TAIWAN - Taiwan's government is seeking to ban tuition classes in English and maths for children under six years old, saying the rote-learning method widely used by cram schools adversely affects the mental and physical development of pre-schoolers.
The Cabinet on Thursday approved an amendment to the Supplementary Education Act that could fine cram schools NT$100,000 to NT$500,000 (S$4,300 to S$21,300) for violating the ban. The amendment will have to be passed by the legislature.
"Tuition classes for young children ought to be limited to those focused on play and physical activities, or art and skills," Premier Jiang Yi-huah said.
The move is not targeted at English and maths per se, officials say, but rather the "unhealthy" cram-style learning that characterises the teaching of these subjects at Taiwan's 19,000 cram schools. There is no official estimate on how many children or schools will be affected.
"We don't wish to see children that young being made to sit in rows, stare at blackboards, forced to take notes, write the letter 'A' 100 times and so on," said Ms Chang Pei-yun, an education ministry spokesman.
She said tuition centres could still teach English and maths, but only by incorporating them into singing lessons, for example, or arts and crafts classes.
Under the draft amendment, such courses will have to be approved by the education authorities of local governments.
"To teach kids, you must integrate play, not force them to memorise multiplication tables, the alphabet and phonetics, or take reams of notes when their finger muscles are still not developed," Ms Chang added. "We hope kids can grow up happy and healthy."