I am posting this because it is hard to find school enrollment info for public schools. My guess is that for 90% of folk, the local public school will take your kid for elementary if they have a visa. However, living in Taipei we’ve discovered that many schools fill up. As foreigners, there is not a great one-stop place to work out these issues, so I thought I would post this here to get others started. We have three children–the oldest is in 3rd grade at a bilingual school–and I had wanted to check out the public school next door before deciding what to do with our kindergarten twins for next year.
We live directly next to Ren’ai Elementary, which we learned is an “overfilled school” 額滿學校. Initially we were told that our kids simply couldn’t attend there and would have to choose one of two other schools in the zone (both a 20-30 minute walk, rather than next door). I went and checked in with the enrollment officer at Ren’ai again—she’s very nice—and she gave me the elementary enrollment people for the education department (Ms. Hsu 台北市教育局承辦新生入學的人員，許婉玉 1999分機6373) . On Friday I went and met with her and a colleague (I just showed up and asked to meet, which probably annoyed them but got me the answers I needed). They talked to me for about a half hour and here’s what I gathered from that.
Things to Know about Public School Enrollment
As background, here’s what I would say:
- I had heard on this forum that foreigners can essentially just enroll at the closest local school, at least for the early grades. This is not true.
- While the English guidelines suggest that schools will have an enrollment plan for foreigners (guidelines 17 and 20 here), this rule supposedly applies only to schools that are seeking out exchange opportunities. Ms. Hsu stressed to me that there is no system for foreigners and the draw works the same for everyone.
- The guideline on the Education Department says that you can enroll your child if there are 35/class. It is outdated. The number is now 29.
- If there is competition for slots, to get into the “drawing” for the school (where an individual school will go through its priority lists and enroll students), foreigners need to go to immigration to get their full record of visas and entries/departures.
+It may also be necessary to go to the local household registry place and confirm your status for the draw and address and get on the school’s drawing list.
+Apparently there are different priorities for schools, which include: low income students, owned/rented housing in the district, when one moved into the current zone, number of children, possibly being a foreigner, etc. I don’t understand the priority lists yet, but will try to post a current list when I do. In the park, someone told me that being a foreigner is still higher priority than having three children.
+Things work differently for public kindergartens—where often a small number of applicants can draw into the school—and for junior high and high school where there’s a whole other series of tests and so on.
+In Taiwan there’s both a Ministry of Education 教育部 (national) and a city Department of Education 教育局. The Department people told me that they manage the registration for the city and that the Ministry isn’t involved. They also said there’s no one in either institution specifically tasked with helping foreigners. You kind of have to figure this out on your own, although finding an intermediary is a good idea.
+Relationships matter a lot. I may have botched things by being a little too pushy. I’ve had people tell me that both principles and teachers can decide to admit you to their class, although I think this may be a relic of earlier ages.
I’ve talked to some parents in our local park, and they helped provide additional info new parents should know:
+If you don’t draw into the preferred school, you will be able to have your kids attend any other school in the zone with openings.
+For elementary school, classes start with four half-days and one full day a week.
+If you want kids to do homework and keep up, they almost always have to go to an afternoon school program and/or do tutoring. Public school is not necessarily a lot cheaper for foreigners because you will also have to find an anqingban or buxiban for the after-class hours.
+Local schools (and even the bilingual schools) assume that parents will work to keep their children up to speed and the onus is on the student to stay up to speed.
+Local school offices are often not used to working with foreigners and will not necessarily know how to help you with enrollment (at Ren’ai, they were friendly but at first told us the twins couldn’t sign up for the waiting list until the start of first grade, when in reality it is possible to get on the list but will require the immigration dept visit and a lot of materials).
+Even for private schools there’s still a lot of variation on how enrollment works. Some definitely require foreigners to draw and at other you can just enroll.
+If you want to do public (or private) school enrollment, pay attention to enrollment deadlines. At many places if you miss the drawing, you can’t go to that school.
So, on reread, this post is a little dramatic. Let me just say that Taiwan’s educational system really is pretty good. There’s also a huge amount of variation from teacher to teacher. As a foreigner, there will probably be things that bother you anywhere (in downtown Taipei, all classes seem to be pretty huge). It will also open up new worlds to you. I feel like my kids have gotten more music and the like in Taipei than they would have in the States. I also feel like I understand the culture, family life, and social questions much better having kids that are in local schools.