The Ministry of the Interior (MOI) is planning to initiate a program to certify liyishi -- or the "masters of etiquette" who preside over traditional Taiwanese funerals -- in approximately 18 months.
In a meeting with industry, academics and government representatives on Wednesday, the ministry reached a consensus with the Council of Labor Affairs to start up professional training programs for funeral-industry personnel, especially for the masters of etiquette and undertaking directors.
"These classes will place emphasis on practical skills and education in the humanities," Cheng Ying-hung (鄭英弘), section chief at the ministry's department of Civil Affairs told the Taipei Times yesterday.
The certificates will be issued by the ministry.
A master of etiquette oversees the behavior of those who attend a traditional Taiwanese funeral, informing them what obeisances to perform and when to perform them.
An undertaker understands all of the details of the mortuary process and manages funeral services.
The certification of masters of etiquette has been hotly debated as the government, which hopes to upgrade and streamline the overall quality of service in the Taiwanese undertaking industry, has come up against traditional practices, which have run the industry for decades.
The regulation charges will charge the Examination Yuan with holding tests for masters of etiquette as part of a national certification program, along with other programs such as doctor or accountant certifications.
"It will take some time to map out the details and the types of programs the CLA is to carry out," Cheng said.
However, standards should not be set too high, as this might bar those who have been in the trade for decades.
Other potential programs discussed in the meeting included mortuary make-up estheticians and funeral masters of ceremony.
To make up for the lack of education of experienced masters of etiquette and other undertaking personnel, they may have to take certain credited courses to become certified. The courses would give them the equivalent of a two-year vocational college degree.
"Those who are right out of school and interested in the industry definitely need to go through a lot of practical training in these programs, as practical experience is essential in this industry," Cheng said.
Nanhua University in Chiayi County is the only four-year college that offers undertaking-related courses. The university's Institute of Life and Death Studies offers courses such as funeral industry management and death-bed care.