The Ministry of Education yesterday announced a series of measures and exemptions to help families put their children through school as part of a program that could help as many as 500,000 students.
Speaking in Taitung on the sidelines of the first nationwide meeting of education chiefs, Minister of Education Wu Ching-ji (吳清基) said the Executive Yuan and the ministry had agreed that starting in August, vocational high school students from families with an annual income of less than NT$1.14 million (US$39,000) would no longer need to pay tuition.
Wu said a total of 500,000 students, or 80 percent of the nation’s students in vocational high school, were expected to benefit from the policy.
The ministry also intends to relax the financial threshold for students in private high schools to bring it more in line with tuitions at public institutions.
Data from the ministry shows that tuition at private high schools is capped at NT$22,800 per semester, while tuition for public high schools is capped at NT$6,240.
At present, only private high school students from families with an annual income below NT$900,000 are entitled to the benefit.
That threshold will be raised to NT$1.14 million for the next academic year, Wu said.
The policies are part of the ministry’s plan to extend compulsory education from nine to 12 years by the 2014 academic year.
In his New Year address earlier this month, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) said the government would begin the phased implementation of a 12-year compulsory education system this year, starting with vocational high schools.
The plan would allow students to attend high school and vocational high school for free by the 2014 academic year.
By then, Ma said, students enrolling in high schools or vocational high schools would no longer have to pay tuition and the majority would no longer need to take entrance exams to get in.
The ministry also announced that five-year-olds attending kindergarten would be exempt from tuition fees starting in August.
The ministry had initially planned to continue imposing a NT$1.1 million household income threshold. However, that was dropped after Ma declared that the declining birthrate was a national security issue, Department of -Elementary Education director Yang Chang-yu (楊昌裕) said.
Yang said the policy would apply to about 260,000 children nationwide.
Children in Taiwan usually begin attending elementary school at the age of six.
Yang said the government would also offer annual subsidies of NT$14,000 to every child, local and foreign, attending public kindergarten or daycare, while every child going to private kindergarten or daycare is to receive NT$30,000 annually.
Parents usually have to pay about NT$100,000 per year for a child’s private kindergarten or daycare, miscellaneous fees and monthly payments, while the yearly expenditure for a child attending public kindergarten or daycare is about NT$34,000, Yang said.
Yang had previously said that only children who were Republic of China citizens would be entitled to the program.