Taiwan vs US education system

Huh? Did I miss something? :astonished:

Sure, Taiwan always does well at the international Maths and Science olympiads, but that comes from hours and hours of doing repetitive mathematical exercises, rather than from instilling students with questioning, inquisitive and logical thought processes.

Furthermore, I have been rapidly disabused of the idea that local students possess basic arithmetic and problem-solving skills superior to anyone back home. Indeed I am often horrified at the lack of basic calculation skills (whip out the calculator for ±X/ calculations under 100, for example) exhibited by all ages, from elementary to post-grad and working-age level.

They don’t do so hot at most other subjects either. Check most adults’ knowledge of almost anything outside Taiwan, and you will find a void, even despite the fact that many of them travel (in carefully controlled tour groups).

History? Black hole.
Geography? Gaping abyss (although my gf did study the mainland Chinese rail network while at school :loco: )
Music and art? A chasm
Sex education? Uhhh?

Must I go on?

And they are certainly not taught at schools or universities to think for themselves. Now I am no expert on American education. I have heard all the horror stories about how students graduate without being able to read or write (one area in which I would say Taiwan has an advantage), but to hear people thinking that Taiwan, overall, provides better rounded education, does astound me.

I agree DSN. I admit I’m neither a teacher, student or parent of a student in Taiwan or the US, but I’m also greatly surprised that anyone who’s lived for a number of years in both countries would feel kids get a better education in Taiwan. After all, aren’t class sizes in Taiwan roughly double the size of US classes? And don’t lessons in Taiwan almost always consist of mere rote memorization, without active participation by the students. You’re entitled to your opinion Sam, but I too find it surprising. I don’t mean this as an insult to you at all, but perhaps you’re biased living in Texas, a state that ranks near the bottom of the US in educational standards.

bor.musselmanforamerica.com/mt/a … is_no.html

As for whether Americans are ignorant about Taiwan, yes, I’m sure many are, but many Taiwanese are ignorant about anything outside of their home towns. There are ignorant people everywhere. Maybe it just doesn’t seem quite so bad in Taiwan because you give them more credit for “cultural differences” or, if you’re like me, you’re Chinese isn’t so great, so you don’t understand all their ignorant statements.

DSN & MT -
Excellent comments.
I think the forum here provides plenty of first-hand, real world insight into the ‘educational system’ here on the island.
As to the ‘local yokel’ views in the USA, well, so what?
You and your wife can do wonders in teaching your children what you have seen and experienced in Taiwan and the other parts of the world you have experienced. As you both know, education and learning doesn’t only hapen in the classroom.
Sam, good luck in whatever you chose to do.

One of the first things I did when I moved here to get married was put a real big world map up on my office wall. Now the boy can see where he is and where the places he learns about are in the world. And I can talk to him about the places I’ve worked and lived. Its really helped him understand more than just Tainan and Taiwan.

I agree with MT and DSN. It’s a bit of a fallacy to think that education in Asia is superior. You do find some gifted students coming from Asia, but the average student here is just as dim as the average student in the US.

Students from the education system here do have an advantage in a few areas- particularly those where rote memorization are beneficial- but they are lacking in other areas. There’s a trade-off.

Can US education be improved? Yes.
Are there countries where the general standard of education is higher than in the US? Probably, but not in Taiwan or China.

But your other comments about the hick attitudes in the US is dead on. But I wouldn’t attribute that so much to an intrinsic deficiency as to a geographical isolation. Just as there are people in China who know nothing much beyond the borders of their own city, Americans are pretty much the same.

That’s why it is so surprising to Europeans when they look at American culture. Europe is surrounded by other cultures. And that’s why it is surprising to those of us who leave the cradle and then go back. When we left we didn’t realize how sheltered/isolated we were.

Ah well. That’s my $3.22.

Thanks for all the replies. I think debating TW vs US education would merit its own thread–I’m undecided on this point, but the point of the thread is that the Americans I’ve talked to are shocked that I would be undecided. This is America, so self-evidently superior. :rolleyes:

I did have a few thoughts, though:
[ul][li]I have begun to suspect that an emphasis on innovation and inquisitiveness is kind of overrated. Maybe a bit of rote learning wouldn’t be so bad for a kid.[/li]
[li]Learning some personal responsibility and expectations of good behavior might be an advantage in Taiwan also. One example: my wife’s students were expected to clean their classroom themselves; kids in the US throw something on the floor for the Mexican janitors to clean up.[/li]
[li]I think my kid might enjoy a much greater exposure to other cultures and (certainly) other languages besides English. If I want him/her to be able to read and write Chinese, and be able to chat in Taiwanese/Hakka/Japanese with the grandparents, where can I get that in the US?[/li]
[li]I wouldn’t be so worried about an elementary or junior high school aged kid being exposed to peer pressure regarding drugs or sex.[/li]
[li]And does anyone else have the impression that Taiwan kids aren’t nearly as cruel to one another as US kids? Junior high school kids in the US are the nastiest little demons to one another you’d ever not want to meet–I know, because I was one. But junior high school kids in TW seem like they’re fairly nice to one another. Why is that?[/li][/ul]

[quote=“Sam Vimes”]Thanks for all the replies. I think debating TW vs US education would merit its own thread–I’m undecided on this point, but the point of the thread is that the Americans I’ve talked to are shocked that I would be undecided. This is America, so self-evidently superior. :rolleyes:

I did have a few thoughts, though:
[ul][li]I have begun to suspect that an emphasis on innovation and inquisitiveness is kind of overrated. Maybe a bit of rote learning wouldn’t be so bad for a kid.[/li]
[li]Learning some personal responsibility and expectations of good behavior might be an advantage in Taiwan also. One example: my wife’s students were expected to clean their classroom themselves; kids in the US throw something on the floor for the Mexican janitors to clean up.[/li]
[li]I think my kid might enjoy a much greater exposure to other cultures and (certainly) other languages besides English. If I want him/her to be able to read and write Chinese, and be able to chat in Taiwanese/Hakka/Japanese with the grandparents, where can I get that in the US?[/li]
[li]I wouldn’t be so worried about an elementary or junior high school aged kid being exposed to peer pressure regarding drugs or sex.[/li][/ul][/quote]

Innovation, curiosity, and inquisitiveness should be fostered at a young age. I don’t necessarily see that in the “US education system”. I think it really depends a lot on the family and home environment (Makes me think of Virgin’s whatshisname). That said, there seems to be more competitions in spelling, science, maths, arts in the US (or perhaps better publicized) in grade school, high school and college (e.g. Natl Geo spelling bee, waterloo maths comp, solar-cell car races)

I think in the pursuit of individualism and happiness, people in N.America lose sight of the value of social group harmony, personal responsibility, and team work.

I found rote learning (and the memory skills it builds) to be invaluable for school, but I would caution, not at the cost of critical thinking and analytical skills. Combining all these elements would be ideal imo.

Despite the diversity of N.America, I think people here need more cultural exchanges, and I’m not talking about dating a minority, learning how to order sushi, or cooking Mexican flavors. People here need to expand their horizons more. Unfortunately, the problem [in the US] really is the perception/reality of the greatness of the U.S. It’s a double-edged sword that provides Americans with pride and strength, but hobbles them with hubris and intolerance and myopia.

[quote=“Sam Vimes”]
I did have a few thoughts, though:
[ul][li]I have begun to suspect that an emphasis on innovation and inquisitiveness is kind of overrated. Maybe a bit of rote learning wouldn’t be so bad for a kid.[/quote]I think rote learning is a waste of time. But I am not a trained educator, so I can’t speak to this professionally.

[quote][/li]
[li]Learning some personal responsibility and expectations of good behavior might be an advantage in Taiwan also. One example: my wife’s students were expected to clean their classroom themselves; kids in the US throw something on the floor for the Mexican janitors to clean up.[/quote]You’re joking right? This country is notorious for it’s lack of responsiblity. You child may learn how to be apart of the group, but don’t for a second think that he/she would learn responsiblity. I saw it every day when I taugh in one of Taiwan’s best schools. They learn very early on that it’s never their fault but to [color=darkred]always[/color]place the blame on someone else. Your child would get a better sense of responsiblity from the US. But then again, what is your definition of responsiblity–meaning the one you want your child to know? As skewed as the American perception is about responsiblity, IMO think it’s easier to teach a child about it there as it is here.

[quote][/li]
[li]I think my kid might enjoy a much greater exposure to other cultures and (certainly) other languages besides English. If I want him/her to be able to read and write Chinese, and be able to chat in Taiwanese/Hakka/Japanese with the grandparents, where can I get that in the US?[/quote]Can’t argue with that. That is something valuable right now. In fact, there was an article last month on Yahoo! about how US students (k-12 and college) are enrolling in high numbers to learn chinese. Besides your child is part chinese, and IMO I believe a child should know both of their heritages. Not just the history part…

[quote][/li]
[li]I wouldn’t be so worried about an elementary or junior high school aged kid being exposed to peer pressure regarding drugs or sex.[/quote] Never hear of Abortion September huh? I think that’s what’s called. You are right if you believe that your child’s exposure to sexual content at a young age is less here in Taiwan, than in the US. But Taiwan has no sexual education and hence a higher level abortions for Asia on a whole. Peer pressure here is stronger than the US. I what I’ve seen here, is enough to send me back in to therapy :noway:

[quote][/li]
[li]And does anyone else have the impression that Taiwan kids aren’t nearly as cruel to one another as US kids? Junior high school kids in the US are the nastiest little demons to one another you’d ever not want to meet–I know, because I was one. But junior high school kids in TW seem like they’re fairly nice to one another. Why is that?[/li][/ul][/quote]
I have found that cruelty toward each other is subjective/relative to the country. What I would consider cruel in Taiwan and Japan is something that would send US kids to the juvie hall. But some how the cruelty seems to not affect the kids the same way here. I have one student that has very very low self esteem, and seems to accept the fact that he is considered a ‘pig’ by his peers. Yet, he pushes on in my English class. In America, this same kid would probably on the road to destruction. I don’t know. I think it has mostly to do with child rearing and involvement in the child’s life as well as the social rules for what’s cruel and not. Also, in Taiwan, there is heavy emphasis on cruelty toward those who aren’t full blooded Taiwanese. I would really direct your last thought toward parents here are well versed in the matter.

Best of Luck.

Don’t forget that the school system here teahes you the “you’re not guilty unless you’re caught” principle.

Or the “my daddy / mommy’s got influence so the rules don’t apply to me” clause.

Yes, that exists to some extent in the US, but not a the same level of excellence that it does here

:bravo:

Look around, man. The national sport is “Pass the Buck”. eg. I tell the woman who parks her car across the front entrance to the supermarket that parking there is a bit selfish because it means no one else can get in.

“But I’m not the only one. Look, there’s a scooter over there.” :loco:

4 killed in a river in heavy rains - do the rescue officials resposnible for the slow response resign? No, but someone’s gotta pay - the premier resigns.

Look at the huge impact of social consciousness, huh. The driving, lining up behind others (with TPE, bastion of civilization as a possible exception). Sense of public responsibility? I think not.

I see this a lot here too, often by adults.

No, from what I’ve observed with my own kid, half Chinese, who has been in Chinese schools for 3-1/2 years (4.5 yo to present), kids here are not less cruel. Sometimes I think they’re more cruel than I remember, but that might actually be due to a lack of supervision because I see a little of it in our playgroup made up mostly of foreign/mixed families. I have other ideas about this and no time to go into them, but one is that I don’t think kids are allowed/encouraged to really explore/understand their emotions here (told not to cry, not to be angry, etc) and so when they do encounter stressful situations IMO they have a harder time dealing with them and again IMO might be more likely to act on impulse (hitting, crying, tantruming) instead of dealing with it more appropriately (with words, telling an adult, compromising, etc).

Well I can’t speak for the cruelty of US kids or otherwise, but I can speak for the cruelty of Taiwanese kids, having taught them 25 hours a week for 2 1/2 years. Heck, I’ve even seen it teaching university / adults.

The nicknames kids are given, the jokes (even among adults) about the darker ones in the class, a most “undesirable” trait. Calling them “darkie” to their faces, making jokes that speak as much of racism and ignorance of the world out there as they do of cruelty (“You black man” being one of the “insults” that brings the strongest retorts and looks of disapproval by the one being name-called, as if it were a fate worse than death.).

Also note the tender treatment animals receive here, from both adults and kids - never tortured or booted out of the home. That offers a big insight into the psyche. It was a wise man who said (paraphrased): You can tell how civilized a culture is by how it treats its animals.

Of course, kids tend to speak their minds a lot regardless of where they are or what nationality they are, and can be intolerably cruel, but it certainly does not seem to be a smaller issue here (or maybe I’ve just been an adult for too long to remember what it was like to be a kid? :smiley: )

taiwan has a lot to like, but sometimes it drives me up the wall.

on cruelty, i don’t let my students gang up on anybody verbally. they tend to do that here. mindless group torture of the odd one out is an asian cultural trait unfortunately, but not on my watch. no 'fatty, stupid, nerd" or other name calling in my class. that got me in trouble at more than one school because we foreigners aren’t supposed to correct locals.
that’s something that’s gotta go- taiwanese attitudes that we are foreigner teachers rather than teachers. sometimes i feel i’m not much more than a filipina maid, no offense to those sweet girls intended.

They’re good thoughts, even if alot of people disagree with some or all of them. :smiley:

You’re totally right. The fact that the US system encourages innovation and critical thinking while the Taiwan system in some ways discourages it does not equal to US kids all being little MacGyvers.

The US system lets kids coast along and just pass their classes until they get out of school. The Chinese system tends to ram stuff down their throats. And in the case of some kids, that will be what saves them from their own lack of motivation. I know some people in the US who could use that sort of force-feeding.

But I still think I would base my model of education around the US model and then add in elements of rote learning on top of it, rather than try to use a rote learning model and try to add in critical thinking on top.

Chinese/Taiwanese have a serious “Little Emporer” syndrome as well. My impression is that it is worse here, not better. There is something to be said for Chinese values and respect for teachers (which is non-existent in the US), but from what I’ve seen the overall level of personal accountability here is not what it is in the States.

Hey, no questions on this one. An international experience away from the US could do wonders for your kid’s social consciousness. I think half the population of the US is in real need of an experience like that.

I would agree on this point, but can’t really say my opinion is informed enough to carry any conviction.

It could be high school culture. School is a place to escape regulation from parents. In Taiwan I’d say school introduces a lot of formality and regulation. But I’ve seen kids here be every bit as nasty. I think we don’t see it so much because we aren’t part of their society— and I mean high school/junior high society, not Taiwan society.

U.S. education, hands dwn, at least in the U.S. they would know english and several different subjects like science, math, history, geography, music, art, whether they work hard or not, slack off, are disrespectful has nothing to do wid da skule but da parents.

I send my kids to skule for information, not on how to behave or to mould their personalities, thats my job as the parent.