Expats may find the lack of English-speaking schools in Taipei surprising. Although they do exist, most of these are either highly religious or one of several expensive international schools.
On the other hand, those open to raising Mandarin-speaking children have many excellent options to choose from, as Taiwanese schools meet high global standards. That said, Western children should be prepared for a more pressured school experience than they may be used to.
Parents should also consider commute times when choosing a school. Traffic is highly congested and travelling can take a long time. On the plus side, public transport in Taipei is excellent and makes it easier for children to make their own way to school.
Both local and international schools in Taipei begin the school year in August or September. The year consists of two semesters; the first semester ends with a break for Chinese New Year and the second ends with a break for summer holidays.
Public schools in Taipei
Education in Taiwan falls under the Ministry of Education, and the system regularly produces students with some of the best mathematics and science scores in the world.
On the downside, Taiwanese schools are often criticised for placing too much emphasis on rote learning and not enough on creativity and independent thought. Students have long days, often attending private 'cram schools' between 4pm and 9pm to improve their English before returning home to do their homework.
When it comes to public schooling, Taiwan is a good choice for expats wanting to move to a country where their children can learn in a Chinese-speaking environment while receiving a high standard of education.
International schools in Taipei
International schools are usually the preferred option for foreigners in Taiwan, although there are surprisingly few international schooling options to choose from. As such, space is often limited and waiting lists can be extensive. Expats should therefore apply well in advance to ensure a place for their child at their preferred school.
International schools in Taiwan are prohibited by law from accepting Taiwanese students who do not hold a second passport. As a result, international schools are mostly attended by expat children. These schools are usually expensive and those moving to Taiwan as part of a corporate relocation should factor school fees into any salary negotiations.
Special-needs education in Taipei
The Taiwan government has a system of inclusion in place for the education of children with disabilities. Most disabled children are educated in mainstream schools with extra assistance in classes, unless their disabilities are too severe. If this is the case, they are either taught in separate classes in the school, or they attend a special school.
Education at special schools and in special needs classes at mainstream schools focuses on providing students with professional skills. Students are also encouraged, through free tuition, to take vocational subjects at senior high level.
Not all schools have the resources to accept disabled children, and expat parents should therefore do some research into this before applying. That said, some international schools in the city have both the facilities and trained teachers to assist all children with their educational needs.
Tutoring in Taipei
Tutoring is quite a big industry in Taiwan, especially when it comes to learning languages. While many of the local children attend cram schools after their regular school day, which is a form of tutoring, there is also a large industry for private and online tutors. Expat children may benefit from private lessons with a Mandarin tutor, while many Taiwanese children have English tutors.
Tutors are not only helpful for language classes but can also help children get up to speed and adjust to their new school curriculum, or with particular problem subjects.
Sites such as MyPrivateTutor, ApprentUs and Tutoroo have listings for available tutors in Taiwan and are good places for expat parents to start searching for a private tutor for their child.