Empty classrooms, silent halls: Taiwan’s declining birthrate forces schools to close

Last Updated: June 23, 2024By

Decline of Schools in Taiwan: A Crisis Unfolds


In the heart of Chung Hsing private high school’s courtyard, desks and chairs tower like a forgotten monument. The scene resembles an abandoned bonfire waiting to be lit, covered in heaps of debris. Two workers haul broken furniture from empty classrooms, tossing them into a pickup truck nearby.

This Taipei institution shut its doors in 2019, succumbing to financial woes aggravated by plummeting student numbers. It’s a tale echoing across Taiwan, where a demographic crunch grips educational institutions. Decades of declining births have left classrooms half-empty, a stark contrast to the bustling past.

Taiwan, like much of East Asia, grapples with a population conundrum. The ideal replacement rate of 2.1 babies per woman is a distant dream; instead, Taiwan struggles at a mere 0.865 as of 2023. This demographic shift isn’t just about numbers—it’s reshaping the fabric of society, straining resources and reshaping futures.


Mrs. Lai, a Taipei resident and mother to a 22-month-old, voices the everyday challenges. “Raising a child is costly, both in time and money. It’s tough to imagine a second child without better financial stability and more time,” she shares, reflecting the sentiment of many young families.

Private schools bear the brunt. Less favored than their public counterparts, many face closure. Reports cite dozens on the brink, with 13 private high schools needing urgent aid. The crisis extends to higher education, with 15 colleges shuttered since 2014, and more closures looming.

Wu Chun-chung, from the Union of Private School Educators, predicts further closures. “Another 40-50 private universities might shut down by 2028,” he warns, painting a bleak future for private education.


Government efforts mirror those in neighboring countries—financial incentives, policy tweaks—but birth rates remain stubbornly low. Traditional gender roles and economic pressures stymie family expansion. Taiwan’s low wages and soaring living costs only compound the issue, making cities like Taipei among the world’s least affordable.

In pockets like Hsinchu County, birth rates buck the trend, fueled by better living standards and ample job opportunities. Yet, even these havens aren’t immune; Fu Jie-lin notes a recent enrollment dip despite past booms.

Union leader Chou Ping advocates merging struggling private institutions with public universities to bolster resources and enhance education quality. “Investing in public education could level the playing field,” he argues, emphasizing the need for a sustainable solution amid the educational turmoil.

As Taiwan navigates this demographic storm, the fate of its schools hangs in the balance. The challenge isn’t just about filling classrooms—it’s about shaping a future where education remains accessible to all.

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