The Children’s Welfare League Foundation (CWLF) yesterday voiced concern over the Ministry of Education’s plans to extend mandatory education from nine years to 12 next year, saying that children from disadvantaged families may lose out under the plan.
“The objective of the 12-year education period is to create fair opportunities for all students to receive education. However, the design of the system may further marginalize children from disadvantaged families,” foundation executive director Chen Li-ju (陳麗如) told a news conference in Taipei.
To allow students to develop a variety of interests, the program is designed to reward students involved in extracurricular activities or who have hobbies outside the school curriculum when applying to senior high school, she said.
“However, a lack of resources already makes it harder for children from disadvantaged families to take on other activities,” Chen said.
“Many children from economically disadvantaged families are currently able to get into good schools if they study hard, but a requirement to take on other activities would be hard on them,” she added.
According to a survey conducted by the foundation, as many as 22 percent of children from disadvantaged families have never pursued a hobby or participated in competitions outside school. Fifty-eight percent said that English-language comprehension is difficult, while only 25 percent of underprivileged families can afford to send their children to cram schools.
The survey also found that as many as 35 percent of junior-high school students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds said they do not know much about the 12-year education program and 47.3 percent of parents of such children said they are not aware of the details of the ministry’s program.
“This shows that not only do these kids not know what it’s all about, most of their parents also don’t know,” Chen said.
“So even if parents are willing to help their children, many of them wouldn’t know what to do,” she added.
As the ministry is not likely to revise the program or change its implementation schedule, the foundation said it would ask its own social workers to help disadvantaged families learn more about the program and provide assistance.