Tue, Aug 12, 2003 - Page 8 News List

MOE plan helps parents and kids

By Huang Sue-ying and Liu Yi-chieh 黃淑英、劉依潔

The "After-school Child Care Initiative" passed by the Ministry of Education a few days ago, allows elementary schools to provide after-school programs for their students. It attempts to take care of the needs of both parents and children by utilizing the resources available from schools, parents, communities and private groups. Such a well-intended policy, however, is encountering criticism from supplementary-education operators, who suspect that the government is trying to steal business from them. Their claims are beyond comprehension.

We support the popularization of after-school day care for the following reasons:

First, with economic development and rising living standards, Taiwan has seen an increasing number of families in which both parents have to work to make ends meet. Occupied with work, they find it difficult to spend time with their children. Therefore, many women either exhaust themselves by handling their careers and kids at the same time, or simply stay away from work to take care of their family. The latter choice explains why women's employment rate has not risen for a long time.

Child-care businesses charge around NT$4,000 to NT$16,000 per month. Those unable to afford such service cannot but leave their children at home alone when they are at work. The ministry's initiative takes advantage of the safe and spacious environment of schools, with which children are already familiar. Children can stay there until their parents finish work. Each school may engage parents, private groups and local communities in the child-care responsibilities.

It is truly a benign policy that helps parents, especially women, to work without having to worry about their children.

Second, the ministry's statistics shows there were1,918,034 students enrolled in elementary schools last year. There are only 922 registered child-care centers, accommodating only 38,000 pupils after school. The current provision of after-school child care is insufficient.

It is risky to turn children between the ages of seven and 12 into latch-key kids. As they are not taken good care of, they may wander the streets, causing other social problems. The ministry's initiative, utilizing resources currently available, places kids in the safe environment of schools, provides good care and solves the problem of insufficient child care.

Third, the after-school programs outlined in the initiative cannot go beyond tutoring, activities and child care. No talent classes or teaching ahead of the school schedule are allowed. There is a clear distinction between such programs and those offered by supplementary-education businesses, so the ministry is not trying to steal business from private companies.

Besides, the initiative does not exclude supplementary-education businesses. They are welcome to participate in the child-care work. Therefore, contrary to their claims, the initiative is not unfair rivalry against after-school child care businesses, talent classes, or the whole industry of supplementary education.

Fourth, the recent move to raise university tuition fees stirred up sweeping criticism. Students protested on the streets and political figures scrambled to make promises. As we eagerly examine the reasonability of university tuition, we should pay more attention to the availability and affordability of child care.

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