Fri, May 04, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Groups pan premier’s kindergarten plan

By Ann Maxon  /  Staff reporter

A coalition of education groups yesterday urged the government to ensure that all families can afford good-quality childcare and preschool education by building more public kindergartens.

Premier William Lai (賴清德) last month said in a Facebook message that the government would promote childcare and preschool education by “offering new childcare subsidies and creating a diverse childcare system,” where there would be a mix of public kindergartens, government-owned kindergartens run by non-profit organizations and private kindergardens that receive government subsidies.

The government should just build more public kindergartens, National Federation of Teachers’ Union president Chang Hsu-cheng (張旭政) yesterday told a news conference in Taipei.

“Having a ‘diverse’ childcare system is allowing the market to decide the price and quality of those services,” he said. “When that is the case — as things currently are — only rich families can afford high-quality childcare and preschool education.”

The government should ensure that all children can attend preschools and that the education received is appropriate for their age, he said.

The government should build more preschools, he said, adding: “Any families should be able to send their children to a public kindergarten without having to go through a draw or get on a waiting list.”

“Subsidizing private kindergartens will not help improve their quality,” Alliance of Educare Trade Unions director Kuo Ming-hsu (郭明旭) said, adding that private kindergartens were still the majority in the nation.

Inspections carried out last year by the Taipei City Government of 141 of the kindergartens in the city found that many had accepted more students than was legally allowed and that many childcare providers were not licensed, he said.

“Many of those kindergartens have passed Ministry of Education evaluations. This shows that the ministry has done a poor job of controlling the quality of private kindergartens by handing them subsidies,” he said.

The government’s plan to subsidize a portion of kindergarten tuition is also not constructive, because economically disadvantaged families would still not be able to afford the total cost, he said.

“A private kindergarten typically costs at least NT$100,000 a year,” he said, adding that in Taipei the annual tuition alone can total NT$300,000.

A public kindergarten costs about NT$40,000 per year and non-profit kindergartens cost about NT$70,000, he said.

Instead of handing out money to private kindergartens and parents, the government should work on building a high-quality and affordable childcare and preschool system, he said.

“Officials who are unwilling to do so are just being lazy,” Kuo added.

Building a better childcare and preschool system would not only benefit children and childcare professionals, many of whom are underpaid and overworked, but also help increase the nation’s birth rate, he said.

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