Only one month into the new semester, Lanyu Senior High School has held seven faculty evaluation meetings in a desperate bid to fill two long-vacant positions for math teacher.
However, just when the school on Lanyu (蘭嶼) thought it has solved the problem, a substitute science teacher resigned to take a job at the Kaohsiung Rapid Transit Corp.
The story is not an isolated case and exemplifies a long-standing problem that has plagued schools on outlying islands and in remote areas of Taiwan proper — high teacher turnover rates and staff shortages.
Last year, the government amended the Offshore Islands Development Act (離島建設條例) to stipulate that contracted teachers working at schools on outlying islands must work there for at least four years before they can apply to transfer to other teaching positions on Taiwan proper.
The amendment was originally meant to safeguard the right to education of students in outlying islands, but the four-year non-transfer clause has had the unintended effect of discouraging even more educators from looking for employment outside the nation’s main island.
In an effort to increase teachers’ willingness to work for them, many schools on outlying islands are opting to offer substitute-teaching jobs rather than contract positions in a bid to bypass the regulations.
Lanyu Senior High School principal Lu Chi-shan (陸集珊) said the contract of employment for the position left vacant by the substitute science teacher was on a one-year basis and therefore does not qualify for additional regional pay.
“However, if you are willing to come here to teach Lanyu children natural science, they will also take you to experience other aspects of nature and life,” Lu said.
Lu added that while it took educators more effort and energy to teach children in remote areas, they often found happiness in their unexpectedly close bonds with the kids and formed strong relationships with the hospitable and welcoming locals.
Also troubled by the problem of high teacher turnover rates are students from Da Lin Elementary School in Greater Taichung’s Sinshe District (新社), which is located in a remote area.
Referring to their teachers as “migrant birds,” students at the school said that most teachers leave after only a year because commuting between the school and their homes is too troublesome and time-consuming.
“They often leave for a job closer to their homes, but some of them are like migrant birds and come back to us eventually after the summer break,” one student said.
The students turned their special relationship with their teachers into a film titled My Migratory Teachers (我的候鳥教師), which won first place in the elementary-school category in a short film competition held on Teachers’ Day on Saturday.
Organized by National Taiwan Normal University at the request of the Ministry of Education, the contest received 38 entries featuring teacher-student bonds.
Of the 10 films in the finalist stage, three were produced by elementary-school students, while seven were the work of junior-high school students, the organizers said.
After receiving the top award, Da Lin students said that although they have been taught by many different teachers, all of the teachers took their job seriously.
A shared awareness that their time with each a teacher could be limited also prompted them to cherish every second with their teachers all the more.