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Sun, Jan 09, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Education issues put on agenda

BENEFITS While the education ministry wants parity between private and public school teacher pensions, Chen Shui-bian has said he would make pre-school education free to low-income families if elected

By Stephanie Low  /  STAFF REPORTER

Private school teachers rally at the Taipei Municipal Teachers' College demanding the Ministry of Education provide them with retirement benefits similar to those enjoyed by public school teachers.

PHOTO: GEORGE TSORNG, TAIPEI TIMESN

Minister of Education Kirby Yung (楊朝2?/CHINESE>) yesterday promised that private school teachers will soon enjoy retirement benefits equal to public school teachers.

Yung said his ministry expects the Teachers' Retirement Benefits Bill to pass the legislature in the next legislative session, so that some 46,000 private school teachers can benefit from the new system as early as Aug. 1.

"After the ministry's version of the bill is passed, the retirement benefits of private and public school teachers will become equal immediately," Yung said.

Presently, private school teachers enjoy inferior and insecure retirement benefits compared with their public school counterparts.

Public school teachers are covered by the Civil Servant Pension Fund scheme, under which money for the premium is deducted from their salaries every month, constituting 35 percent of total contributions to the fund. The remaining 65 percent is covered by the government's annual budget.

Teachers can choose to receive their retirement payment either as a lump sum or as monthly stipends. In either way, the retirement payment received is based on a teacher's seniority and exceeds the total amount of premium contributed, with the government reimbursing shortfalls in case of any future deficits.

Private school teachers, on the other hand, are not required to make any monthly contribution. Every year, each registered private school earmarks two percent of its income from tuition fees for a fund to finance the teachers' retirement package. The eventual payout is given to the teacher in a lump sum and is usually much less than that of a public school teacher.

The bill is intended to expand the benefits currently enjoyed by public school teachers to cover private school teachers.

If the bill is adopted, private school teachers will also need to contribute 35 percent of the premium from their monthly salaries.

However, there are still differences between the ministry and lawmakers concerning the contribution of private schools.

The ministry has proposed having private schools pitch in the equivalent of the government's 65 percent contribution.

But some lawmakers have argued that private schools should continue to earmark two percent of their income from tuition fees and let the government cover the shortfall.

Hsu Chih-hsien (3志賢), deputy director of the Ministry of Education's Bureau of Personnel, said the ministry is still studying the feasibility of the lawmakers' proposal, because it will mean increasing the ministry's financial responsibility.

"We need to evaluate if the deficit is within the bearable limit of our budget," Hsu said.

If the new system were adopted, the ministry would need to finance the scheme from its own budget, because public school teachers would be separated from the Civil Servant Retirement Pension Fund to form an independent fund for all teachers.

The ministry has proposed a separate bill intended to secure education funding, which sets out the nation's education funding should constitute at least 7 percent of GNP.

Currently, education funding constitutes 6.7 percent of GNP. A raise to 7 percent would mean an increase of between NT$30 billion and NT$50 billion.

The ministry has also recently announced a plan to subsidize children studying in private, licensed kindergartens.

Under the plan, which is expected to start in 2001, the ministry will offer a "pre-school coupon" worth NT$10,000 for each of the targeted children on a yearly basis.

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