The nation is short 160 teachers for public elementary and junior-high schools, with the number of first-graders, estimated at about 230,000, reaching its highest level in a decade, the Ministry of Education said on Monday.
While the nation’s birthrate has been falling since the 1980s, elementary schools have seen a spike in the number of first-graders this year as children born in 2012, the last Year of the Dragon — considered the most auspicious year for giving birth — reach school age, the ministry said.
Elementary and junior-high schools nationwide had aimed to recruit nearly 3,000 full-time teachers before classes started today, but as of Monday still needed another 160, twice the amount they still needed last year, it said.
Schools in Taipei needed 38 more elementary and junior-high school teachers, while those in New Taipei City and Taoyuan needed an additional 45 and 37 respectively, the ministry said, adding that this was the first time the three cities failed to reach their recruitment goals for elementary and junior-high school teachers.
Chen Ching-yi (陳清義), deputy president of the Secondary and Elementary School Principals Association and principal of Fuxing Elementary School in Taipei, said that 80 to 90 percent of schools in Taipei were still seeking substitute teachers and that several principals had asked full-time teachers to take on extra classes due to the shortage of faculty.
Every year, local education departments estimate the number of first-graders and plan the number of classes and teachers in advance, Minister of Education Lin Teng-chiao (林騰蛟) said.
This year, due to the number of children born in the Year of the Dragon, the number of classes had already been increased, he added.
In the past, only high schools and vocational schools with specialized skills programs would fail to meet their faculty recruitment goals, National Federation of Teachers’ Unions president Chang Hsu-cheng (張旭政) said, adding that this was the first time he has heard of junior-high schools encountering such problems.
This year, schools in major cities aimed to recruit a significant number of full-time teachers and highly competent candidates might have been offered positions by multiple schools at the same time, causing schools with shorter waiting lists to fail to recruit enough, he said.
As public-school teachers are paid the same nationwide, they are more likely to choose a school in their hometown over a big city if they are offered the possibility of doing so, he added.
National Parent Education Volunteer Association director-general Wu Fu-pin (吳福濱) said he was concerned that the low recruitment rates might lower the quality of education.
Schools lack an effective mechanism to eliminate teachers who perform poorly, Wu said, adding that the quality of teachers should not be compromised, even when schools have difficulty recruiting faculty.
Parents and students want good teachers, he added.
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