With a total of only 20 students, the fewest students of any elementary school in the country, Feng Hsin Elementary School in Fonglin Township (鳳林), Hualien County, is on the verge of being merged into a nearby school.
Located next to Provincial Highway No. 9 in an area mostly composed of Amis Aborigines, Feng Hsin has had increasing difficulty recruiting students after a lack of job opportunities in the region has led to high migration of its youth.
At present, the largest proportion — or five — of the school’s students are in the sixth grade, while the first to fifth grades consist of three students or less.
Last year, the school recruited only one new student.
The school’s small number of students has made it subject to a merger with other schools — mostly likely, Feng Lin Elementary School, which is only 1.5km away — particularly after the Hualien County Government’s recent promulgation of a set of regulations governing the integration of small-scale educational institutions in the county.
The regulations stipulate that schools with fewer than 50 students be prioritized for mergers.
Meanwhile, the school’s small number of students makes arranging group activities hard for teachers.
For instance, to play a “T-ball” game — a simplified form of baseball designed for children that requires two teams consisting of at least 10 players — teachers almost always have to join the game to reach the minimum required number of players.
Attributing the school’s low enrollment rate to its proximity to Feng Lin, Feng Hsin Elementary School principal Hsieh Ming-sheng (謝明生) said that most parents were inclined to send their children to Feng Lin, where two out of three new students in the region enrolled last year.
Hsieh said the school had held meetings with parents last year to deliberate on a possible merger and most of them understood the school’s situation.
“We will respect and adhere to whatever decisions made by the county government’s Department of Education in the future,” Hsieh said.