Technological and Vocational Education

Our government has placed great emphasis on Technological and Vocational Education (TVE), especially in strengthening the ties between TVE and economic development. As a result, TVE has contributed greatly to Taiwan's economic prosperity over the years.

Cultivating Workforce for Promoting Economic Development

Taiwan's economic development has been tightly interwoven with the TVE development (Table 1). The government began to press forward with economic development plans around the 1950s, starting with advancing sweeping changes in agricultural production technologies while actively developing labor-intensive essential goods industries. TVE's primary domain at that time was agriculture- and business-related programs in senior vocational schools, focusing on providing the budding economy with sufficient direly needed entry-level workforces.

In the 1960s Taiwan moved into an expansion period of import-export businesses, witnessing a rapid growth in the number of small and medium enterprises that were, in the industry and business alike, all thirsting for skilled labors. In 1968, Taiwan started the nine-year compulsory education, abolished the junior vocational schools and instead rapidly expanded the senior vocational schools and junior colleges. Also, to meet the needs of advancing scale and quality of industries, the Ministry of Education encouraged private sectors to participate and establish their own schools in these areas to provide even more middle-level labor force.

After the 1970s, Taiwan's traditional industries began the transition into capital- and technology-intensive industries, and the demand for labor, while continue to emphasize on quantity, also started to look into quality. In order to elevate the quality of higher-level technological and vocational education, the Ministry of Education established the first technological college (Taiwan Institute of Technology) which is the forerunner of a now comprehensive TVE system that consists of vocational high schools, junior colleges, and colleges/universities of technology.

At the beginning of the 1980s, the government gradually increased the ratio between senior vocational schools and general high schools, finally reaching the goal of 7:3. The vast amount of graduates from these senior vocational schools supplied the labor requirements of the thirsting industry and allowed Taiwan's economy to quickly expand. By mid-1980s Taiwan faced tremendous pressure from internationalization and open market, and the demand for higher level of technological and business personnel also increased tremendously. The government thus encouraged quality Junior colleges to upgrade to colleges of technology, and those quality colleges of technology were upgraded to universities of technology. Comprehensive high schools (i.e., consisted of curricula for both TVE and general high schools) were added, and the ratio between the number of students in senior vocational high schools (including comprehensive high school TVE programs and the first three years of five-year junior college program) and that of general high schools (including the general part of comprehensive high school programs). By year 2010, this ratio reached 5.5:4.5, which mirrored more closely to the needs of market and time, reflecting a more effective education system.

After 2009, the government began to push the Six Emerging Industries (healthcare, bio-technology, sophisticated agriculture, leisure and tourism, cultural innovation, and green energy), Four Major Smart Industries (cloud computing, intelligent electric cars, intelligent green buildings, and inventions and patents), and Ten Major Services Industries (Cuisine Internationalization, Healthcare Internationalization, Pop Music and Digital Contents, Convention Industry, International Logistics, Innovation and Venture Capital, Urban Renewal, WIMAX, Chinese Electronic Business, and Higher Education Export) – in order to induce R&D innovation, increase the value of industries, and strengthen the competiveness of services sectors. TVE joined these efforts with all its resources to cultivate practical professionals according to their aptitudes and capabilities, so that once again TVE can contribute to the next wave of Taiwan Miracle.

Table 1: Economic Development and TVE Development

Economic Development and TVE Development

The Educational Administrative Structures

The administrative structure for Taiwan's education can be seen in Figure 1. The highest level of the structure is the Executive Yuan; the Ministry of Education is directly beneath it and is responsible for all education-related matters in Taiwan. The Department of Technological and Vocational Education (DTVE) is under the Ministry of Education and is responsible for all TVE matters nationally. DTVE is also directly in charge of -- and supervises – all universities of science & technology, colleges of technology, and Junior colleges. Each of the five Special Municipality Governments in Taiwan has its own Bureau of Education which is in charge of the middle-level TVE within its jurisdiction. The Central-Region Office of the Ministry of Education is in charge of supervising the national senior vocational schools as well as those private vocational high schools that are not within the jurisdiction of Special Municipality Governments. Every county (and city) government has its own Bureau of Education to be in charge of the senior vocational schools as well as the Technical Skills programs within its county (or city) junior high schools within its jurisdiction.

Economic Development and TVE Development

The Current Education System

The current education system (Figure 2) above junior high school level diverts into two major pathways: general education system and TVE system. The TVE system consists of middle-level TVE and higher-level TVE. The middle-level TVE includes the Technical Skills programs in junior high school, senior vocational high schools, Professional Programs in general high schools and/or the vocational programs in comprehensive high schools; the higher-level TVE includes Junior colleges, colleges of technology, and universities of science & technology.

A Brief View of TVE schools

With the government's proactive attention to TVE's development, currently there are 155 senior vocational high schools, 14 junior colleges, and 77 universities/colleges of science & technology, totaling 246. Details are shown in Figure 3.

Economic Development and TVE Development Economic Development and TVE Development

Higher-Level TVE

The higher-level TVE can be classified into two strata of junior colleges and colleges of technology/universities of science & technology.

Junior Colleges

The junior colleges are consisted of two-year and five-year junior colleges. The two-year junior colleges have regular day-time programs and evening (continuing education) programs. Five-year junior colleges, on the other hand, are day programs only. Two-year junior colleges admit students who have diploma (or equivalency) from senior vocational high schools and comprehensive high schools; the five-year junior colleges, on the other hand, admit students with diploma (or equivalency) from junior high schools. In either case, students from junior colleges receive an Associate Degree upon graduation. The currently available 16 departments include industrial work, business, healthcare, marine, language, domestic science, tourism, culinary, etc. The programs use credit system by semester; each school may create its own curriculum according to its special features and directions. The five-year junior college students are required to complete 220 credit hours to graduate, while students in two-year junior colleges are required to complete 80 credit hours. Instructors in these schools are appointed following the same process as universities, but experienced internship practice from the industries may also be recruited as instructors through Regulations Regarding the Selection and Appointment of Specialized Technical Personnel at Junior Colleges.

Junior college graduates may choose to start their own business, seek employment, or to continue education through two-year or four-year programs at universities/colleges of technology, or to take test to become transfer students to regular, non-TVE universities/colleges. Graduates also have the option of obtaining employment for a period of time and then return to higher education as In-Service Education students.

Colleges of Technology and Universities of Science & Technology

Colleges of technology and universities of science & technology are both established according to University Act which was legislated primarily for cultivating highly professional and practical talents. Colleges of technology and universities of technology are both allowed to offer associate, bachelor's, and master's degrees; and universities of technology may offer Ph.D. degrees. The academic requirements for associate degree as well as the sources of students are the same as that of Special Skill schools. Bachelor's degrees are offered through four-year and two-year programs at universities/colleges of technology, both in turn are segmented into day program, continuing education program, and through Colleges of Continuing and Extension Education program (two-year). Each school may set own admission requirements in terms of work experience and seniority at work, etc. for its In-Service Education student programs. In terms of student sources, the four-year programs and two-year junior colleges admit students from senior vocational high schools, comprehensive high schools (or equivalency), the two-year programs admit students from two-year or five-year junior colleges (or equivalency). Students who finish two-year or five-year programs would be granted bachelor degrees.

In terms of curriculum, both two-year and five-year programs use credit system by semester. Four-year programs require student to complete 128 credit hours to graduate while the requirement for two-year programs is 72 credit hours. For graduation, the master's degree program students are required to complete 24 credit hours and a thesis, and the Ph.D. students must complete at least 18 credit hours and a dissertation. Instructors in these schools are recruited following the same process as universities, but professionals with enterprise and practical experiences may also be recruited as instructors through Employment Guidelines for Professional Technicians Teaching at Universities.

The Distinctive Features of Technological and Vocational Education

Compared with other nations around the world, Taiwan's technological and vocational education has the following distinctive features.

Programs and Systems: Comprehensive and Well Rounded

TVE in Taiwan is now a comprehensive system consists of schools ranging from junior highs in compulsory education, senior vocational high schools, Junior colleges, universities/colleges of technology, to graduate schools with master's and Ph.D. programs. The different tracks within the system have been designed with vertical continuity and horizontal flexibility of switching tracks in mind, and the pipelines for recurrent education are also in place, so students and the general public alike may find suitable education opportunities at any stage of their lives. As a result, the number of students who choose to enroll in the TVE system is roughly 49.02% of overall total student enrollment (above junior high level). This separates Taiwan's TVE from the rest of the world.

Private Institutions: Proactive and Excellent

Private institutions are an important force in Taiwan's TVE development, and their presence exceeds that of public institutions. In terms of student enrollment, in 2011 academic year 63.58% of senior vocational school students were private institutions; and the same statistics for Junior colleges was a staggering 80.67%. Private institutions have close connections with industries and enterprises, and their connections allow close match between TVE and market needs.

Programs Diversified and Adaptive

TVE responds the various industry needs and student aptitudes with a diversified academic structure that seeks to provide students with programs that suit their inclinations and abilities but simultaneously meet the demand of the job markets. In addition to senior vocational high schools, Professional programs in general high schools, vocational programs in comprehensive high schools, Junior colleges, and colleges/universities of technology (including graduate programs), the system also includes Technical Skills program in junior highs, Practical Skills programs and cooperative work experience education in senior vocational high schools. There are also continuing education programs in the higher education institutions, In-Service programs, and continuing education schools to meet the needs of non-traditional students. The entire academic structure is flexible and diverse. Besides the traditional agriculture, factory works, and business categories, this academic structure also offer curricula to match the needs of Six Emerging Industries, Ten Major Services Industries, and Four Major Smart Industries which provide students with wide employment opportunities.

Performance Excellence in Industrial-Academic Cooperation

Another emphasis on Taiwan's TVE is on industrial-academic cooperation, trying to match education programs with the needs of industries. The current projects such as The Last Mile, Dual System of Vocational Training Project, and Industrial-Academic Cooperation Plan are aimed to provide students with immediate employment upon graduation and the matching credential to excel at work. The government is also active in pushing industrial-academic cooperation projects in Taiwan's Industrial Parks, encouraging teachers and firms working together to find and work on R&D opportunities, such that a win-win situation can be achieved in practical teaching and increasing firms' competitive advantages. Currently 6 Centers for Regional Industry Academia Cooperation and 12 Joint Technology Development Centers to comprehensively pushing forward industrial-academic cooperation and intellectual property management; their R&D results will then be used in teaching our current and next generation of students.

Practical and Applicable Outcome and Achievements

The fundamental rationale of TVE emphasized teaching practical skills and applicable knowledge. To encourage those who are already excellent in their own crafts to continue their education; students can enter TVE higher education through multiple channels such as by excellent performance in skills or by referrals. Upon admission, the curricula are designed to emphasize projects and learning by doing; and students are strongly encouraged to obtain essential professional certifications. The same strong emphasis is evident in instructor recruitment and retentions. The instructors are required to have practical experiences and professional certificates before been recruited and are assigned to Professional Expert according to their specialties. Teachers may also be promoted by means of their technical reports instead of academic papers. All these examples strongly highlight TVE's focus on practical and applicable contents.

Competitions

"Learning by Doing" is the core feature of TVE schools since practical projects can increase learning effectiveness and help accumulate real-life experiences. Students in all TVE schools have been encouraged to enter international technical skills competitions since 2005, and began in 2010 students are subsided for their airfare for attending competitions abroad to encourage them to participate in international competitions. Recent performance in these competitions by TVE students has been very outstanding, and the design talent of Taiwan's youngsters has received international attention. Furthermore, beginning in 2005, the most exceptional teachers and students in all areas each year are selected and to be presented with Pride of TVE Award – the highest honor awarded in TVE. The finalists of this award are selected from evaluating the honors they received and listed on each school's TVE Showcase website (http://me.moe.edu.tw/award), an award committee then decide the final winners.

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