A National Teachers’ Association (NTA) survey in Taiwan has revealed that 92 per cent of secondary school teachers suffered from work overload, requiring government support.
The work overload was attributed to the 2019 New Curriculum Guideline, which required a change in curriculum focus for nearly 620,000 students in primary and secondary schools in Taiwan. Put into force in August, the Guideline shifted the design of courses towards competence-building learning. Its implementation has brought new challenges for both teachers and students.
The NTA’s nationwide survey on secondary school teachers’ working conditions received 1,500 responses from teachers and principals in senior high schools. The questionnaire focused on three areas, “Teachers’ working conditions”, “Difficulties faced by school administration” and “Supports needed”. The survey aimed to collect facts relating to working conditions, ensure that teachers’ voices are heard, and make recommendations for improvements to the government.
2019 new Curriculum Guideline
The new Curriculum Guideline requires the inclusion and use of IT learning for every subject, instead of one specific class a week. In addition, it states that immigrants’ languages, mostly Vietnamese, should be compulsorily included within native language courses in elementary schools. For secondary schools, one-third of all courses should be made discretionary to stimulate students’ competency in diverse areas, and every student is required to upload a complete individual e-learning portfolio to apply for advanced higher education.
To comply with the new Guideline, three-quarters (78.5 per cent) of the surveyed teachers explained that preparatory work increased significantly due to the development of new subjects or programmes in such a short time.
Seven out of 10 teachers had difficulties with certifying students’ e-learning portfolios, and 62 per cent had difficulties in setting test questions and correcting papers. Specifically, teachers worked an additional 4.65 class hours on average, indicating that teachers’ working conditions have bene significantly undermined. Students were also affected due to unavoidable extra time spent at school for better learning and adaptation to the new system.
As for school administration personnel, 84 per cent of them replied that designing new subjects/courses, as well as recruiting/reallocating appropriate teachers was difficult. Nearly 30 per cent mentioned that the required teaching equipment and hardware was still insufficient. This applied particularly to communication infrastructure such as stable internet, with bandwidth needing to be upgraded to ensure better Internet connection as some courses and assignments are posted online.
In a follow-up inquiry by an NTA researcher, teachers clearly prioritised support from the government. Indeed, 71 per cent of them demanded more education support personnel, 68.5 per cent asked for a lower teacher-student ratio, and 44.3 per cent sought a budget increase.
Teachers listed these changes as vital to achieving quality education and of serious enough concern to warrant immediate attention by the education authorities. Otherwise, not only will teachers’ working conditions worsen, but the students’ right to education will be endangered.
The NTA has urged the government to take the necessary measures and amend related legislation to meet teachers’ needs. This would move the education system towards the key goal of the new Curriculum Guideline, i.e. better-quality work conditions for teachers and quality education for students.