group I consists of liberal arts students, Group II and Group III of science based students (the latter studies biology as an additional subject). Science based curriculum consists of more rigorous science and mathematics classes intended to prepare the student for a career in the sciences and engineering; the liberal arts track places a heavier emphasis on literature and social studies to prepare students for a future in those fields.

Entrance to university is administered via two methods: Recommendations or Examination. For those that participate in recommendations, they have to take a national academic exam and selecting a list of majors that they are applying to. The first stage is a screening of exam results for eligibility, the second stage would be dependent on the conditions of individual departments selected. For those that did not choose to take the recommendations process, or failed their applications, they have the choice to participate in the national university entrance exams after graduation in hopes of university admission.

Vocational School

Vocational schools are three-year institutions similar to normal high schools. Unlike normal high schools, they place a heavier emphasis on practical and vocational skills. Incoming students typically choose a single concentration, such as electrical engineering, civil engineering, computer science or business. Some specialised vocational schools also offer programs in seamanship and agriculture. Vocational school graduates may also participate in the national university entrance exams. It is not uncommon for students to select vocational school over high school and proceed to a four year college afterwards.

Higher Education

Taiwan has many universities, both public and private. Tuition is less expensive in public than in private universities, like that in most western countries. Many public universities have financial support from the government for research purposes. In terms of public resources and expenses for higher education, both used to be incentives for students when they are choosing between public and private universities after their high school education.

However, some departments of the public schools are no longer better than those of private schools, as there is an imbalance in the support they receive for the school development policy. Nowadays some private schools are strongly supported by the College Council, which consists of prosperous commercial groups or religious bodies (such as Fu Jen Catholic University, Tzu Chi University). Most private schools have established their own academic field in specific department or area of speciality. Presently, students will apply for the schools that have higher academic achievement in their chosen field.

Engineering is extremely popular and engineering degrees account for over a quarter of the bachelor degrees awarded in Taiwan. It is also related to future employment opportunities because of the government policy focusing on high-tech manufacturing industries.

Some of the highly regarded public universities in Taiwan include:

National Taiwan University – the most famous and comprehensive public university in Taiwan;
National Taiwan Normal University – prestigious in its Education, Fine Arts, Liberal Arts, Music and natural science programs;
National Tsing Hua University – prestigious in sciences and engineering, including Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Materials Science and Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Nuclear Engineering, also reputed in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science, Life Sciences, Linguistics and History in recent years;
National Chiao Tung University – prestigious in Electrical Engineering, Computer Science and Management Science;
National Central University – famous in Centre for the Space and Remote Sensing Research;
National Chengchi University – specialises in Management, Communication and Politics;
National Chung Hsing University – famous in Agriculture and Biology;
National Cheng Kung University – prestigious in Engineering, Medicine, Science programs;
National Sun Yat-sen University – prestigious in Oceanography, Business, Management programs;
National Chung Cheng University – a prestigious research university that focuses on all of the fundamental fields in the humanities and the sciences: Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Psychology, Economics, Literature, History, Analytic Philosophy, Logic, and Mathematics.

The most prestigious private university is Fu Jen Catholic University, which is famous in Foreign Languages and Literatures, Law, Business Management (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business accredited), Theology, Fine Arts, Social Sciences and Communication. It is notable for having established the first graduate-level program in Conference Interpreting in Taiwan. The student body also consists of many international students.

In contrast with junior high and high school, where students are pressured by the highly selective entrance exams, college life in Taiwan is generally seen as being rather relaxed. Graduate degrees from the US and Europe are also highly prized with many students applying to foreign graduate schools after completing university. An average of 13,000 university graduates per year choose to pursue graduate studies in the US.




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