14 SES 11 A, Teacher Education and Schooling in Rural Communities Worldwide
Taiwan is a mountainous island, one third of schools are located in remote areas of Taiwan, of which 46% primary schools have less than 50 students and 29% secondary school have less than 100 students. The turnover rate of teachers in remote schools is high in Taiwan, making it difficult to maintain adequate teaching quality. Furthermore, socio-economically and learning disadvantaged students are highly concentrated in those remote schools and their families function poorly, resulting in concentration and amplification effects on the learning performance of disadvantaged students in remote areas. Taiwan has implemented the Education Priority Area program (EPA) since 1996 and Remedial Teaching program since 2006 in order to reduce the regional and socio-economic effects on the learning outcome of disadvantaged students. However, according to the results from PISA and the basic competence test, the achievement gap has widened between urban and rural students over time in Taiwan (OECD, 2013; Sung et al., 2011).
From the perspective of educational policy, the forms of aid programs can be divided according to two logics. The first logic is to provide additional resources that can be allocated to specific groups of students who are expected to benefit from support. The second logic aims to provide help to students through changes in teaching practices and relationships (Suchaut, 2009). The EPA program in Taiwan represents the first logic of aid, while the Remedial Teaching program applies to the second logic which Suchaut mentioned. According to Suchaut, this basic distinction, however, covers a more complex reality since the first logic (allocation of additional resources) is often associated with the second (transformation of the pedagogical framework).
Objective: This paper, based on three case studies of remote schools in Taiwan, aims at understanding schools' strategies and concerns of the implementation of the EPA and Remedial Teaching Programs and analyzing schools' internal and external conditions which could affect these schools' logics of action. In conclusion, we will address the effects of these results on inequalities and policy recommendations will be proposed.
Method: Our research used case study approach involving semi-structured interviews with school administrators, teachers in addition to group interviews with students, and documentary analysis. The research team developed questions for semi-structured interviews and school information sheet for collecting school data. The information collected includes the basic information of the school, the percentage of different categories of disadvantaged students, and the school's grants from government and private organizations. We then selected three rural schools (one elementary and two junior high schools) meeting the EPA program criteria in northern Taiwan. All interviews were recorded and transcribed. Content analysis was undertaken with the help of the software program Atlas.ti.
Results: (1) The allocation of budget depended on schools' perceived importance of basic competence. (2) The planning strategies of EPA and Remedial Teaching programs were dominated by the logic of division of labor and former implementation experiences, however, some schools managed the budget flexibility to adjust the implementation of Remedial Teaching program. (3) The coopetition between different education goals was unfavorable to the implementation of the EPA and Remedial Teaching Program. (4) Teacher teamwork within school and school-based workshops facilitated the educational innovation from bottom-up. (5) Heavy workloads, short of discussion time and insufficient collaboration skills were three main challenges of program implementation. (6) Schools have not found the appropriate way to communicate with parents; it is hard to maintain mutual-trust relationship between schools and parents. Policy recommendations: (1) Providing block funding for remote schools to design a school-based comprehensive program for disadvantaged students. (2) Fostering the development of curriculum leaders and concentrating the program objective on improving the basic competence of disadvantaged students. (3) Establishing the mechanism of discussion between school administrators and teachers and providing resources to scaffold collaborative discussions. (4) Introducing experienced rural teachers and school-based workshop to empower teachers and strengthen their differentiated instruction skills. (5) Encouraging schools to build partnerships with professional educational foundations social welfare associations, in order to provide professional assistance. (6) Successful educational change and good educational performance require improvements in social welfare and economic sectors, it is therefore essential that public sectors support each other to create social capital and mutual trust in order to increase the efficiency of education system.
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