A coalition of foreign teachers and about 60 cram schools in Taiwan this week launched a petition for the government to allow English teachers to enter the country despite COVID-19 travel restrictions.
The schools and the Foreign Teachers Coalition are appealing for students, professors and academics to be included among the categories of foreign nationals who receive special permission to enter Taiwan, coalition member Oliver Ward said on Thursday.
Although Taiwan’s borders have been closed to nonresidents since early last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, foreign English teachers were still able to apply for special permission to enter, but that stopped in June amid a spike in domestic cases in Taiwan, he said.
The petition, posted online as an open letter to the government, says that if Taiwan wants to meet its goal of becoming a bilingual country by 2030, it should allow foreign English teachers to enter the nation.
“Our role in Taiwan’s future is twofold: first we help fulfill the goal of a bilingual Taiwan, and second, we provide valuable diversity of perspective, which in turn provides for future innovation in Taiwan,” the coalition says in the petition.
The coalition said it was pleased that the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) and the Ministry of Education (MOE) had decided to allow Huayu Enrichment Scholarship recipients to enter Taiwan to study, adding that English teachers should be given the same consideration.
The coalition is initially targeting 500 signatures, but would continue to seek support until foreign English teachers are allowed to enter Taiwan to fulfill work contracts, it said.
The about 60 cram schools that signed the petition said that if they continue to face staffing shortages, they would be unable to open, affecting parents who rely on the after-school programs.
“About 70 percent of parents in Taiwan send their children to cram schools, while a majority of households include parents who are both employed full time,” the petition says. “This means that parents who send their children to these cram schools will not need to interrupt their day to pick up their children. This in turn helps maintain an efficient workforce and significantly contributes to the economy.”
The MOE said it would address the matter when it receives the petition through formal channels, adding that it does not have the authority to issue visas or work permits to foreign employees, as that falls under the Ministry of Labor and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
If those ministries, in collaboration with the CECC, decide to permit the entry of other categories of foreign nationals, the MOE would respect that decision, it said.
Taiwan is processing applications for the entry of about 13,000 international students enrolled in degree programs and those who have received the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Taiwan Scholarship, officials said.
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