Students holding a  banner saying "Irresponsible and unaccountable private school board is unacceptable!”
Students holding a banner saying "Irresponsible and unaccountable private school board is unacceptable!”

Taiwan: Private schools profit from government help, embezzle money, and leave teachers jobless

published 13 January 2021 updated 29 January 2021

The National Teachers’ Association (NTA) and the Taiwan Higher Education Union (THE Union) have accused private schools of appropriating publicly funded property as job insecurity among teachers in the sector increases.

Both unions have made public how the government’s legislation allows the boards of private schools that are undergoing transformation or closing to manage public-funded assets as their own funds. This sacrifices the rights of teachers, students, and the public.

With many private schools being closed or transformed, the unions are demanding job security and protection for many affected teachers, while making a stance for public education and state-owned processes. The NTA and THE Union are requesting that state-entrusted, independent board directors who represent the public interest be put in place and a legislative reform to prevent embezzlement when private schools undergo transformation or closure.

Benefits for private schools

Over the past decade, private schools and universities have received more than 12.3 billion NTD (US$410 million) as subsidies from the Ministry of Education. Still, according to information from a THE Union survey, about 40 universities and colleges are at risk of being shut down in the next three to five years. The organisation has highlighted that the government is responsible for monitoring and supervising private schools’ operations, especially with regards to the number of teachers and students who would be affected by this situation.

Embezzlement is part of the system

Embezzlement seems to be a common practice by private institutions, NTA and THE Union note. After the government provides private schools with public money to “support them to achieve quality education”, private institutions often continue to perform as unqualified schools. According to the unions, the government then finds legal solutions to save them on the “wrong assumption that ‘to save the school is to protect teachers and students’”. When these institutions receive time from the government for reform, they often embezzle the school property before the school business ends.

The unions are accusing private school boards of dismissing teachers and leaving students without education, while profiting from government help through public funds. “In some cases, they even close the school deliberately to accelerate the process of asset liquidation,” said a joint press statement by NTA and THE Union.