The National Teachers’ Association (NTA) of Taiwan is concerned about the installation of surveillance cameras in early childhood education schools. It argues for more effective action against important preoccupations.
The union’s comments follow the release of statistics by Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare in 2019. These statistics show 4,943 child abuse incidents caused by parents/foster parents at home. They also show 89 child abuse incidents caused by preschool teachers/caregivers. These are mostly found in private ECE institutions which are on the government’s watch list for multiple violations of related regulations.
According to Su Yi-Chih, the Chief Coordinator of the NTA International Affairs Department, “it is heart-breaking to have incidents of child harassment or abuse occurring in homes or schools”. NTA believes that, if the problem is to be addressed, the learning and teaching environment has to be seriously examined in cooperation with the union. Where cameras have been installed, the situation has not improved. She gave a concrete example where, “a 24‐hour online monitoring system did not work to prevent tragedy as security companies claimed, but did put more pressure on teachers and caregivers, as well as breaking the long‐term trust between schools and parents”.
Cameras will not correct or ease the problem, although they may ease some of the political pressure from an angry public. The approach needs to be human and not purely technological.
Cameras proposed as the only solution
Calls are made for surveillance cameras to be installed in all ECE schools each time the media shows video footage of a suspected scene before or even during formal investigations, according to the union. Whether cameras are to be used to acquire evidence or just for clarification, their use could appear to be their only solution as they are always proposed by the government and legislators to ease the social anger at allegations.
According to Su Yi Chih, “ECE plays a crucial role in children’s cognitive and emotional development in terms of education. It is a significant element in shaping one’s social relationships and personality. Bilateral and multilateral trust among children, teachers, caregivers, and parents are the fundamental basis for quality ECE. Unlike at other education levels, preschool children need and receive intensive care and attention rather than formal classroom teaching because the principal goal of ECE is to help children to adjust to group life and further systematic learning, namely primary education.”
“We can easily imagine, as we ourselves experience parenting at home, how much pressure the ECE teachers and caregivers are going through every day at school, where the teacher-caregiver/children ratio is often one to eight, 15 or even 24,” she also said. “Without trust in their profession and support for decent working conditions for them, no quality ECE could exist.”
Poor working conditions in private preschools
To meet the needs of working parents, private preschool teachers and caregivers are required to provide care services as early as 7a.m. until 7p.m., often without support, respect, or basic trust from parents, school management, and the public, she added.
In some instances, ECE teachers and caregivers have been treated poorly, reflected in their poor working conditions, lengthy working hours, high turnover rates and demands, coupled with low wages, benefits, and social status, said Su Yi-Chih.
In addition, she stressed that profit‐driven preschools tend to employ many unqualified teachers with “insufficient teaching experience and no formal certification in ECE”.
All these factors combined have resulted in a working environment where teachers and caregivers suffer intense stress and have difficulty coping with the many performance expectations and demands placed on them.
Unfortunately, when incidents and allegations of abuse arose school management took no responsibility and shifted it to teachers/caregivers, she said. As the prepared to open preschools elsewhere, they gave apologies that the union described as “hypocritical”. Parents were left “sad and often outraged” but “only vague responses” were made by the government, according to Su Yi-Chih.
Child-centred policies and practices vital for quality ECE
Explaining that “children are our future and deserve quality public education”, she underlined that “NTA has always maintained a strong stance on child-centred public ECE policies”.
At the same time, continuous monitoring by government authorities via regular inspections in private preschools is clearly important in terms of preventing abuses of children, she insisted.
The NTA demands that all ECE stakeholders should seriously reconsider what preschool children really need for better development and what kind of support teachers/caregivers require accordingly, with the aim to achieve quality ECE.