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 in Taipei is highly congested, and travelling can take a long time. On the plus side, public transport in Taipei is fantastic 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 the 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 world's best mathematics and science scores.
On the downside, Taiwanese schools are often criticised for placing too much emphasis on rote learning and not enough on creativity and critical thinking. 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 place where their children can learn in a Chinese-speaking environment while receiving a high standard of education.
International schools in Taipei
Although there are surprisingly few options to choose from, international schools are usually the preferred option for foreigners in Taiwan. 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 attended mainly 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.
Read more about International Schools in Taipei.
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 a mainstream school or 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.
- Special Education Act – Detailed information on Taiwanese law regarding the special education system.
Tutors in Taipei
Tutoring is quite a big industry in Taiwan, especially when it comes to learning languages. After their regular school day, many of the local children attend cram schools, a form of tutoring, but 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 helpful for language classes and help children get up to speed and adjust to their new school curriculum or with particular problem subjects. Sites such as Apprentus and Tutoroo have listings for available tutors in Taiwan. They are good places for expat parents to start searching for a private tutor for their child.
►See International Schools in Taipei for a list of reputable international schools
►Kids and Family in Taipei gives an overview of leisure options for expat children
"Local schools will provide a good education, but your children will be worked to the bone attending them, and emphasis is more on memorisation and test preparation." Read more of Jenna's expat experiences in Taipei.
"Expats can choose between the Taiwanese school system or international schools. International schools are expensive but offer more Western-style education. Since our kids only made it to kindergarten before we left and could speak Chinese, we sent them to a regular school in our neighbourhood." Read more about Nick's thoughts on living in Taipei.
Are you an expat living in Taipei?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Taipei. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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