As was the case in traditional China, teachers in modern Taiwan enjoy (even if only residually) a favored position as an elite class. In Taiwan, the term laoshi, (teacher) denotes a scholar who is entrusted with and responsible for the moral and instructional training of young people. One important symbolic indication of the respect that teachers continue to command in Taiwanese society is the fact that Teachers' Day (an official holiday every September 28) also commemorates the birthday of Confucius. Particularly during the last half-century, educators and theorists in Taiwan have wrestled with the conflicting desires of wanting to help usher in modernized techniques in pedagogy while simultaneously seeking to find ways of connecting new generations of students with the Confucian ethical past.
Since the installation of the nine-year compulsory program (with its free three years at the junior high or middle school level), Taiwan has experienced a critical shortage of teachers. Conventionally, teachers for the compulsory section of the educational programs were recruited through the junior college, normal college, and university systems, which meant the new teachers had to be certified. However, the shortages have at times been so extreme that college and university graduates have been solicited, with the result that certification has become less consistent. Ironically, the recent success of Taiwan's economy and an average unemployment rate of less than three percent per year for the last decade have also exacerbated the teacher shortage in Taiwan. Both may well be decisive factors in dissuading graduates from pursuing careers in education in favor of more lucrative finance, business, and industry careers. Guaranteed government retirement plans and insurance benefits have helped only marginally in recruiting teachers to help overcome this shortage. In short, as is the case in the industrialized West, the teaching profession in Taiwan has become increasingly regarded as a "thankless" one to be pursued as a last resort, especially because, in light of their educational attainment, teachers are not well paid.
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