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Mayor Attends Quasi-Public Kindergarten Accreditation Press Conference

s Quasi-Public Kindergarten Mayor Ko Wen-je attended the Taipei City Quasi-Public Kindergarten Accreditation Press Conference on July 25 and said that the issue of low birth rate has become a national security problem. However, he believes that the challenge will not be solved with childbirth subsidies alone, because procreation, upbringing, and education are a continuous process; the country, therefore, should think about how to assist young expecting parents.

According to Ko, it is impractical to advocate the concept of "let the country raise your children" because the government simply does not have the money to do so. Nonetheless, the concept of "let's raise children together" is much more feasible; after all, children are the future of our nation, and each child should be regarded as ‘our child,’ and raised through a public-private partnership.

The mayor mentioned that the principle of wealth exclusion will be applied to social welfare policies, because for wealthy households with an income tax rate of above 20%, their children can afford to go to bilingual kindergartens. Therefore the government should focus on the problem of kindergarten for the masses.

Consequently, Taipei City Government has implemented several policies; the first involves 100% public special education kindergartens because the private sector and NPOs are not interested in special education kindergartens, hence the government should take full responsibility. For instance, he said that some special education students with developmental delays are unable to proceed to grade 1 of elementary school after finishing kindergarten, and the situation should be resolved by the government.

Mayor Ko commented that public kindergartens have reached a certain threshold, thus new not-for-profit kindergartens should be encouraged. Despite the increasing number of public and not-for-profit kindergartens, many parents are still unable to send their children to public kindergartens. He recently saw a YouTube video documenting the contrasting emotions between parents who were lucky enough to win the public kindergarten lottery and those who are less fortunate.

Mayor Ko indicated that the Department of Education (DOE) has recently conducted a survey to investigate parents' level of satisfaction towards kindergartens, and the results reveal that they are very happy with the current public, not-for-profit, and private kindergartens, suggesting that the parents are satisfied with the quality of kindergartens. The most significant difference between public and private kindergartens is price, which is why parents who fail to win the public kindergarten lottery seem distraught. Therefore, the city government began contemplating ways to make private kindergartens more affordable for the parents, or at least reduce the price difference between public and private kindergartens.

According to the mayor, the city government hopes to create a culture of diversity and openness. Therefore he expects private kindergartens to maintain their diversified teaching methods, and the city government will find ways to subsidize them so that the parents’ burden will be alleviated. The current approach is to offer a subsidy of NT$2,500, NT$3,500, and NT$4,500 for public, not-for-profit, and quasi-public kindergartens respectively. The price discrepancy is not so significant, approximately NT$1,000 to NT$2,000, which is considered a more acceptable price range for the parents.

Mayor Ko observed that public kindergartens close at 16:00; therefore in a grand scheme of things the overall prices are more or less comparable. He also knows that parents in Taipei City are pleased with the quality of private kindergartens, with the price being the only exception. With the government’s subsidy, more private kindergartens will be able to operate like quasi-public kindergartens. This is the ultimate objective of the city government.

He expressed that as far as Taipei City Government is concerned, those who are willing to transform into quasi-public kindergartens will be given a subsidy of up to NT$1.2 million per kindergarten for hardware improvement. Therefore, as of September this year, there will be 153, 37, and 89 public, not-for-profit, and quasi-public kindergartens respectively. By then, 53% of the children in Taipei City will be able to enroll in the so-called quasi-public system. The government’s goal is to reach 70%, so more private kindergartens will be encouraged to make the transition to quasi-public kindergartens in the future.

While attending the accreditation ceremony, Mayor Ko commented that he is grateful for the private kindergartens’ willingness to support the city government’s public-private partnership policy. He believes that after they are opened, the kindergartens will fill up in no time because everyone is satisfied with the quality. The only aspect they find unsatisfactory is price, therefore as long as the price difference is minimized, people will still come to these kindergartens.

Mayor Ko also thanked his colleagues from the DOE for their hard work. Under the leadership of Commissioner Tsan-chin Tseng, colleagues from the DOE were responsible for raising funds and communicating with private kindergartens; since each kindergarten is granted a maximum subsidy of NT$1.2 million, they must also contemplate how the subsidies are granted. He remarked that a great deal of effort is required to support each policy, therefore it is hoped that the ultimate objective of ‘let's raise children together’ will materialize through everyone’s effort.