A young married music teacher works at a high school in Taitung County, while her husband works at the Taiwan Power Co’s branch office in Nantou County’s Shueili Township (水里). The teacher wants to transfer to a school in Nantou so that the couple would no longer live apart, but she has requested a transfer for three consecutive years without a response.
Every city and county has experienced a surplus of teachers as classes have been cut due to the falling national birthrate. Education bureaus go to great lengths just to distribute local teachers fairly.
Concerned over the teacher surplus, primary and secondary schools are not hiring even if they have vacancies, which makes it difficult for teachers whose quality of life would benefit from obtaining a transfer.
The recruitment of teachers is mostly in the hands of the teachers on schools’ evaluation committees. To protect themselves and other teachers at their schools, most committee members are unwilling to fill vacancies unless there is a surplus of local teachers. In that case, they would reluctantly hire a teacher following negotiations between the local education bureau and all school principals.
Committee members should be charitable, as they might someday need a transfer. If all schools close their doors, transfers become impossible.
Why are evaluation committees unwilling to authorize school principals to fill vacancies? In the past, surplus teachers transferred from other schools often performed poorly and many parents complained about them.
Some primary and secondary schools with a surplus of teachers might have intentionally transferred incompetent teachers to other schools. This practice of passing along incompetent teachers highlights the failure of primary and secondary schools to rehabilitate local teachers. The teacher evaluation and hiring systems is seriously flawed, and education authorities should not simply sit back and watch it happen.
Compared with civil servants who can transfer to other agencies that have vacancies, schools are unwilling to take a chance on recruiting transferred teachers because they worry about classes being cut and a surplus of teachers. They tend to only hire substitute teachers on temporary contracts.
As a result, teachers can no longer get a straightforward transfer. Some are even separated from their loved ones, which keeps them from concentrating on their teaching. The education sector is supposed to be a model industry, leading society by example, but systemic flaws have turned it into something selfish and uncharitable.
As more classes are cut each year, many hardworking substitute teachers are forced to leave, and other teachers remain separated from their families. This is regrettable, but nothing is as disappointing as seeing selfishness spread across the education sector.
Chen Chi-nung is the principal of Shueili Junior High School in Nantou County.
Translated by Eddy Chang
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