Dear Minister [of Health and Welfare] Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), [Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare] Hsueh Jui-yuan (薛瑞元), [Ministry of Health and Welfare Undersecretary] Lee Li-feng (李麗芬) and [Deputy Minister of Health and Welfare] Shi Chung-liang (石崇良),
We are writing to you on behalf of all foreign teachers seeking employment in Taiwan. As English instructors, we share Taiwan’s national ambitions to become a bilingual country by 2030, and our role is to facilitate this significant goal through student-centered education.
We as foreign educators come from a variety of academic and cultural backgrounds. Such diversity will not only strengthen the quality of education in Taiwan, but will serve to bolster Taiwan’s future leaders, scientists and innovators. Thus, our role in Taiwan’s future is twofold: First, we help fulfill the goal of a bilingual Taiwan; second, we provide valuable diversity of perspective, which in turn provides for future innovation in Taiwan.
As educators, we are very pleased to have seen the movement made by the Ministry of Education and the CECC [Central Epidemic Command Center] to help Huayu Enrichment Scholarship recipients to enter the country and pursue their studies. This demonstrates the Taiwanese value for and commitment to education. We realize the importance of education to Taiwanese society both culturally and politically, and are encouraged by this decision. We are now kindly requesting that the CECC consider the situation of Taiwan’s future educators in the commencement of their work in the country.
The memorandum of understanding signed by the US and Taiwan and the letter of intent between Taiwan and the UK both rely on an uninterrupted source of English-language experts entering the country. If Taiwan wishes to achieve its 2030 language learning goals, it is paramount that it allow educators to enter the country as soon as possible now that the COVID-19 outbreak is under control.
Taiwan’s commitment to the health and safety of its citizens has turned this island nation into a model for success in dealing with global pandemics. Furthermore, this has been accomplished within a democratic framework without resorting to authoritarianism or significant government overreach. To us, these ideals for a balance between personal freedom and public safety are paramount. In this commitment to the safety and success of the Taiwanese people, we strongly believe we share a common goal.
While new COVID-19 variants such as Delta pose uncertainty for the future, all those who are signing this letter understand the need for and are willing to comply with strict COVID-19 regulations, such as vaccination, quarantine measures, four COVID-19 tests at different stages of the quarantine period, a period of self-health management and any other measures the CECC deems necessary.
The wider availability of vaccines overseas, coupled with these extensive quarantine measures, significantly mitigate the risk of exposure and spread of the virus domestically, as evidenced by over a year of implementing such measures.
That being said, we understand that even with such measures in place, there remains a risk of COVID-19 transmission. However, we believe that the value of education far outweighs these minute risks. Indeed, the risk of indefinitely suspending new foreign educators from entering Taiwan presents a higher possibility of long-term damage to Taiwanese education, both to students as well as to local teachers and staff.
Foreign labor, especially in the education sector, is extremely important for Taiwan’s economy. Approximately 70 percent of parents in Taiwan send their children to cram schools, while a majority of households include parents who both are employed full time. This means that parents who send their children to these cram schools do not need to interrupt their day to pick up their children. This in turn helps maintain an efficient work force and provides a significant contribution to the Taiwanese economy. If cram schools continue to face staff shortages, this could lead to interruptions in other industries as parents will be unable to work.
Additionally, Taiwanese co-teachers have had to increase their workload to deal with the lack of English teachers, juggling homework, lesson planning and leading classes usually taught by native speakers. This is placing an unprecedented burden on the shoulders of co-teachers and is ultimately doing harm to the industry. Such a strain on local teachers without adequate training and preparation can only result in damage to the quality of education in Taiwan.
Although this impact may not be immediately visible, we believe that both students and teaching staff will suffer tremendously in English education the longer teachers are prevented from fulfilling their contracts. If this freeze continues for too long, we fear that the highest qualified educators will be forced to seek employment in other areas of Asia or in our home countries, which will only serve to further isolate and damage the diplomatic position of Taiwan.
To summarize our position, we believe that the visa freeze measures which currently make it impossible for new teachers to enter Taiwan harms the country not only from an economic standpoint, but from an educational and global standpoint as well.
Taiwan has long been considered a front-runner in the race for globalization, but if the borders remain closed for long, Taiwan runs the risk of losing quality educators to competing countries. Protecting Taiwan need not come at the cost of effectively educating its people in English and other foreign languages, and we hope that the Minister and the CECC can come to share this view.
We thank you for taking the time to read our letter, and we urge you to think about the long-term impacts of your decision on this matter.
Oliver Ward and the Foreign Teachers Coalition
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