Center on International Education Benchmarking

Taiwan: Teacher and Principal Quality

Overview | Learning Systems | Teacher and Principal Quality
Supporting Equity |  Career and Technical Education | Governance and Accountability

While Taiwan has very strong teachers and principals, it has put in place a range of reforms over the last five years to strengthen its teacher development system even further. These reforms address an oversupply of teachers and expand professional development for both teachers and school leaders.

Teacher Recruitment and Compensation

Efforts to monitor supply and demand of teachers have been particularly urgent in recent years, as there had been an oversupply of teachers as the student population declined. This oversupply led the Ministry to think critically about how to limit the teaching profession to only the most qualified candidates. As higher education expanded in the 1990s, a wide range of public Taiwanese universities and colleges, as well as private specialized teacher education centers, began to offer teacher preparation programs. By 2005, there were 75 different institutions offering programs. Concerned about the quality of those programs, the Ministry introduced a system to evaluate teacher preparation institutions that included authority to suspend enrollment of those judged to be inferior. The institutions were evaluated based on six criteria: 1) educational goals and core competency; 2) administrative matters and self-improvement; 3) selection and learning support of students; 4) faculty quality and delivery of curriculum; 5) learning outcomes of students; and 6) practicums and partnerships with schools. By 2016, the number of programs had dropped to 52. This led to a dramatic reduction in the number of new teachers, with an overall drop of 62 percent from 2004 to 2015.

While there is no official minimum grade threshold for entry into teacher education, Taiwan attracts strong candidates. On PISA 2015, 15-year-old students in Taiwan who expected to become teachers scored significantly higher on average in mathematics than students who expected to work in other professions. Some teacher training programs offer government scholarships, which typically come with a requirement that students serve in remote or special districts after graduation.

Teachers in Taiwan are generally paid well and have a generous benefits package. Pay is determined by years of experience and highest level of qualification. In 2017-18, teachers with bachelor’s degrees earned starting salaries of US$40,120. This starting salary increases to US$46,525 for teachers with master’s degrees and US$51,308 for teachers with PhDs.

Initial Teacher Education and Training

Teacher training programs for primary and secondary teachers are at different institutions: secondary school teachers are prepared at universities that have colleges of education, and primary school teachers at teachers’ colleges. All teachers, primary and secondary, are required to take classes in their specialized area, and are granted a Pre-Service Teacher Education Completion Certificate once they successfully complete teacher education coursework. This certificate entitles them to take the Teacher Qualification Examination to earn a Qualified Teacher’s Certificate specific to their teaching area. In addition to four years of university study leading to a bachelor’s degree, there is a required practicum. The practicum is a six-month internship in schools where prospective teachers are given the opportunity to teach, observe, and learn.

In 2017, the pass rate on the Teacher Qualification Examination was only about 55 percent. Certification is not a guarantee of placement in schools either. Principals are responsible for hiring teachers. The hiring process often includes written assessments, interviews, and teaching demonstrations. In 2015, only about two-thirds of certificated teachers were employed as teachers in schools.

Teacher Career Ladders

Currently, there is no formal teacher evaluation system in Taiwan and no formal career ladder. Some experienced and well-regarded teachers are offered opportunities to expand their responsibilities, however. Teachers with more than five years of experience can become a convener of teachers in their subject area, teacher mentor, or take on administrative work, as a means of potentially earning promotion to administrative roles. Leadership roles within teaching are locally developed and vary in their responsibilities. The Ministry of Education has proposed an educator career ladder that has not yet been put in place.  The ladder had an administrative track and a teaching track, and four levels within the teaching track: beginning teacher, experienced teacher, mentor teacher, and research teacher.

Under the Teacher Remuneration Act, teachers are assigned salary grades based on their education, experience, and seniority. There are also two types of allowances that can be added to teachers’ base salaries: occupational allowances, for teachers who take on additional roles, such as in leadership, counseling, or special education; or academic research allowances, for teachers who engage in pedagogical or academic research.

Teacher Professional Development

The Ministry of Education does not require that schools provide new teacher induction programs, but the government does mandate that teacher preparation institutions provide technical assistance and professional development to their graduates to help them transition into their roles. The government also provides a financial subsidy to encourage experienced teachers to mentor new teachers, but these arrangements vary by school and district.

Teachers are obliged by law to engage in teaching-related research and professional development, but there is no nationally-defined minimum number of hours for teachers, with the exception of a new requirement that pre-school teachers complete 18 hours of professional development each year. Instead, the bureaus of local governments specify their own requirements. For example, Kaohsiung City mandates that teachers complete 28 hours per year of professional development, while New Taipei City mandates that they complete 54 hours per year. Some professional development programs are centrally planned by the Ministry of Education, some are co-organized by local governments, and some are initiated within individual schools.

In addition, the Ministry is implementing a new program to allow teachers with at least three years of teaching experience to volunteer to take responsibility for developing school learning communities. These learning communities aim to give teachers shared planning time and opportunities to observe the teaching of experienced teachers. Learning community activities, classroom observations, and teaching profiles are uploaded to an online web platform, the Nationwide Teacher In-Service Advancement Education Information Web, as teacher resources. This program will be implemented across Taiwan by the end of 2018.

School Leader Development

In Taiwan, principals are responsible for administering all school policies and programs and play a key role in leading the direction of teaching and learning. Principals come from the teaching ranks; they are required to have at least four years of teaching experience and at least two years of administrative experience. Applicants take a qualification exam for the principalship, and those who pass are then required to take an eight-to-10 week Ministry training course. No additional academic credentials are required of principals.  Principals are hired at the school level and are typically appointed to four-year terms.

Teachers with leadership potential are encouraged to take on administrative roles within the school. For example, a teacher with significant teaching experience and the esteem of his/her supervising officers might be promoted to section chief of the academic or student affairs office and then possibly to director. At that point, the teacher is eligible to take a qualification exam to become a principal candidate.

The Ministry of Education’s National Academy for Educational Research (NAER) offers professional development courses and programs for currently serving principals. Principals are not required to participate as there is no minimum number of required professional development hours, but the Ministry will cover the costs of any courses in which principals do enroll. The NAER offers courses in instructional leadership, technology leadership, curriculum development, computer programming, class observation, positive discipline, and more. The focus is on developing practical skills through analyzing case studies, engaging in action learning based on job-embedded problems, and offering immediate feedback. There are also resources available for principals to self-evaluate their job performance.

Principal employment depends on the results of performance evaluations conducted by an evaluation committee. This committee is made up of local education officers, parents, teachers, and other education experts or academics. Principals are evaluated against a set of indicators relating to school vision, leadership of the administration, leadership in curriculum and instruction, leadership of the community and moral leadership. Some high-performing principals are given opportunities to transfer to leadership positions in other government branches.


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