Science Education Center, National Taiwan Normal University
Overview of Education System
The administration of education in Taiwan is carried out in a unified, two-tiered system that includes the Ministry of Education at the central level and bureaus of education at the local level. Depending on the administrative division, the functions and authority of the government organizations are different. Before the 1990s, the central government set educational policy at the local level. Since then, to adapt to social changes, educational reforms have led to an increase in the authority of local governments over educational policy.1,2
Formal education from preprimary school to university includes nine years of compulsory education. The total time that students spend in formal education varies but normally includes two years of preprimary school, six years of primary school, three years of junior high school, three years of senior high school or senior vocational school, and four to seven years of college or university. The compulsory education program, implemented in 1968, comprises Grades 1 to 9 (primary school and junior high school). The central government is preparing to implement a 12 year national education program in 2018.3 After college or university, advanced education programs leading to a master’s degree (one to four years) or a doctoral degree (two to seven years) are optional. At all levels of formal education, special education programs are available to students with physical or mental disabilities.
Since the 1990s, the public has called for educational reform in response to societal changes. Beginning with the Education Basic Law, which was announced on June 23, 1999, many reform initiatives have been carried out.4 Among them, the implementation of the Integrated Curricula for Grades 1 to 9 and Multi-Route Promotion Program have exerted the greatest influence on elementary and secondary school educational practices.5
Before these educational reforms, elementary and junior high school curricula were developed separately by independent committees and were not integrated. In order to eliminate the discrepancies between these curricula, education officials invited experts in education and subject-related areas to create an integrated curriculum framework for Grades 1 to 9. Based on this framework, the Grades 1 to 9 Curriculum Guidelines were implemented in first grade in 2001 and in all grades in 2004. To initiate the 12 year national education program, a new curriculum framework for Grades 1 to 12 was drafted and presented to the public for review in 2015. The central government plans to implement the new curriculum framework in 2018.6,7
Languages of Instruction
The official language of Taiwan is Mandarin Chinese, but many people also speak Min-nan (the Southern Min dialect, also known as Holo). Smaller groups of Hakka and indigenous people have preserved their own languages, and some elders can speak Japanese (if they were taught to use the language when Taiwan was colonized by Japan before 1945). In primary and secondary schools, Mandarin Chinese is the language of instruction, and courses are offered in Taiwanese dialects and foreign languages. The language of instruction for mathematics and science in the fourth and eighth grades is Mandarin Chinese.