Fierce competition and weak regulation have made deceptive marketing and legally dubious practices widespread among private kindergartens, teachers’ union members said yesterday.
“Private kindergartens exist to make money, which gives rise to a wide variety of sales pitches and other gimmicks,” National Federation of Teachers’ Unions early childhood education committee member Lai Min-li (賴閔莉) said, citing deceptive statements about the quality of teachers.
“Many kindergartens emphasize that their teachers are young when in reality low pay forces them to hire inexperienced teachers and they also suffer from a high turnover rate,” Lai said. “While they say that all of their teachers are ‘qualified instructors,’ a significant percentage could be ‘instructional caretakers’ or even ‘assistant instructional caretakers’ rather than formal teachers.”
Instructional caretakers are subject to looser educational and licensing requirements when compared with formal teachers, with regulations limiting assistant instructional caretakers to a third of kindergartens’ instructors, she said, adding that it was difficult to enforce the rules requiring schools to prominently display their instructors’ qualifications.
“The qualifications can be up the day kindergartens are evaluated by inspectors, but then taken down the next. Because evaluations take place every five years, it is possible that the kindergartens have not updated the instructors’ qualifications to reflect their new teachers, so it is important for parents to examine and make comparisons,” she said, adding that setting standards for fees and ensuring the safety of school buses that pick up the students are also important issues.
“Sometimes kindergartens tell you that because there are not enough seats in the school bus, they will send another car to pick up your child, but that is illegal,” she said, adding that kindergartens can also use unreportable “activity” and “art” fees to get around price controls on tuition fees.
According to Ministry of Education statistics, private pre-schools account for about 70 percent of the nation’s kindergartens, with the unions calling for an expanded public-sector kindergarten system.
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