Fri, Jan 06, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Officials vague on school policy

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

A day after confirming that the government was trying to devise means to ensure that schools offering Chinese-language classes to foreigners were properly regulated, officials yesterday were unable to provide specific details about which schools, if any, might be affected.

They were also unable to specify which criteria would be used to ensure schools met applicable regulations.

Ministry of Education (MOE) officials also said that the "list" of ministry-approved schools it submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not include non-university affiliated language institutes, because these schools did not fall under the responsibility of the ministry.

Such schools fall under the responsibility of local governments.

Officials said that the ministry hoped to establish criteria to regulate language schools in discussions with the Taipei City Government's education department and the ministry's department of social education before a final decision is made at the end of March.

"There is evidently a lack of communication between government agencies, and we hope to work together to better regulate these schools," said an official surnamed Chen. "It is an ongoing process."

Government officials in Taiwan who are not official spokespeople often ask to be identified only by their surnames.

Education ministry officials said that outdated social-education regulations stipulated that language centers and cram schools could be set up to educate Taiwanese nationals.

Technically, language schools, even large, well-established ones such as the Taipei Language Institute (TLI), fall outside of legal requirements because they teach foreign students, officials said.

The education ministry has therefore been trying to work with TLI and other schools to make adjustments to abide by the current legal requirements as best as possible, officials added.

Meanwhile, a TLI official, who also asked to be identified only by her surname, Yeh, said that it would be easier for the education ministry to manage language schools if they were university-affiliated, so the ministry had said that they hoped TLI would make the necessary adjustments.

Yeh said that TLI is cooperating with a university in an effort to comply with the ministry's policy, but she would not specify which university.

TLI has already sent documents verifying the legal adjustments to the ministry, and was awaiting approval, she said.

She added that TLI was originally under the management of the education ministry, but that at some point the ministry realized that there was no law regulating language schools.

Yeh said that she was worried that unclear government policies might prompt many foreigners to choose to go to China, rather than Taiwan, to study Mandarin.

She said that the language-learning environment in Taiwan was better than in China, adding that students should not be forced to go to China because of unclear policies.

A Bureau of Consular Affairs official surnamed Chou said that the point of the government's effort was to crack down on foreigners who work illegally in the country by pretending to study Chinese.

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