Mon, May 01, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Surveys reach varied conclusions

MIXED MESSAGES Data on educational standards among children of foreign spouses is hard to interpret and may say more about where they live than their backgrounds


Five women from Southeast Asia and China married to Taiwanese men line up with their children to pose for a photograph yesterday. The five women were received awards from the Tainan Family Assistance Center for their good work in raising and educating their children.


The Ministry of Education recently released a report that said children of foreign spouses performed better than those whose parents were both born in Taiwan in many subjects in elementary school, but were falling behind in junior high.

The report was based on a survey conducted by National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) targeting children of "new immigrants" from both China and Southeast Asia in more than 3,000 schools nationwide and compares their performance in various subjects with other Taiwanese students.

The report found that in elementary school, these children had an A-average like most other Taiwanese students, but exceeded them in subjects such as math and physical education.

But as these children entered junior high school, their math scores dropped an average of 20 to 30 points, the report said.

Also, their Taiwan-related history and geography scores were found to be especially low.

Another report released late last year by the ministry yielded slightly different results. 8.2 percent of new immigrants' children were behind in language and speech development when they first enter school, it said.

However this report showed that at school, these students improved and performed well in subjects such as languages.

In subjects such as math, history and geography, their scores dropped as their age increased, the report said.

The research, carried out by National Chi Nan University, targeted only 281 elementary school children of Southeast Asian spouses but not Chinese spouses.

Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠), director of the Department of Elementary Education, said that so far, the results of surveys regarding the topic have been diverse.

"The children of foreign spouses learn in the same environment as all other Taiwanese children," he said.

"We shouldn't be biased against them and say that they are always behind in schoolwork," Pan said.

Each child, regardless of nationality or background, is stronger in certain subjects and has problems with others, Pan said.

"These surveys and reports do not determine how poorly these children perform in school, but aim to help the ministry see where we may need to help them most," he said.

Wen Ming-li (溫明麗), an education professor from NTNU, also said that the results did not necessarily have anything to do with ethnic background, but could be more to do with where these students live, either in the city or country or in different parts of Taiwan.

According to ministry figures, as of last year, more than 60,000 new-immigrant children were enrolled in elementary and junior high schools in the country, twice the number of two years ago.

These children will likely surpass the amount of Aboriginal students this August when the new school year starts, becoming the largest group receiving subsidies from the ministry for elementary and secondary education, officials said.

Last year, one out of every 16 children enrolling in elementary school for the first time were children of foreign spouses, but the ministry speculates that in two years time the figure will rise to one in eight.

Most of these students are children of Chinese spouses, followed by children of Indonesian and Vietnamese spouses.

Pan said that the education ministry has provided opportunities for these children to participate in after-school programs which aim to help them with schoolwork.

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