Pre-school in Taiwan is not mandatory and caters for children all the way up to age 7 when compulsory schooling begins. Efforts to increase access to pre-schools for children from all social backgrounds has meant that children may be enrolled from a very early age.
Recent reforms have made this level of the school system more accessible for permanent expat residents, with government provision meaning early registration and fee waivers are very much possible. Check with your local school to see when their enrollment period starts and how much you can expect to pay.
Aside from the Mandarin-taught pre-schools, there are a number of Montessori and Steiner style kindergartens, especially in Taipei. Also, the number of English immersion taught pre-schools has grown in recent years as parents try to capitalise on the perceived prestige and opportunities that English proficiency brings.
Elementary school (Grades 1- 6)
Enrollment in elementary schools in Taiwan is dependent on registered place of residence. Consequently, native students can find themselves registered as living with relatives so as to fall within a top schools catchment area.
Students leave elementary school with a diploma, but are not required to take any formal examinations to enter junior high schools.
Subjects taught at elementary level are:
- Mathematics (reaches introductory algebra and geometry by the 6th grade)
- English (compulsory subject within the mainstream school system from Grade 3)
- Native languages (optional classes in indigenous languages and the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese)
- Social studies
Junior high (Grades 7-9)
Marking the end of mandatory schooling, junior high (JH) has traditionally been seen as the key period in a child’s education in Taiwan. It is also the last stage of general education. That is to say that students at this level will study a variety of subjects including both liberal arts and science curricula.
Graduation from JH is the point at which students are tested with national exams for applications to senior high and vocational schooling. As a result, the social pressure on students at this level to pass public exams with exceptional marks is incredibly high.
Senior high (Grades 10-12) and vocational schools
Secondary education in Taiwan is the first non compulsory level of schooling in the country (although the twelve-year mandatory school proposals may change this in the near future). It is also the stage at which students are required to specialise, at least in part.
Whilst the main differences are obvious between senior high school, and vocational training schools, within these two systems students are asked to nominate their preferred course. In senior high the choice is, broadly, between liberal arts, and science/mathematics focused curricula. In vocational schools a variety of specialisations, including civil engineering and computer science, are on offer.
Students wishing to go to university have to decide whether to apply whilst at school via the Recommendation System of course selection and academic exams, or to wait until after graduation and enter via the National University Entrance Examination.