Fri, Sep 28, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Upholding, recognizing the rights of teachers

By Tai Po-fen 戴伯芬

Most educators did not have a day off on Teachers’ Day on Wednesday, or on Labor Day. Faced with deteriorating conditions in education, teachers have little choice but to stand fast at their posts, with their efforts going unrecognized.

It is even more saddening that many teachers do not have a steady job. Elementary-school substitute teachers only earn NT$25,600 (US$837 at the current exchange rate) per month, while interns receive no pay, no labor and health insurance, and no job guarantees after internship.

Obtaining a full-time teaching position was hard enough 20 years ago. At the time, a friend spent about NT$1 million greasing palms only to get a position teaching in a remote area.

Nowadays, even project positions are in high demand. In 2013, substitute teachers accounted for about 10 percent of all teachers in public junior-high and elementary schools.

Contract teachers have a lower status and their jobs are constantly in jeopardy.

Young teachers can no longer follow a traditional career path and settle down in one school. In June, a prestigious private university, without warning, notified three teachers that their contracts would not be renewed. Unable to find substitute teachers, it rehired the three for part-time and substitute positions, saving more than NT$100,000 per month in personnel expenses. The incident hugely affected the faculty’s morale and students’ learning.

Unfair labor conditions have made schools authoritarian and bureaucratic. Some university presidents and department heads, as well as senior and full-time teachers, often boss over contract and part-time teachers, who have no choice but to bow their heads.

As authoritarianism expands in schools, talk of campus democracy is a waste of time.

To improve the situation for teachers, South Korea and Japan have implemented progressive measures to ensure teachers’ rights and welfare.

In 1998, university lecturers in South Korea organized a union and urged the government to amend the law.

In September, South Korea finally announced a policy extending the contract for part-time lecturers from half a year to three years, restricting weekly working hours to six, and guaranteeing paid winter and summer vacations, insurance and severance pay.

In 2013, the government of Japan’s Osaka Prefecture introduced a campus lawyer system under which a bar association recommends nine lawyers to be stationed on campus to assist teachers in dealing with muddleheaded principals and helicopter parents, and to safeguard their labor and human rights.

Student numbers in Taiwan are dwindling, but the administrative burden placed on teachers has kept on increasing. Instead of focusing on teachers’ rights, the Ministry of Education criticizes teachers based on evaluation, administrative performance and their school’s enrollment numbers.

The ministry also continues to introduce new policies, such as bilingual education, flipped classroom instruction, fulfilling social responsibility in local communities and business internships, as a means to narrow the gap between learning and practice. Teachers are constantly exerting themselves to meet their school’s demands for results.

As Teachers’ Day has just passed, a moment of silence should be observed as a tribute to the nation’s teachers, who enjoy neither a Teachers’ Day nor a Workers’ Day holiday.

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