Teachers’ unions yesterday marched in protest of proposed amendments to the Early Childhood Education and Care Act (幼兒教育及照顧法), calling on the Ministry of Education to promote public preschools rather than carve out legal exceptions favoring private for-profit schools.
Led by the National Federation of Teachers Union, more than 8,000 protesters sang children’s songs and beat together yellow clappers as they marched up Taipei’s Zhongshan S Road to the Ministry of Education building to present their demands.
National Federation of Teachers’ Unions president Chang Hsu-cheng (張旭政) said proposed amendments to the law would aid for-profit preschools by making it easier for them to acquire funds from tuition vouchers and use public land, while easing licensing requirements for preschool instructors.
Photo: Lo Pei-der, Taipei Times
The union’s early childhood education committee vice-chair, Yan Chia-chen (顏嘉辰), said the proposed amendments would extend temporary provisions applying to private preschool teachers (教保員) who were hired before 2012, allowing them to continue to teach indefinitely while avoiding licensing requirements.
Given the substantial salary gap between licensed and unlicensed teachers, the amendment would ensure that for-profit schools would not hire licensed teachers for years to come, Yan said, adding that the amendment would allow for-profit schools to receive tuition voucher funds even if they fail to pass government evaluations.
Given the huge quality disparity among for-profit schools, promoting public preschools was the only way to guarantee preschool education was available to all families, he said.
Protesters also criticized poor working conditions in for-profit preschools, calling for more rigorous inspections.
Licensed public preschool teacher Chung Cheng-ming (鐘乘洺) said during the two years he had worked in a for-profit preschool before receiving his license, he had been forced to work 13 hours per day and some weekend hours without any overtime pay.
Poor labor conditions are the main reason most teachers want to work in the public sector, he said.
In response to the protesters’ demands, Ministry of Education section chief Hsu Li-juan (許麗娟) said that the ministry’s proposal was a compromise between the demands of teachers and for-profit preschools, adding that unlicensed instructors would be allowed to continue to teach only after they had finished 16 credits of coursework.
While the ministry’s objective is to encourage the establishment of public preschools, this is the prerogative of municipalities and counties, Hsu said.
That privately operated establishments operate year-round without summer and winter breaks sometimes makes them more convenient for parents, she added.
Ministry of Education statistics show that for-profit establishments make up 70 percent of the nation’s preschools.
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