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One of Taiwan's best assets as a nation is its solid education system. This cements the country's future, as proven by the strong number of Taiwanese professionals securing term life insurance quotes online. How did they achieve this? Like many other countries, Taiwan's educational system begins with one to two years of preschool education and nine years of compulsory education, including six years of elementary education and three years of junior high school education.

After finishing compulsory education, students take national exams in order to receive senior secondary education, which includes three years of senior high school, three years of vocational high school, or five years of junior college.

To receive post-secondary education, students have to take the Joint College Entrance Examination or other national exams. These tests are highly competitive. After graduation, if students choose to continue their education, they can take the exams required to enter graduate school.

Data copied from : SAEC

icon Taiwan's Education system fig.

Preschool Education

A t present, most kindergartens in Taiwan are run by private operators. In fact, there are two times as many private kindergartens as public ones. There are also 3.4 times as many preschool students in these private institutions as there are in the public ones. Ninety percent of private kindergartens are independently operated, whereas most public kindergartens are affiliated with public elementary schools. Taiwan's kindergartens admit children aged from four to below six years of age to receive one or two years of education. Top

Compulsory Education

T aiwan's educational system begins with nine years of free, compulsory education, which has been in effect on the island since 1968.

Compulsory education in Taiwan takes place in both public and private schools. Attendance for these nine years (divided into six years of elementary school and three years of junior high school) is nearly 100%. Of the elementary schools, 99% are public, and about 92% of the junior high schools are public.

The total number of students at all levels of education in Taiwan is more than 5 million (about 26% of the total population of Taiwan). Children begin their compulsory education at the age of six, and 99% of the elementary school graduates go on to junior high school. Progress through senior high school and college requires passing strict examinations. Influenced by Chinese tradition, people in Taiwan have placed a high priority on education; thus, competition for higher education is extremely fierce. Top

Senior Secondary Education

A fter the ninth grade, entrance to the next level of education is determined by examination only, although some experimentation is being carried out in Taipei to allow for entrance according to academic records instead.

The senior level of secondary education includes senior high schools (three-year academic, college-preparatory high schools); three-year vocational high schools; and an alternative unique to Taiwan, the five-year junior college program.

The high schools are divided almost evenly between public and private, with the private ones having a slight edge, while the five-year junior colleges are mostly private. In 1996-97, 90.77% of junior high school graduates entered one of these three senior secondary level programs. Top

Junior Secondary Education

T here are two types of junior colleges, differing in admission requirements. One type is the five-year junior college for junior high graduates, and the other type is the two or three-year junior college for senior vocational graduates.

In Taiwan, there are 61 junior colleges, of which 10 are public and 51 are private. They offer two-year programs entered after high school, and five-year programs entered after ninth grade. In the past, there were also at least ten junior colleges that offered three-year junior college programs, but they have now been completely phased out. Junior colleges usually specialize in one area, such as business, technology, languages, medicine, nursing, journalism, or home economics.

Very often the English transcripts of these institutions do not identify themselves as junior colleges, but simply as "colleges" or "institutes" (many people in Taiwan are under the impression that the word college means junior college which can lead to a great deal of confusion, whether discussing U.S. or Taiwan institutions). But the transcripts will show that no bachelor's degree was awarded.

In Taiwan, graduates of junior colleges are eligible to transfer to local four-year colleges if successful in passing the transfer examination given by the target school/department. As in the U.S., the level at which they may enter is dependent on their previous coursework, examination results, etc., and is decided by the department they are entering. They are also allowed to enter graduate programs, in spite of not having a bachelor's degree, if they can pass the entrance examination and have had two to three years of work experience.

For this reason, perhaps, it is not uncommon for graduates of junior colleges in Taiwan to seek admittance to graduate programs in the U.S., though they are not often successful in obtaining it. However, a few U.S. schools regularly admit graduates of Taiwan junior colleges directly to graduate programs. This practice is usually confined to graduates of well-known junior technical colleges who have outstanding records and high GRE scores and are planning to study computer science or engineering. Usually they also take a "bridge" program to make up deficiencies in undergraduate course work.

Junior college graduates who transfer to American universities at the undergraduate level are naturally interested in receiving as much credit as possible for their junior college work. However, it is seldom possible for them to know in advance how many additional credits they will have to complete before they can receive a U.S. bachelor's degree.

Some of the junior colleges have "sister school" or articulation agreements with American universities under which the American school/department agrees on the level at which it will accept graduates of specified programs of the Taiwan school/department concerned. Top

Post-secondary Education

A fter graduation from senior or vocational high school, students face still more examinations before being eligible for entrance into post-secondary institutions. They take these exams in July after graduation from high school.

At present, there are two types of post-secondary education available. One type is a bachelor degree-granting university or college program. Most of these programs require four years of education, but for dental or medical school, they are six-year and seven-year programs, respectively. The other type of post-secondary education is a two-year junior college program designed specifically for vocational high school graduates. Top

Graduate Education

G raduate education program in Taiwan has been expanding steadily. Entrance is by examination given by individual departments within universities. The competition is extremely keen for some programs; for example, the rate of admission to local MBA programs is less than 20%. An insufficient number of graduate programs is one of the forces behind the great numbers of Taiwanese students seeking education abroad.

While still few, opportunities for graduate study in Taiwan have been increasing in recent years. The number of master's degrees awarded more than doubled from 5,601 in 1987-88 to 12,649 in 1995-96, as did the number of graduate institutes, from 315 to 709. These increased local openings at the graduate level may have much to do with the decrease in graduate applications from Taiwan students noted by many institutions in the U.S. Top

Supplementary Education

S upplementary education in Taiwan can be divided into five levels, i.e., supplementary primary school, junior high, senior high/vocational school, junior college, and open university. Supplementary school graduates have to pass an additional qualification test before they can obtain a diploma. An exception is that a qualified open university student will be conferred a bachelor degree without being required to take an additional qualification test if he/she earns the required number of credits before graduation. Supplementary schools may be set up and run by private operators and the government. At present, they are mostly public. Top

Special Education

T aiwan's special education schools admit students with mental or physical disabilities. The length of study varies for different stages of education, which include kindergarten, primary school education for six years, junior high education for three years, and senior high/vocational education for three years. The admission requirements and the length of study are similar to those of regular schools at the same level of education, but the requirements and length of education may be raised or lowered according to regulations.

Special classes are also attached to regular education institutions, such as primary, junior high and senior high schools. Resource classes are also set up in colleges and universities to enroll blind and deaf students. The curricula in special schools are basically designed to train students with professional skills. Top

Five-year Junior College

T he five-year junior college program, entered after graduation from junior high school, has in the past been considered equivalent to high school plus one or two years of college, with only the last two years of classes equivalent to college level.

However, in recent years, it has become increasingly common for graduates of these programs to claim that some of the courses they took in the first three years were at college level. In a few cases, these claims have been backed by the colleges themselves, but in others they have not. Thus, it is important to check such claims directly with the institution.

A graduate of such a program will not possess a high school diploma; he/she will only have a junior college diploma. If the student does not complete the entire five-year junior college program, he or she will have neither a high school diploma nor a junior college diploma; only a transcript and perhaps a certificate, stating that he or she departed under normal circumstances, will be available.

These institutions have been attractive to students and their families because of the fact that they do not require the student to take another grueling entrance exam after three years of high school, and because of their practical nature (they are part of the vocational education track). Some of the most outstanding of the five-year junior colleges have recently been upgraded to four-year, bachelor degree-granting institutions, in some cases retaining their junior college programs. For example, the National Taipei Institute of Technology still exists as a junior college, but has also been upgraded as a four-year institution called National Taipei University of Science and Technology . Top

Three-year Junior College

U ntil very recently, there were also three-year junior college programs available, considered necessary for high school graduates who needed an extra year of technical education . However, the schools that had these programs have either upgraded to bachelor degree-granting institutions upgraded junior colleges), or simply dropped the three-year programs and retained their two-year and five-year junior college programs. Top

Technical Education

I n line with the Ministry of Education's policy to encourage vocational/technical education, a new form of four-year bachelor degree-granting college has emerged since 1988, intended for graduates of vocational high schools. Entrance is through the same exams which are given for entrance to the two-year junior college programs, rather than through the United College Entrance Exam. In addition, these schools admit graduates of two-year, three-year , and five-year junior colleges for completion of the two upper-division years leading to the bachelor's degree. It is not possible to tell from the transcript or even the name of the school if it is part of the vocational or academic track. Top

University and College Education

T o be admitted to a university or college, high school graduates must take the highly competitive Joint Entrance Examination held each summer by a board composed of university presidents. Successful candidates are assigned to a university based on their preference and examination results.

At present, the exam includes Chinese, English, Three Principles of the People, and Math, for all students; those following the social sciences and humanities track also take History and Geography; those in the physical sciences track would also take Physics and Chemistry, those in Medicine or Biological Sciences would add Biology, Physics, and Chemistry, and those interested in Agriculture would add Chemistry and Biology. Some students take the entire battery of tests. At this writing there are plans to abolish the United College Entrance Exam (UCEE or J(Joint)CEE) and replace it with an admissions system which would work more like the system in the U.S.

In 1996, 58.88% of senior academic high school graduates entered one of the forms of post-secondary education described above; 17.71% of vocational high school graduates did so. Of the 124,654 who took the entrance examination for the day sessions of the 60 bachelor degree-granting colleges in 1996, 61,381 (49.24%) were admitted.

The academic year is divided into two semesters, the first of which begins in early or mid-September and continues until late January. Following a three- to four-week-long winter vacation, the second semester begins in February and normally continues until late June. Summer sessions are rare.

Chinese is the language of instruction in all schools. English textbooks are used in many departments, although lectures are in Chinese unless given by the occasional visiting foreign professor.

In most departments, 128 credits taken over four years are the minimum requirement for completion of a bachelor's degree. While course content generally tends to be closely related to a student's major, the current trend towards wider choice means that students at several universities and colleges are being offered a larger selection of electives.

Bachelor's degree is awarded in most fields after four years of study. The Bachelor of Medicine requires seven years, the Bachelor of Dentistry six years, and the Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine five years. In addition, some law and architecture departments require five years. Top

Professional Education

A dmission to both law and medicine programs is determined by the United College Entrance Examination, taken after high school graduation. Only recently has it become possible to enter medical school after university graduation as in the U.S., and this program is very limited. Top

Teachers College Education

E ducation for teachers is divided into two levels. The first level of education, designed to train teachers for elementary schools and kindergartens , is offered by teachers colleges which admit senior high (vocational) graduates, offering four years of education. The second level of education, designed to train teachers for secondary schools , is offered by normal universities which admit senior secondary graduates to receive four years of education.

Teachers education programs in Taiwan are basically financed by students themselves, with full public subsidy and partial aids available to some students. All graduates are required to pass a teacher qualification test, complete a one-year of internship, and then pass a second teacher qualification test before becoming qualified as a teacher. Graduates may be employed by elementary or secondary schools after the teachers qualification review committee of the school passes the review of his/her status.

With a full public subsidy, a student's tuition, books, uniforms, boarding costs, living allowances, and practicing and observation costs are all paid by the government. However, he/she has an obligation to provide teaching services after graduation.

Since the Teachers Education Law was enacted, a multitude of channels have been set up for teacher education. Normal universities (set up for students who are interested in being teachers in the future), teacher colleges, and other public and private universities having education colleges, departments, graduate programs, or courses all participate in teachers education in Taiwan. Top

Military Schools

S ome students take a separate joint entrance examination for Taiwan's eleven military colleges (including two police colleges) which offer junior college-level, bachelor, master's-level, and a few doctoral-level programs. They are established by the Ministry of Defense, but the degrees are recognized by the Ministry of Education. Top

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