The National Federation of Education Unions (全教產) held a press conference at the Legislative Yuan this morning (01/24) calling for better benefits for substitute and acting teachers.

The representatives from the National Federation of Education Unions stated that many foreign English teachers and native, full-time teachers received many benefits that substitutes did not. These include certain bonuses and payed-vacations.

The Taiwanese government is currently attempting to ramp up recruitment of foreign teachers for its push to become bilingual by 2030. This has been severely stymied by the COVID pandemic and arguably the governments’ inability, or unwillingness, to process new migrants while adequately maintaining quarantine. It has additionally been undermined by the level of benefits they are willing to provide. However, it is no excuse to leave non-permanent teachers behind.

The true crux of the matter is that in a culture that boisterously claims that one of its primary focuses is academics, teachers in Taiwan are often forgotten. Only about 86,000 of Taiwan’s teacher are in a union, about 100,000 less than Australia, which boasts a population of essentially equal size. When many teachers lack representation, whether those teachers are full-time or not, it is much more difficult for them to organize and ensure that they acquire the benefits they deserve. This also trickles down to the students and the education that they receive.

Foreign teachers are often perceived as being treated better than native teachers. However, they too are often swindled out of benefits and vacation that they are entitled too, just as their Taiwanese counterparts are. This is especially true of private institutions. However, parsing who is the more slighted group is not really worth the effort as it distracts from the true issue at hand, which is that ALL teachers should be adequately compensated, as that leads to the best results for the workers and students alike.

All teachers, both domestic and foreign, should be entitled to a strong, consolidated union. This should not depend on whether they are full or part-time, Taiwanese or migrant. They should all be able to organize under one banner and permitted to work together to redress their graveness as a cohesive unit, as opposed to being splintered.

If Taiwan truly values its education and its students, then it will support its teachers and their right to organize. This is the only way to adequately support educators, and thus the only way that students will get the pre-eminent level of education that they are entitled to.