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September 26, 2017

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Jobless teachers threaten mass sit-in in mid-July

Following their march in Taipei yesterday, people trained as teachers but who cannot get teaching jobs vowed to staged another massive protest in July if the government fails to answer to their demands.

Close to 2,000 people who completed teacher training programs took to the streets to demand that the government provide more jobs in education, saying the Ministry of Education (MOE) should not use Taiwan's steadily falling birthrate as an excuse to cut their work opportunities.

The protesters, mostly recent college graduates, marched from the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park to the MOE building and the Legislative Yuan to present their petitions.

They unfurled banners reading "Save our Education," "Save one Missile, Hire 1,000 Teachers," and "Invest in Education, Don't Increase Defense Budget."

The protesters have earned the nickname as "vagabond teachers" because although they are fully equipped with official teaching qualifications, they have to crisscross the island every year to take part in the recruiting examinations held by various schools,

Two MOE officials received representatives of the protesters and promised to reduce the number of trained teachers by more than 50 percent in the next three years.

But the protesters were not satisfied.

They plan to urge more "vagabond teachers" to come out in force and stage a massive sit-in right in front of the MOE building in mid-July if the government fails to respond to their other demands before Wednesday.

More of the jobless teachers will be available after they finish all recruiting exams by the middle of next month.

While the protesters pushed their cause in the demonstration, nearly 10,000 people took a test to fill only 96 vacancies at Taipei public primary schools for the new semester, which starts in September.

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Protest organizers said that their other major demands include using the income taxes to be collected from teachers exclusively for education in the budget programs; increasing the number of teachers in elementary and junior high schools and implementing small-class programs to create more openings for qualified teachers; adopting standards for teachers' pedagogical performance and ethical principles so that unqualified teachers can be replaced; and making public the number of openings for elementary school and junior high school teachers before holding the recruiting exams,

Taiwan's birthrate dropped to a record low of 1.2 last year, down from 3.71 in 1971 and 7.04 in 1951. The rate measures the average number of times a woman gives birth.

Sociologists say a rising number of Taiwan couples are having only one child in an attempt to have a better quality of life, and for fear they could not afford the high costs of raising and educating more children due to soaring educational costs.

As a result, new student admissions at primary schools have dropped steadily and hit a record low of 280,000 last year. The figure is expected to drop further to about 200,000 in 2010.

The protesters said authorities have continued to train large numbers of teachers in recent years, resulting in high unemployment among the estimated 60,000 potential teachers, who have finished special teachers' training but failed to find jobs.

The government's policy of breaking the monopoly of "normal schools" prompted colleges and universities around Taiwan to churn out qualified teachers, the number of unemployed teachers continues growing.

The protesters said they are forced to take the street after the MOE repeatedly ignored their plight.

MOE officials are reluctant to accept most of the protesters' demands, stressing that all the people should abide by the rules of the "free market mechanism."

Yet lawmakers of both the ruling Democratic Progressive Party and the opposition People First Party backed the protesters' demands.

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