Primary and Secondary Education in Taiwan

Find out about the school system in Taiwan, from pre-primary to secondary education...

The education system in Taiwan is made of up to 14 years of schooling:

  • Two years of pre-school education
  • Six years of elementary (primary) school; grades one to six
  • Three years of junior high school; grades seven to nine
  • Three years of senior high school, or vocational education; grades ten to twelve

Beyond this, students can spend from four to seven years studying at a college or university. They can then continue for up to four years doing a master’s degree and a further two to seven years to achieve a doctorate.

Currently it is compulsory for all children to attend school for nine years: six years of elementary school education and three years in junior high school. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education is preparing to enforce 12 years of compulsory education in 2014. This will be made up of the current nine years and a further three years of senior high or vocational education. Both senior high school and vocational education provide three years of study; vocational courses are provided in subjects such as industry, commerce, agriculture, home economics, nursing and midwifery, marine studies and the arts.

Pre-school education for children between the ages of two and six is not compulsory in Taiwan, but the majority of parents choose to have their children attend a kindergarten. Once a child reaches the age of six they are required to begin school. During the first two years, grades one and two, children attend school for half days. After six years of primary school education children leave with an elementary school diploma. There is no test to enter junior high school. Three years of junior high school earns a child their junior high school diploma and signals the end of compulsory education.

Secondary Education

The Five-Year Junior College System

At the end of junior high school students wanting to follow the technological and vocational path can opt to attend a junior college programme lasting five years. The education offered here is generally considered to be equivalent to three years of high school and two years of college level study. Students graduate with both a high school and a junior college diploma.

Senior high school and the Basic Competency Test

Senior high school education prepares 15 to 18 year olds for the Joint University Entrance Exam (JUEE). Children are also encouraged to participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities; doing so will help them with university admission. Students are also required to do a military education class where they learn about national defence, military drills, civil defence and basic firearms training. Despite it not being compulsory, 97.6 percent of students attended senior high school in the 2009–10 school year.

Entrance to senior high schools has traditionally been based on a child’s scores in the Basic Competency Test (BCT), which is taken at the end of junior high school. The score achieved determines which senior high school a child is eligible to attend. Separate exams are taken by children wishing to attend a vocational school. There is currently a move to change the entrance procedure to a more varied approach, including recommendations from teachers and a child’s performance throughout junior high school. At the moment the examination remains very important, with many children attending special cramming classes to improve their chances. Many schools offer extra, examination-oriented classes at times outside the standard school day and in the school holidays.

The BCT covers five subjects: Chinese, English, social science, mathematics and natural science. The examination includes a series of multiple-choice questions and each student is awarded an overall mark out of 300.