Details on cram school background checks for foreigners finalized

Foreign nationals applying for cram schools in Taiwan will now need a criminal record check from their country of origin

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Judge's gavel. (PublicDomainPictures.net)

Judge's gavel. (PublicDomainPictures.net)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The government this week finalized the details of the background check on foreign nationals that is part of a new law geared at tightening the requirements for both foreign and Taiwanese teachers applying to work at cram schools, also known as "buxiban" (補習班), in Taiwan.

In addition to requiring that Taiwanese teachers submit police criminal record certificates (警察刑事紀錄證明書), the Supplementary Education Act (補習及進修教育法) Article 9 was amended on June 14 to require a "certificate of good conduct" (行為良好證明) for foreigners applying to work at cram schools in Taiwan.

In an interview with Taiwan News, an official from the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) said that a certificate of good conduct will go by different names in different countries, but essentially is a document proving that an applicant does not have a record of criminal offenses. He also said that the certificate must apply nationwide, not just from a specific region, and confirmed that in the case of the United States, this would be the FBI Identity History Summary. According to the FBI's website, the processing time for such a form is currently 10 to 12 weeks, not including time for mail delivery.

The law went into effect on June 16 and any foreign teacher who has applied since that date or is still in the process of completing an application for a cram school that began before that date, must provide the certificate of good conduct, according to the WDA official. For those who are concerned about which schools and teachers are affected by the new law, the official clarified that it does not apply to other types of schools beyond buxibans and teachers already working at cram schools will not be required to submit the background check document. 

The new background check for foreign nationals only applies in the following circumstances:

  1. Cram schools only, not other types of schools.
  2. Teachers applying for cram schools for the first time, not teachers already working at cram schools. 
  3. Teachers who have applied since June 16 or have yet to complete their application process from an earlier date.

As for the requirements of the background check, the official said that it must have been generated within the past six months. It must prove that the person has no record of criminal offenses. The record itself needs to be printed on the official letterhead of the government agency responsible for generating the report. In the case of the United States, it would be need to be a document printed by the FBI. 

Unlike the application for the Alien Residence Certificate, Alien Permanent Residence Certificate, or naturalization, cram school teachers do not need to have their background check documents verified by the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in their country of citizenship, unless they are from the following 25 countries: Afghanistan, Algeria, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cuba, Ghana, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Senegal, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Syria, The Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia. 

Cram school background check requirements for foreign nationals:

  1. Generated within the past six months.
  2. Proof that there is no record of criminal offenses.
  3. Record for whole country of origin.
  4. Paper version submitted by the relevant government agency on its official letterhead.
  5. Verification by TECO only required for 25 listed countries.

The amendment also requires cram schools to use their teachers' real names in advertising so students and parents could be certain of their identity and nothing is hidden. Violations could result in suspension of student recruitment or even license revocation, according to the bill.

According to a separate regulation that went into effect on November 1, only cram schools that have registered with the government that they will teach language course can hire foreign teachers, and cram schools can only hire foreigners to teach language courses, no other subjects. 

The recent amendments to the laws regulating cram schools and their teachers were precipitated by the widely publicized suicide of the 26-year-old Taiwanese writer Lin Yi-han (林奕含), who in April of this year committed suicide, a decade after allegedly being sexually assaulted by her Taiwanese cram school teacher. Two months prior to taking her own life, Lin had just published a novel about young girl being raped by her cram school teacher.

According to MOE data, there are about 18,000 cram schools and 4,800 foreign teachers at such institutions Taiwan.