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Wed, Jan 30, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Conscript teachers go abroad to serve

MILITARY ALTERNATIVES The first group of five will leave tomorrow to teach math and physics at schools set up to teach the children of Taiwanese businessmen

By Sandy Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Five alternative-service conscripts who will serve as teachers at Taiwanese schools overseas are interviewed in the Ministry of Education yesterday.

PHOTO: CHEN CHENG-CHANG, TAIPEI TIMES

The nation's first group of alternative-service conscripts to serve as teachers at Taiwanese schools overseas are set to depart tomorrow for their designated countries, a vice minister of education said yesterday.

"The group, consisting of five individuals, will each go to the school of their choice and serve as math or physics teachers for one-and-a-half years," said Political Vice Minister of Education Fan Shiun-liu (范巽綠).

The Taiwanese schools are private schools set up to teach the children of expatriate Taiwanese businessmen. The schools follow the curriculum taught in Taiwan and receive a small subsidy from Taiwan's Ministry of Education.

"The purpose of their service will be to help make up for the shortage of teachers faced by the Taiwanese schools," said Fan, who, two years ago, first proposed deploying alternative-service conscripts as teachers in the schools.

Under the Alternative Service Law, which was passed in January 2000, eligible conscripts may serve as policemen, firemen, environmental protection workers or nurses for the elderly and handicapped in lieu of military service.

The law was amended last year to add teaching in overseas Taiwanese schools to the list of professions open to such conscripts, precisely because of the teacher shortage faced by the schools.

A 22-month period of military service is mandatory for men in Taiwan, except those suffering from designated physical ailments.

"Of 195 applicants, 16 met the minimum qualification of having teacher certificates with expertise in math or physics," said Kao Thun-yun (高崇雲), chairman of the Committee on Overseas Chinese Education.

"Of those 16, these five individuals were selected because they were the top five in our selection process.

"We specifically wanted teachers with expertise in math and physics because these are the subject areas in which the schools have indicated they currently have the greatest need," Kao said.

There are Taiwanese schools in Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Surabaya, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, and a Thai-Chinese International School in Thailand.

There are also two private Taiwanese schools in China but they are not eligible for alternative-service conscripts, Kao said, because "the Ministry of Defense and the Chinese authorities do not permit Taiwanese individuals with the status of a soldier to carry out such work in China."

"For obvious reasons," Kao added, "these two schools neither use the complete ROC educational curriculum nor fly the ROC flag like the other six Taipei Schools."

In December, two men serving their alternative military service with an agricultural technical corps in Gambia caught malaria.

The men, part of a group of 35 sent abroad as agricultural and medical recurits, both recovered.

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