Almost 700,000 primary school students spend their after-school hours at unregistered or “potentially dangerous” institutes, according to a survey released yesterday.
The survey, conducted by the Taipei-based Jing Chuan Child Safety Foundation, showed that among the 726,300 elementary-school pupils who are in -after-school care programs, only 35,521 attend registered childcare centers.
The others are placed either in unregistered centers or in cram schools that are potentially unsafe, the survey found.
The laws pertaining to childcare centers are different from those that apply to cram schools, according to Lin Yueh-chin (林月琴), chief executive of the foundation.
It means that some cram schools are a “potentially dangerous” environment for children under the age of 12, she said.
For example, in the event of a fire, the chances of escape are better at a care center than at most cram schools, she said. This is because the law stipulates childcare centers should not be housed at any level above the fourth floor, she said.
In the case of cram schools, there is no such requirement, she added, noting that some cram schools are located in basements.
Another problem is the teacher-student ratio, which is 1:25 at child care centers and could be as low as 1:60 at cram schools, the survey found.
With so many children to supervise, cram schools teachers may not be able to give enough attention to each child, Lin said.
Most injuries among children at cram schools have occurred because of this, he said.
Jenny Huang, a mother of three, said it was difficult to choose a good after-school facility.
“We send our children to those institutes because we want them to get off to a good start,” Huang said.
“However, we really don’t know how to choose a suitable one — we can only depend on word of mouth,” she said.
The first step toward improved safety, Lin said, is for the government to carry out a thorough check of after-school care programs and release its findings within a month.
Lawmakers should also bring childcare centers and cram schools under one set of regulations, she said.
“The government is willing to offer incentives to boost the birthrate, but what is it doing to protect those already born?” she asked.