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Education and Literacy in Taiwan

By 1994, Taiwan's literacy rate had jumped to 94%, a 34% increase from 1952 when less than 60% of people older than 15 could read and write.  Compulsory education is for children between the ages of 6 - 15 and was increased to nine years, thus extending to education to when students finish junior high school.  

The pass rate for junior high graduates on their high school entrance exam is a low 20%, about 2/3 attending a vocational school. About 700,000 students attend over a hundred available universities and colleges in Taiwan.   


Education is strongly emphasized in Taiwan, and a large share of national expenditures is allocated for educational purposes.  In FY2001, government spending for education exceeded US $16.31 billion, or roughly 5.89 percent of the GNP (4.22 percent for public schools and 1.67 percent for private ones.  Since 1968, nine years of education has been compulsory in Taiwan.  Furthermore, a wide range of other educational options is available to citizens of all ages.  Nearly one-fourth of the total population (23.9 percent) is currently attending an educational institution of some type.  In school year (SY) 2001, the number of students per class was 35.2 and the student-teacher ratio was 19.71:1.  As of the end of 2001, the national illiteracy rate for adults over 15 years of age was 4.21 percent.


Two-year preschool education in Taiwan is optional.  In SY2001, 242,303 children attended 3,234 registered preschools, of which 1,288 were public schools and 1,946 were private.  The preschool enrollment rate was 26.96 percent - a long way from Taiwan's ideal rate of 80 percent. 

The Ministry of Education (MOE) has recognized the need for preschools and is working to increase their number by affiliating them with existing elementary schools, often using the same facilities.  So far, 1,250 such affiliated preschools have been set up in Taiwan.

Fundamental Education

ROC law not only entitles all children to at least six years of basic education, but also stipulates that all children between six and 15 must receive ix years of elementary education and three years of junior high education.

In SY2001, the net enrollment rate of elementary school students eligible for universal public education was 99.95 percent ,and almost all (99.64 percent) children eligible to begin their first year of elementary school were enrolled that year.  That same year, 99.15 percent of elementary school graduates continued on to junior high school, and 95.97 percent of junior high school graduates continued their studies.

Senior High School

Secondary school in Taiwan is a comprehensive educational system that provides students with various programs for stimulating intellectual development, allowing them to explore different career interests.  A multilateral educational system that immediately follows the nine-year compulsory curriculum, secondary schools in Taiwan assign students to one of three types of institutions after junior high school based on a range of actors.  Programs vary in length, although those schools oriented toward college entrance are usually the longest and most difficult.

Of the 302, 767 junior high graduates in SY2000, 127,364 entered senior high schools' 115,517 went into three-year senior vocational schools' about 20,000 studied at various supplementary schools; about 20,000 studied at various supplementary schools; 27,901 went directly into five-year "junior colleges," which also cover a student's high-school years; and 19.912 attended the Practical Technical Program.  Only 4.03 percent of the students who complete their nine years of compulsory education did not continue their studies.

Before SY2001, senior high schools focused primarily on training students to pass the Joint University Entrance Examination (JUEE), which was a requirement for all students entering college.  In SY2001, there were at total of 370,980 senior high school students, and the ration of senior high school students to senior vocational students was 49.5 to 50.5.  In SY2001, 70.73 percent of senior high school graduates chose to pursue higher education.

Taiwan's educational policies allow all levels of training to be integrated while maintaining enough variety to meet the needs of students.  The Voluntary Promotion Scheme for Junior High School Graduates Entering Senior High Schools is an integrated system that provides students with the option of attending a comprehensive junior-senior high school.

Higher Education

Higher education includes junior colleges, colleges, universities, and graduate programs.  College and university enrollment in SY2001 was 48.78 per 1,000 of the total population, and if the two open universities and continuing education are included, this percentage was 54.10, ranking Taiwan relatively high in the world.

Aside from Taiwan's five-year junior colleges, which usually enroll students immediately after junior high school, there are also two-year junior colleges, technical and other colleges, and universities.

In theory, students can test into any higher institution from either senior high or senior vocational school.  Students who complete any junior college program may take the relevant examinations to enter college or university as freshmen.  If offered by the college or university, students may also take a transfer test held by specific departments to enter as sophomores or juniors.  Private medical colleges enroll transfer students through a joint entrance examination.

Universities and colleges in Taiwan offer a wide variety of master's and doctoral programs, which are also entered through either individual competitive examination or directly from college or university.  In SY2001, there were 57 universities, 78 independent colleges, and 19 junior colleges.  A total of 1,187,225 undergraduates were enrolled, and there were 103,213 graduate students in 1,668 graduate programs.

Special Education

Special education includes programs and facilities for gifted children, as well as those with special needs due to handicaps or learning disabilities.  Taiwan has special schools for blind, deaf, physically handicapped, and mentally handicapped students.  For the most part, these schools are run by the government and parallel the mainstream educational system, extending from preschool through senior vocational school. In SY2002, there were5,654 students enrolled in 23 such schools.

A total of 151 schools offered classes for "gifted" students, and another 467 schools provided classes for "talented" students  in SY2001.  Most gifted and talented students are still educated in regular schools, but also have special programs available to meet their specific needs.  Gifted students are defined as those who have superior abilities in either mathematics or the sciences, and talented students are those who excel in such areas as music, fine arts, dance, or sports.

Social Education

The MOE supports a number of social education programs under the Social Education Law.  These programs include support for supplementary education, adult education, and other services such as museums, libraries, exhibition centers, social education centers, and cultural centers.

Supplementary Education

Supplementary schools may be public or private.  Most students receive certificates upon graduation, and some may receive diplomas equivalent in level to those in the mainstream system by passing examinations.  The top schools in the supplementary system are open universities.  National Open University has been in operation since 1987, and the new Open University of Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan began enrolling undergraduates in 1997.

Supplementary education includes compulsory, advanced, and short-term education.  Supplementary schools are attached to regular schools at their corresponding levels in the mainstream either as correspondence schools or night schools, and most also offer weekend classes.

In SY2001, 231,322 students were enrolled in 876 supplementary schools, with approximately 35,329 students in 642 elementary and junior high schools; 5,400 senior high and 104,943 senior vocational students in 234 schools; 76,091 students in 45 junior colleges; 9.569 students in 31 supplementary colleges; and 33,681 students in Taiwan's two open universities.

Continuing Education Outside of Taiwan

In August 2001, the MOE announced that universities in Taiwan would be allowed to open extension programs outside of Taiwan.  This change in policy was in response to local universities' demands to offer extension programs for Taiwan businessmen in Southeast Asia and in China, as these two areas have the highest concentration of Taiwanese expatriates.

Under this new plan, credits earned in an extension program are applicable towards wither a bachelor's or master's degree.  In addition, current regulations are being further revised so as to accommodate overseas education programs as well.

Other Educational Options

Adult education classes are offered in such areas as writing skills, practical mathematics, and civics.  Technical classes in basic job skills are also available at training centers.  In addition, Taiwan's two open universities offer classes through radio and correspondence that can lead to a bachelor's degree, and these programs are available to all senior high school graduates or equivalent secondary education students.  National Education Radio, the Chinese Television System's e-college, and school-on-the-air also offer such classes.

ROC Educational Reform

Taiwan's educational system is a mixed success.  Although literacy is high and educational opportunities are varied and wide accessible, a number of reform measures have still be undertaken by the government over the past few years in order to improve the system even further.  For example, in the past, a single joint examination was the sole route to enter senior high schools, whereas today, students can enter via assignment, application, or selection by recommendation.  Beginning in SY2001, junior high graduates have to pass the Basic Achievement Test for Junior High Students (BAT).

The BAT, which is held twice per year, covers the following subjects : Chinese, English, mathematics, national sciences, and social sciences.  The BAT is the primary index for admission into secondary institutions.  After obtaining a BAT score, students can then file applications, be selected by recommendation, or get assigned based on their BAT achievement to a secondary institution.  Beginning in SY2002, all junior high school graduates planning on entering senior high schools, vocational high schools, or five-year junior colleges are required to submit a BAT result.

High school graduates recommended and selected are required to pass the general Scholastic Attainment Test for College-Bound Seniors (SAT) and the College Testing of Proficiency for Selected Subjects of College-Bound Seniors (CTPSS).  Taiwan's increasing number of colleges and universities has reduced the competitive pressure of examinations.

Beginning in 2002, the JUEE was replaced by a new system that consisted of either application, selection by recommendation, or the new JUEE.  For application, student will first have to pass the general SAT and then apply individually to the universities they wish to attend.  For selection by recommendation, a senior high school will have to write a recommendation on the student's behalf, and a quota will be set to limit the number of students each school can recommend.  Recommended students must then take the SAT and the CTPSS.  The new JUEE is divided into three different examination models.  Models A and B will both require the SAT test, but each will test different subjects for the CTPSS, depending on the college.  Model C is the same as the current JUEE.

In SY2002, the application and selection by recommendation methods only covered a quarter of the total students admitted into colleges, with the current JUEE (model C) accounting for 40 percent to minimize the concerns of students.  That year, 69.76 percent of all students who took the new JUEE passed the examination, an increase of more than five percent of SY2001.

The MOE is also continuing to its policy, begun in 1993, of gradually reducing class sizes for all junior high and elementary schools.  By SY2001, the student to teacher ratio had been reduced to 19.71 to 1.  In addition, social science and history textbooks are being rewritten wit ha stronger emphasis on Taiwanese history and culture, as well as world topics.


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