Elementary and Middle School Education in Taiwan - How Bad?

Hi folks

What is the reality of the education system here?

I’m told that famous high schools are basically just huge cram schools trying to get everyone into NTU (so they can advertise that ~100% of their students get admitted).

Cram school seems to be a rite of passage for everyone - I’m told day-time school teachers are known to be lazy, cause students will learn the material in cram school anyways, and that students even tune-out during daytime cause the material will be taught to them at cram school.

I’ve heard of teachers offering after-school cram school classes themselves to their own students, and basically only testing/evaluating material they teach at these after-school classes. Or only giving high grades to those who attend.

How bad is it? Would you avoid the system at all costs? If given the chance, do you instead raise kids in North America? Or is it, just take it on the chin, and do as the Taiwanese do?

My daughter is in first grade in a local public school. She’s a mixed kid but born in Taiwan. Except being called waiguoren a lot I feel the elementary schools are no problem.

Learning Chinese is hard and that’s what they concentrate on. It’s the junior high and high school systems you should have reservations about.

I’ve dealt with a lot of kindergarten, elementary, junior high and senior high school kids. I don’t necessarily see grades 1-3 as that bad, but starting in 4th grade and definitely by 6th, you start losing a lot of students to ennui. The constant grind of homework and testing start really taking their toll on the students that just don’t have the cognitive ability to remember tons of facts. I definitively do not want my kids going to junior or senior high school here.

I think the thing you really have to look out for is the teachers. I’ve seen teachers from good schools that should be nowhere near a child. The system for schools is also very rigid. You don’t step out of your box. Testing is serious business. I also worry about the current policy of giving student teachers one year contracts and then throwing them out on the streets. If they are lucky they might be one of the 1% of test takers that actually gets hired for public school.

Private schools are a real mixed bag. TAS had a bad rap for pulling in a lot of EFL speakers with foreign passports diminishing their brand as a premier American school that specialized in English. Most private schools are enthralled to the parents. The problem with that is that whenever a parent wants a book added to the curriculum they automatically say yes, but they never revisit the decision. This led to my classroom demonstration to my GEPT class. I asked the kid who went to public junior high how many books he had; 7. I asked the girl who went to the elite private junior high school in Changhua called Jingcheng; she had 20+. A similar situation was had at Kangchiao in Xindian. There’s also a difference between branches most of the time. Big Byte in Taichung has an excellent rep, which the Taipei branches can’t really match. It was the nicest school I’ve taught at.

Basically if you want your child to do well at school you are going to have to be heavily involved. IIRC, Tigerman threatened to beat up the father of a boy who dismissed his son’s bullying of his boy. One former poster had kids telling his sons, “Die American”, he had them in martial arts classes to learn how to protect themselves. Another poster who is a really expensive highly trained teacher was tutoring his son’s teacher’s 2 kids for 2 hours for free every weekend in order for his son’s teacher to outline exactly what he needed to study to get into a top Taipei high school.

Good luck it’s something I’m struggling with right now with a 2nd on the way.

I don’t understand what the OP is interested in. The title reads elementary and middle school, but then he mentions high school and so do others.

After a couple years of local kindergartens that we’ve been perfectly happy with, we’re about to start local first grade and I have no qualms whatsoever. I’m sure her Chinese abilities will improve dramatically, she’ll also learn other subjects reasonably well and she should have lots of fun, surrounded by her good friends, one block from our house.

Will we send her to cram school till 8 pm? Hell no. The reason kids do that is their parents want the kid babysat so the parents can do their own things and because the parents want the kid to do lots of homework, ace tests and learn English and the parents lack the ability to accomplish those objectives on their own. Not issues for us. Our girl will get sufficient supplementary education at home, thank you.

For the first few years I’m sure it will be just fine (and certainly is a far better place for her to improve her Chinese than back home). However, by high school at the latest, we fully plan to move back to the states because at that point her Chinese will be very well-grounded and we expect educatoin in the US will be far better (the decline in US education does have me a bit concerned, but at least the whole society there is more open to discussion, debate and intellectual exploration than this rote confucian society).

Yeah, well, that’s true for any child anywhere…

Mine is fine in 4th grade.

It goes without saying the teacher you get makes the biggest difference.
Yes the teaching method is more ridgid, depends too much on rote learning and not enough on problem solving but there is a compromise whichever way you go. I’d have to move house and double my monthly expenses if my kids went to TES or TAS. I also want them in the local system for cultural assimilation, easy to westernise bi-racial kids later. If they decide to live their life out in Taiwan I think these years are crucial for understanding and relating with the locals at a much deeper level, something I know I’ll never achieve.
Also, ironically, the sports programs in the local schools are better! Not the general PE classes which are really lame (my daughter did hula hoop for a whole semester in 1st grade???) but the dedicated programs, basketball, swimming etc.

Almost. My boy never had much trouble at all in Taiwan schools. But, when he started, I was concerned like many parents and I posted the following:

[quote=“Tigerman in January 2005”]I was never bullied as a kid. I was big growing up and I was friends with just about everyone. And I never bullied anyone either. And my son has been fortunate to have gone through 6 and a half years in Taiwanese schools without a single incident that I am aware of.

Yet, as remote as the issue would seem to be for me, I consider bullying to be one of my primary pet peeves. And likewise, I consider teachers who allow bullying to go on and parents of bullies who feel that its just part of childhood (note that I do not think parents of those bullied are at fault unless they do nothing) and thus do nothing to stem the behavior to be very much in the wrong.

Again, I’ve no personal experience to draw on, but, the information re the results of bullying is out there and easily researchable. The problem of bullying is very serious in places such as Japan, where children and teens commit suicide in order to escape it. The idiots who committed the Columbine shootings in the US were apparently bullied. I don’t think it even necessary to look at these incidents to understand that bullying is wrong and that it can lead to serious actions/reactions.

DB is right I think to teach his boys to defend themselves. Unfortunately, that is sometimes the only thing we have… our ability to defend ourselves.


Why in the world do we accept bullying among children when we do not accept it among adults?[/quote]

good point, Tigerman. Me too, I never figured out why some of the teaching staff seem to think it is an age appropriate behaviour, this bullying thing.

Well, I would have to say that bullying is in fact “age appropriate behaviour,” just the same as all kinds of other undesirable behaviours one sees in young children. What I object to is the attitude that unlike other undesirable things that small children do for which a parent might take measures to correct, bullying is somehow a thing that kids are supposed to endure and sort out amongst themselves.

During the past year, my wife and I have had to cut off all after school contact with a couple of my son’s classmates. While in school, these twins are best buddies with my son. The teachers enforce an appropriate level of discipline and fairness. Outside of school, these two boys are a fucking nightmare. What makes the difference? A mother who takes the attitude that bullying is normal behaviour. Of course, she actually only treats it as normal when it is her boys who are doing the bullying. On the odd occasion in which my generally self-controlled child retaliates by smacking these two boys into place, then my child is suddenly a bully who needs to be disciplined.

IMO, children need to be instilled from an early age with a sense of fairness and right and wrong. Correcting bullying behaviour is part of this. If a parent won’t do this, I am not interested in being social with them or their child.

My boy is just about finished Grade 3. I am totally amazed at how much Chinese he can read and write. He seems to enjoy his school, though I ask him everyday if anything exciting happened at school and he says, “No, it’s boring” then he tells me about playing at break time with his friends. He has a fair bit of homework, but not over the top. I had to reward him with MacDonald’s for going to his AnChinBan class for the last 2 Saturday mornings to help prepare him for his exams at Chinese school this week. He seemed happy with that and he also said he got to see some friends for an extra day.

He has suffered a bit of bullying which I have written about in other threads, but I try to teach my boy to walk away when he can, but not to let himself get pushed around.

Ha, he really enjoys PE class.

Most of us here are not north americans so why would we waste our time with our kids in north america?

Expats here can send their childred to the international schools here.