The Ministry of Education is responsible for all education-related matters: setting policy governing public and private sector primary, secondary, and tertiary schools; teacher recruitment, preparation, and training; funding; guidance for school-level policy; and assessments. Early childhood education was recently transferred into this ministry. Higher education is part of a different ministry: the Department of Higher Education.
Each year, the Ministry of Education releases a set of objectives for that calendar year. These are used to guide educational improvement initiatives from primary and secondary education to higher education and workforce preparedness. The documents are brief, summarizing high-level learning goals.
The Ministry provides funding and oversight to both public schools and private schools, which are privately operated but still subject to ministerial and municipal policy and funding structures. The five municipal governments of Taiwan each have Bureaus of Education that oversee the schools within their regions and administer their funding. Individual bureaus currently have sole responsibility for oversight of individual schools and teachers.
The Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s governing body, designates funding for education from the national budget; in turn, the Ministry of Education allocates that funding to local governments’ Bureaus of Education. The Education Funding Committee of the Executive Yuan calculates how much each local government will need to spend on education and its capacity to contribute to this amount, and the central government contributes the remaining funds. Funding from the central government is distributed in two categories: general education funds, which can be spent flexibly, and special education funds, which must be spent for specific purposes related to special education (primarily for students with identified disabilities, and also for gifted students). Schools are responsible for submitting mid- and long-term plans to local governments for development of school-level budgets.
In 2016, funding for public schools made up about three-quarters of the total education budget, with the remaining one-quarter for private schools. Governments at all levels are required to provide additional subsidies for education in remote areas.
Accountability and Incentive Systems
While there have been ongoing efforts to establish a centralized teacher evaluation system, to date teacher evaluation has been left to the discretion of school administrators and teachers themselves. In 2006, the government introduced a Teacher Evaluation for Professional Development Program, with the Ministry providing resources and guidance to schools on growth-oriented teacher evaluation. This remains voluntary and is used to guide professional development. The tools provided include protocols for teacher observation, student feedback forms, guides for peer mentoring, and agendas for professional learning communities. Teachers are encouraged to observe one another, write up feedback and co-develop plans for improvement, and meet in large school groups to discuss how evaluation can be used as a tool for improvement. The principal serves as facilitator and coordinator of this continuous improvement effort, for example, by setting agendas for professional learning community meetings in consultation with teachers. Only about 30 percent of schools and 20 percent of K-12 teachers are currently participating in this teacher evaluation project. The Ministry plans to revise these tools to incentivize broader and deeper participation — and track who is using these systems and the degree of fidelity of implementation.
In Taiwan, school inspection at the primary and lower secondary levels is the responsibility of local government. The practice varies greatly from city to city and in some cases, it is not done at all. The Ministry of Education inspects upper secondary schools and intervenes with those determined to be low-performing. This division in responsibility is in response to the relatively new policy of extending basic education through upper secondary. The government is focused on helping ensure that all students have access to high-quality upper secondary school options.
Support for Low-Performing Schools
The low-performing designation given to some upper secondary schools is not based on student test scores but on a Ministry evaluation of school management and school leadership practices. An on-site counseling group made up of university professors and experienced principals coaches the leaders of low-performing schools for one year. A follow-up assessment is conducted the following year to make sure performance has improved. Local governments oversee elementary and junior secondary schools. Schools that are rated as “in observation” in any aspect of the assessments must make plans to improve themselves with the assistance of school inspectors from the local Bureau of Education. If a school does not improve, there are additional follow-up assessments focused on those areas of weakness.