Choice as a global language in local practice: A mixed model of school choice in Taiwan

Chin-Ju Mao


This paper uses school choice policy as an example to demonstrate how local actors adopt, mediate, translate, and reformulate “choice” as neo-liberal rhetoric informing education reform. Complex processes exist between global policy about school choice and the local practice of school choice.

Based on the theoretical sensibility of global-local framing, this paper discusses how a neo-liberal discourse of education reform came about in Taiwan and in particular how the Fundamental Education Act of 1999 introduced choice. The Act incorporated choice as global rhetoric into existing school practice, resulting in a hybrid school-choice model which mixes a civil rights model and a market model. This study compares two junior high schools to illustrate how this hybrid model of school choice plays out in the complex realities of actual schools and discusses the effects of such a hybrid school-choice model on broader Taiwanese public education. This paper concludes that the school choice practices of parents, compounded with the neo-liberal rhetoric of education reform in Taiwan, is rapidly exacerbating the great disparity between public junior high schools.

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