Wed, Jul 05, 2017 - Page 8 News List

Germany offers some options for teachers

By Liou Uie-liang 劉威良

After raising the retirement age for civil servants, the next topic for discussion in Taiwan’s pension reform process is changes to teachers’ pensions.

Teachers in Taiwan generally retire when they are 54 years old. Following consultations between teachers’ associations and legislators, a firm consensus has been reached that teachers’ retirement age will be raised to 58.

The reason for proposing that teachers should still retire relatively early is that there are too many unemployed and underemployed teachers and not enough full-time vacancies. Keeping older teachers in their posts for longer would not be good for young teachers’ prospects.

In German elementary schools, as well as having a class teacher, each class has a supervisor known as an erzieher.

In the past, classes at German elementary schools finished at midday, after which time children would go home, have lunch and do their homework.

However, many families now have both parents working or parents who are immigrants, which can make it difficult to help their children with their homework. So in recent years, elementary schools have allowed children to stay at school all day, with tutoring available.

Parents can choose to have their children attend classes for half a day or a full day. Lessons are still only held in the morning, after which children can have a lunch provided by the school.

Generally speaking, children who stay at school stay until 3pm.

The supervisors who run the tutoring sessions also attend morning classes to keep track of what is being taught and observe how children are getting on in class. This enables supervisors to accurately assess children’s study needs.

Some schools also provide extracurricular activities, recruiting parents or other people to host these activities, such as Chinese-language lessons, yoga, football or chess.

If Taiwan does not have enough teaching vacancies, it will affect younger teachers’ employment prospects. Since the nation has a very low birthrate, perhaps it could move toward having two full-time teachers in each class, with one acting as teacher and the other as supervisor.

Education is a long-term investment. Teachers sometimes get stressed out and lose their tempers because they find it hard to maintain discipline in a class of 20 or more children.

If classes had an additional supervisor in attendance, it could relieve teachers of part of the burden of maintaining class discipline and they would be able to discuss teaching and coach.

It would also allow children to receive more personal guidance, as well as reducing the number of unemployed or underemployed teachers.

Declining numbers of children do not mean that the education budget should be cut. In this age of small families, Taiwan should devote more workers to improving the quality of education, as well as ensuring that children receive more professional care.

Liou Uie-liang is the author of a book about what Taiwan can learn from Germany.

Translated by Julian Clegg

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