Control Yuan members, in a recently published report, called for improvements in the care and education of Aboriginal children as they highlighted the inaccessibility and high cost of such services for Aborigines.
There is an urgent need to coordinate efforts among the Ministry of Education, the Council of Indigenous Peoples and local governments to address the difficulties that urban Aborigines face in enrolling their children into public child-care centers that provide affordable and attentive care and quality education, the report concluded.
Data provided by the Ministry of Education showed that most children between two and six years old in Aboriginal families living in urban areas are unable to enter public child-care centers, the report said.
As of March this year, only 23 percent of Aboriginal children in urban areas were enrolled in public child-care centers, while 38 percent were in private institutions, far less than the percentage of pre-school children taken care of by public child-care institutions in the UK and China, the report said.
In view of the increasing migration of Aboriginal families to urban areas that lack tribal networks, nursery education for Aborigines has become a critical issue, it said.
Control Yuan members Chou Yang-shan (周陽山) and Shen Mei-chen (沈美真), who initiated the probe into the issue, urged government agencies to follow the policy stipulated in Article 10 of the Education Act for Indigenous Peoples (原住民族教育法) to ensure Aboriginal children have access to education.
Government agencies are required by the act to provide Aboriginal children with public child-care services, to ensure that they take precedence when enrolling in public child-care centers and to offer tuition subsidies to Aboriginal families, they said.
The Control Yuan members also called for reforms to the education offered to Aboriginal children after they visited Bethel, a care center for Aboriginal children funded by the non-profit Zhi-Shan Foundation that is located in Wugu District (五股), New Taipei City (新北市), the main base of the nation’s urban Aborigines.
Established more than 10 years ago by Malayumu, a Rukai Aborigine from Pingtung County, Bethel takes care of about 100 Aboriginal children per day at no cost or a very low cost of NT$4,000 a month, one-sixth the price of a similar service provided by private institutions.
Bethel, open 24 hours a day, has not been able to get a license as a child-care center because of non-compliance with statutory licensing requirements. However, it respects Aboriginal traditions and customs and teaches several different mother tongues, the report said.
Citing a landmark US Supreme Court ruling in 1972 that gives the Amish people, who teach their children in one-room schools and do not usually educate their children past the eighth grade, as a rare exemption from the US’ compulsory education laws, the Control Yuan members urged the government to respect Aborigines’ cultural values in its education policy.