A Perspective of Technology Education in Taiwan, Republic of China
A BRIEF REVIEW OF TAIWAN'S EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM
The Republic of China was founded in
1911 and moved its seat of government from
mainland China to Taiwan in 1949. Situated
in the far western Pacific, Taiwan covers an
area of 36,000 square kilometers (about .38
percent of the area of the USA) and has a
population of 20 million. Its population
density--556 persons per square kilometer--is
one of the highest in the world and is over
20 times the population density of the USA.
The absence of rich natural resources man-
dates that the Taiwanese workforce be highly
productive in order that industry may be com-
petitive; hence, a comprehensive educational
system is needed to effectively develop pro-
ductive abilities of the dense population.
The core of today's educational system
in Taiwan (see Figure 1) is the nine-year
compulsory national education program ("Kuo
Ming Chiao Yu"). This includes a six-year
elementary school and a three-year junior
high school. Beyond these schools are two
parallel three-year institutions--a senior
high school and a senior vocational school.
Junior college education assumes three pat-
terns: two-year, three-year, and five-year
programs. University programs last four to
seven years, depending on variations within
departments. Technical colleges offer two
kinds of program: a two-year program for jun-
ior college graduates and a four-year
FIGURE 1. Structure of the educational sys-
NOTE: From Ministry of Education, 1989a, p.9.
program for senior vocational school gradu-
ates. At the graduate level, the minimum
length of study for a master's degree is two
years, with an additional two years as the
minimum required to earn a doctorate. En-
trance examinations are required for admis-
sion to schools beyond the level of the
nine-year compulsory education (Lin, 1985).
In the 1988-89 school year, the percent-
age of children of elementary-school age en-
rolled in school was 99.9 percent; the
percentage of elementary-school graduates en-
tering junior high school was 99.1 percent;
the percentage of junior high graduates en-
tering senior secondary school was 79.5 per-
cent, and 45.5 percent of senior secondary
graduates advanced to higher education
(Ministry of Education, 1989b).
CURRICULUM IN TRANSITION
In Taiwan, curricula for elementary,
junior high, and senior high schools are
promulgated by the Ministry of Education.
Curriculum standards for all levels of school
are revised about every 10 years. Revision
is made by subcommittees. The members, ap-
pointed by the Ministry of Education, are
curriculum specialists, teacher educators,
classroom teachers, and administrators.
According to current junior high and
senior high curriculum standards(1) (Ministry
of Education, 1983a & 1983b), which were
promulgated in July 1983 and have been imple-
mented since August 1984, students in grades
7 to 11 must select either industrial arts
("Kung I"), or home economics with a two-hour
weekly study (a regular week is 32 to 39
hours). Schools usually assign boys to in-
dustrial arts programs and girls to home eco-
nomics. Some elective courses pertaining to
industrial arts, like drafting, metalworking,
and electronics shop, are also provided at
both junior and senior high levels, but they
are more vocational-oriented (characterized
by "learning for earning") than the required
industrial arts (characterized by "learning
As shown in Tables 1 (Ministry of Educa-
tion, 1983a) and 2 (Ministry of Education,
1983b), the objectives and content of indus-
trial arts education in Taiwan is undoubtedly
industry-based and technology-oriented. Its
curriculum focus is in transition from tradi-
tional industrial arts to contemporary tech-
nology education and its content categories
1 At the elementary level, industrial arts
is a component of the broad-study subject
"craft work" which consists of drawing,
sculpture, design, industrial arts,
horticulture, and home-making.
seem to mix broad occupational areas (like
woodworking) with industry clusters (like the
A SUMMARY OF THE OBJECTIVES AND CONTENT OF
INDUSTRIAL ARTS CURRICULUM IN TAIWAN
Objectives Content (allocated weeks)
1.To help students to understand 1. Introduction to
traditional and contemporary Industrial Arts (2)
industrial civilization 2. Blueprint Reading and
recognize their local industrial Planning (6)
status and trends. 3. Ceramics Shop (5)
2.To provide students with career 4. Woodworking (15)
exploration opportunities to 5. Plastics Shop (5)
discover their interests and 6. Metalworking (15)
abilities in the field of 7. Electricity Shop (7)
industrial technology 8. Graphic Communi-
3.To develop students' necessary cation (4)
knowledge, skills, and attitudes 9. Construction and
for living in the industrial Livelihood (9)
society. 10. Manufacturing Industry
4.To foster students' cooperative (12)
industrious, gregarious, and 11. Information Industry
enthusiastic personalities. (6)
5.To develop students' consumer 12. Audio-visual
skills and knowledge. Communication (7)
6.To foster students' habits 13. Energy and Power (7)
to coordinate doing and think-
ing and ideas about dignity and
equality in working.
The implementation of industrial arts
curriculum standards has led to the following
o Industrial Arts Equipment Standards are
promulgated by the Ministry of Education
after each curriculum standard revision
to set up the minimum requirements of in-
dustrial arts facility and equipment.
o Junior-high industrial arts textbooks are
compiled and printed by the National In-
stitute of Compilation and Translation,
an institution of the Ministry of Educa-
tion. Commercial senior-high industrial
arts textbooks also have to be approved
by the institute.
A SUMMARY OF THE OBJECTIVES AND CONTENT OF
INDUSTRIAL ARTS CURRICULUM IN TAIWAN
Objectives Content (implemented grade)
1.To introduce students to 1. Project Planning and
industrial technology knowledge Drafting (grade 10)
and foster industrial skills 2. Industrial Materials
for their industrialized living (grade 10)
and advanced studies. 3. Energy Industry (grade
2.To ignite students' interests 10)
of design and creation, provide 4. Information Industry
them with career exploration (grade 11)
opportunities in the field of 5. Automation (grade 11)
industrial technology, and
encourage them to do research
3.To develop students' appropriate
working habits and attitudes.
o Sponsored by the Ministry of Education or
the departments/bureaus of education in
provincial/special municipal governments,
a variety of in-service teacher training
programs are provided for industrial
arts; almost all the enrollments of these
training programs are free of charge.
o Through the recognition of outstanding
industrial arts teachers, the annual con-
vention, publications, etc., the Chinese
Industrial Arts Education Association de-
votes its energies to the improvement of
industrial arts education at all levels.
o The JOURNAL OF INDUSTRIAL ARTS EDUCATION,
edited by the Department of Industrial
Arts Education at National Taiwan Normal
University, is disseminated monthly, free
of charge, to secondary schools and other
institutions pertaining to industrial
o Funded by the Ministry of Education or
the departments/ bureaus of education in
provincial/special municipal governments,
serial publications and teaching aids are
often provided for industrial arts teach-
o An industrial arts consultative team,
composed of industrial arts teachers,
supervisors, and principals, is organized
at every county and city to serve junior
high industrial arts teachers.
o The yearly industrial arts project exhi-
bition and/or student contest is/are re-
spectively held at county/city and
province/special municipality levels.
There are two university departments of
industrial arts education in Taiwan, one at
the National Taiwan Normal University and the
other at the National Kaohsiung Normal Uni-
versity. Each provides both pre-service and
in-service secondary school teacher training
programs. In terms of the pre-service pro-
gram, students are admitted following suc-
cessful performance on the yearly College
Joint Entrance Examination (CJEE) adminis-
tered to graduating senior-high students.
During their five-year period of study in the
program, students enjoy a four-year tuition
waiver and living expenses in their universi-
ties. One additional year is spent in sec-
ondary schools in a teaching internship. In
recent years, there have been around 100
graduates annually from these two departments
of industrial arts education. Faculty mem-
bers in these two departments have plenty of
chances to devote themselves to a variety of
efforts to improve industrial arts education.
PROBLEMS FACING TECHNOLOGY EDUCATION
A problem refers to "a significant dis-
crepancy between an existing degree or amount
of a characteristic ['to be' or the actual]
and a preferred degree or amount of that
characteristic ['ought to be' or the ideal]"
(Friedman, Brinlee, & Hayes, 1980, p. 16).
Today's industrial arts education in Taiwan
has the following problems which are listed
in a descending order of priority.
INDUSTRIAL ARTS IS SEEN AS A SUBORDINATE SUB-
Since both the entrance examinations for
senior high school and college/university ad-
missions are very competitive(2) and indus-
trial arts is not included in the required
subjects for these examinations, most par-
ents, principals, teachers, and even students
in secondary schools see industrial arts as a
subordinate, unworthy subject.
THE PUBLIC'S PERCEPTIONS ARE NOT ALIGNED WITH
The current name of industrial arts
"Kung I" was translated from American "indus-
trial arts" in the 1950s, but the term "Kung
I" has been used in Chinese society for thou-
sands of years. "Kung I", in early Chinese
language, referred to polytechnic or technol-
ogy, but, has been widely seen as the equiv-
alent of handicraft after the introduction of
western ways into China at the turn of this
century. Hence, it is difficult for profes-
sionals in the field of industrial arts edu-
cation to communicate the ideas of this field
to the public.
Coupled with the public's perceptions,
the educational administrators admitted nu-
merous personnel who majored in fine arts or
related disciplines to be QUALIFIED indus-
trial arts teachers in the late 1960s. Many
of these so-called "industrial arts
teachers," especially those who have been un-
willing to attend in-service teacher training
programs, have opposed the development of
technology-oriented industrial arts educa-
SOME DRAWBACKS EXIST IN THE PROMULGATION OF
Based on Lee's studies (1986, 1987, &
1988), some drawbacks of the centralized in-
dustrial arts curriculum standards have been
2 In 1988, for example, 112,327 applicants
took the College Joint Entrance Examina-
tion (CJEE) and only 37,929 (33.76 per-
cent of the total applicants) were
admitted to one of the day-session pro-
grams in colleges or universities.
o The revision interval is too long, so the
standards are unable to promptly reflect
o The standards lack flexibility, so they
are unable to meet differences in school
districts and students.
o Its decision-making process is too
o Its process leans toward an arbitrary
judgment because few related professional
inquiries such as situation analysis, ex-
periments, and follow-ups have been done.
MANY TEACHERS DEVIATE FROM THE CURRICULUM
Admittedly, the implementation of cur-
riculum standards mainly depends upon the
teacher's instruction. It is evident that
industrial arts teachers' instruction in
Taiwan has widely deviated from the ideal
curriculum prescribed by the curriculum
standards. The deviation could be a desira-
ble modification based upon critiques of the
curriculum standards, but unfortunately al-
most all deviation has led in a worse direc-
tion (Lee, 1987). The two predominate
factors to cause the deviation are:
TEACHERS' INDIFFERENCE. As mentioned
above, industrial arts has not been a subject
required by the entrance examinations of sen-
ior high schools and colleges/universities.
Lacking serious supervision and desirable ex-
pectations, many industrial arts teachers are
dull or unable to reflect curriculum change
in their teaching. Especially, the thirteen
sub-categories of junior high industrial arts
curriculum, mixing broad occupational areas
with industry clusters, are really too great
to be managed well.
TEACHERS' OVERLOAD. At present, each
industrial arts teacher is confronted by
large class sizes, averaging 46 students, and
about 23 teaching hours per week (more than
the hours of most teachers teaching other
subjects). The overload leads them to often
"cut the feet to fit the shoes," i.e. trim
instructional activities to what they can
When industrial arts had its name
changed from "Arbeit" (German word meaning
"work") in the early 1960s, Wang (1960), who
was the director of the Department of Second-
ary Education, Ministry of Education and in
charge of curricular revision for secondary
schools at that time, cited the following
Chinese fable to claim the appropriate posi-
tion of industrial arts in general education.
In the past, an expert in general edu-
cation, who thought the 3R's--READING,
WRITING, and ARITHMETIC were the whole
of general education, hired a boat to
pass a river. While the boat was
crossing the river, he chatted away to
the boatman. First, he asked, "Can you
read?" The boatman answered, "No." He
told the boatman, "You lost one third
of your life." He then asked if the
boatman could write; the boatman's an-
swer was also negative. "You lost two
thirds of your life.", said the expert.
After a moment, the boat was in the
middle of the river and the wind made
the boat pretty unstable. The boatman
asked the expert, "Can you SWIM?" The
expert answered, "No" with fear. The
boatman complacently said, "If the boat
turns over, you will lose the whole of
your life." (p. 9)
The fable indicates that descriptive,
prescriptive, and formal knowledge (which can
be linked to the 3R'S) is not sufficient
learning for general education; praxiological
knowledge (which can be linked to SWIMMING)
has to also be offered in schools (Towers,
Lux, & Ray, 1966). Admittedly, since indus-
trial arts education in Taiwan was greatly
influenced by the USA in the 1950s,(3) it has
appropriately been seen as an action-based
study of functional literacy (like swimming
in the above fable) in general education.
Owing to the preceding problems, however, in-
dustrial arts education is still "swimming up
3 In 1953, under some American specialists'
assistance, the Department of Industrial
Education at Provincial Taiwan Normal
College (now National Taiwan Normal Uni-
versity) was founded in Taipei, Taiwan.
Since that time, American industrial arts
theory and practice has been widely in-
troduced into Taiwan through frequent ex-
changes of Sino-America professional
personnel and literature.
FUTURE EFFORTS: FOCUS ON CURRICULUM CHANGE
In accordance with the plan to extend
the nine-year compulsory national education
to 12 years in the 1990s, the industrial arts
curriculum standards are expected to be re-
vised in the coming two years and the stu-
dent's formative performance on all subjects
in junior high school could be considered as
the criteria to admit him/her to his/her pre-
ferred senior high or senior vocational
school. This appears to be a good opportu-
nity for professionals in this field to re-
name industrial arts, develop a progressive
philosophy, reconstruct industrial arts cur-
riculum, and win the public's support for in-
dustrial arts education.
Under a centralized strategy, industrial
arts education in Taiwan is required for stu-
dents (mainly, boys) in grades 7 to 11. In
the process of transition and characterized
by the industrial-base and technology-
orientation, current industrial arts curric-
ulum mixes traditional "industrial arts" with
contemporary "technology education."
Although a variety of support from gov-
ernmental institutions for industrial arts
education is evident, today's industrial arts
education in Taiwan is still struggling with
many problems which are mainly caused by the
public's weak support. It is anticipated
that the coming curriculum standards revision
may effect a profound improvement upon indus-
trial arts education.
Lung-Sheng Lee is Associate Professor, De-
partment of Industrial Arts Education, Na-
tional Taiwan Normal University. He wishes
to thank Dr. Michael L. Scott and Dr. E.
Keith Blankenbaker for their comments on an
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Journal of Technology Education Volume 2, Number 1 Fall 1990