Vocational education in Taiwan takes place in upper secondary vocational schools, junior colleges, universities/colleges of technology, and graduate schools with master’s and Ph.D. programs. For the past decade, Taiwan has tried to update its Technical Vocational Education (TVE) system to prepare students for work in a technology-driven economy. In 2009, Taiwan identified the following industry clusters as key to the nation’s future:
Since then, the government has developed new programs to train students for jobs in these industries and updated existing programs to better meet the needs of these industries. Taiwan also built new connections with employers to ensure that TVE programs meet their needs and to ensure that students are offered opportunities to gain experience in the workplace. Employers provide advice on how to create effective learning environments and design and offer work-based learning experiences through local Technical and Vocational Education Advisory Committees. These groups include representatives of government, industry, educational institutions, teachers’ organizations, and professional associations, as well as experts and members of the public. There are also six Centers for Regional Industry-Academia Cooperation to facilitate collaboration between businesses and institutions of higher education.
There have also been efforts to strengthen vocational teacher capacity. Since 2010, the Ministry of Education has funded partnerships between industry practitioners/experts and teachers in vocational upper secondary schools. The purpose is to involve industry practitioners in curriculum planning and design as well as teaching. Additionally, the Ministry has provided subsidies to teachers to allow them to take vocational courses to enhance their practical knowledge and improve teaching quality. Since 2015, TVE institutions have been required to grant teachers at least one half-year of paid leave every six years to study or conduct research in their industry area. Institutions can also meet this requirement by facilitating ongoing research or collaboration between teachers and institutions of higher education or industry.
Students are introduced to vocational training options and career choices though elective courses in lower secondary school. In their final year of lower secondary school, interested ninth graders can take a “craft and skills” curriculum which includes up to 14 hours per week of courses in one or two career tracks. These students are given career counseling and guidance. “Crafts and skills” students are given priority entry into upper secondary school vocational programs. Admission to upper secondary vocational programs varies by program: some programs admit all interested students and other require entrance exams or recommendations.
Upper secondary school vocational programs are offered at either dedicated vocational schools or comprehensive secondary schools, which enable students to have a mix of vocational and academic experiences. As of 2017, about half of upper secondary school students in Taiwan were enrolled in TVE. The system is a mix of public and private providers, with student enrollment about equally divided between the two systems. Private schools charge higher fees than public schools, but the government subsidizes these fees to make attendance at any school affordable for all students. The government has also provided funding to help private vocational schools upgrade their facilities and purchase equipment, as part of their effort to expand the TVE offerings. Finally, to encourage partnerships with employers in private industry, government subsidies are available to vocational schools—both public and private—to establish work-study centers where student can get practical training.
After secondary school, students can continue vocational training at junior colleges, technical colleges and universities of science and technology, where they can earn advanced degrees in these technical areas ranging from associate degrees to doctoral degrees. They can also take the national university entrance exams and go on to earn a four-year undergraduate degree. At both the secondary and post-secondary levels, the structure of the Taiwanese vocational system is designed to be diverse and flexible, with numerous pathways between vocational and academic tracks, and among career tracks.
Taiwan’s Dual System of Vocational Training Project is modeled on the German system of combining apprenticeships with classroom learning in TVE. It was implemented as a collaborative project with the German Trade Office in Taipei in 2003 and has since been adopted as a component of Taiwan’s TVE system. The Dual System has expanded in Taiwan since 2010, but is not implemented in all TVE schools. As of 2013, about one-quarter of TVE institutions in Taiwan collaborated with 275 companies to provide apprenticeships for students through this program.
According to the national survey by the Ministry of Education, about 80 percent of upper secondary vocational school graduates go to college or university, 13 percent secure immediate employment, and the rest generally take time off to prepare for university/college, are actively job seeking, or enter military service.
Convincing both parents and students that the TVE system is a path to secure employment is a challenge in Taiwan. One strategy the government put in place to encourage youth to consider work or vocational training as an alternative to higher education is the Youth Education and Employment Savings Account Program. Co-directed by the Ministries of Labor and Education and announced in 2016, the program allows upper secondary school graduates to pursue career exploration or other real-world experiences such as work, travel and volunteering before entering college. The government deposits US$334 each month into their savings account for up to three years to cover the costs. For students who choose work experience, the Ministry of Labor helps find full-time positions in traditional, agricultural, cultural and creative, or industrial and commercial sectors. Students are paid at least the minimum wage on top of the government deposits they receive, and companies receive a government subsidy of US$157 per month per program participant. These experiences, coupled with other efforts to incorporate more hands-on learning and practicums during high school, are meant to strengthen the skills and employability of graduates.