The new education reform thread

Parts of a thread on US immigration reform (A Realistic Trump Immigration Policy) was merged with a thread on education reform. It’s not entirely in chronological order.

It all started with the following exchange:

Where do you think this culture in Latin American countries comes from though, and what role do people have in changing a culture that they supposedly dislike (if they truly dislike it at all)?

To compare things to East Asia, I would say two things. In some cases, East Asians have been able to move beyond the past and do new things, hence their rapid development. They’re not hamstrung by defining themselves as victims, despite having plenty in their history (either domestic or foreign) to which they could credibly cling to as victims if
they wanted.

In other cases, we see lots of examples of people complaining about a particular situation, but when you say that maybe they should change it, they turn around and say, “but this is how we’ve always done it”. The two are at odds with one another. I suspect that a lot of people just like to complain.

I could tell you that I want to accomplish X, but if you come back in a year and I tell you again that I want to accomplish X, then you kind of have to doubt if I really do because otherwise I would have already (or would be able to demonstrate progress, at least).

For some people it’s not a contradiction at all: “What really disappoints me about the system is my (or my family’s) position within it, not the system itself.”

Okay, I see what you’re getting at. You mean that if they were top dog, then they’d be all for a system that they complain about when they’re bottom dog?

It’s often interesting to see people do that in a working or business setting. They put up with lots of nonsense from others and complain about how unfair it is, but when the shoe is on the other foot they frequently treat service staff quite atrociously.

For some, yes, exactly.

And for others who dislike the system for non-selfish reasons (I think we can say most people have multiple reasons), the problem is lack of creativity, both in themselves and in others. “I would love to do X, but then everyone else would do Y. The rules say we can’t change the rules (and our constitution is ‘dead’ – we ‘killed’ it for its own protection!). We would love to reduce corruption/inefficiency, but we can’t afford to change the systemic incitement to it because we’ve dug in too firmly with this design and can’t risk a collapse.” The more a system is designed in such a way that creativity is directly or indirectly discouraged, the more difficult it is to effect meaningful and useful change.

Every now and then, a leader comes up with a solution: “I order you all to be creative!” followed by blank stares, window dressing, and the fallout caused by the window dressing catching fire.

Some people think the solution is creativity for those near the top, cluelessness for everyone else, and sometimes they even spell it out in public. That has its own flaws, but the people who believe in it seem to think they’re so clever that they can solve those too. I’m skeptical.

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I can’t really disagree with any of that, but what solutions (if any!) do you think there could be? I’m really bearish on the future of Taiwan because I think they’re going to swing massively in the opposite direction as the special snowflake Strawberry Generation take over in the next couple of decades.

People need to expand their horizons. Evolve a little. Take off the monochrome goggles and let some color into their minds.

In most societies, and especially in places like Taiwan, education reform should be the top priority. It’s not that the other things don’t matter, but if they don’t address the twisted roots of the mess they have now, the next generation will be caught in an even bigger mess (regardless of whether or not there’s a war).

So what’s the big question facing the Ministry of Education right now? Drumroll please!..

How come?

“The survey results showed that the majority of principals believe removing military instructors from campuses would give rise to a transitional period that would be unsafe for students,” it said.

That’s right: the army is the only thing standing between order and chaos in Taiwan’s classrooms and playgrounds. :eek:

Most people would agree that’s a pretty conservative outlook. And yet, if you think about it, they want the same thing many “liberals” are campaigning for: “safe space”. :ponder:

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What do you mean by education reform, and who would the Taiwanese take as inspiration?

At the secondary school level, East Asia (with the very approach that many people claim they want to change) is collectively wiping the floor with the West. Look at the PISA results. Several fairly significant Western nations (most notably, Sweden) have plummeted over the past twelve years. Even everyone’s progressive darling, Finland, has fallen out of its regular top three position towards the bottom of the top ten. It will be interesting to see what the 2015 results are like when they finally get released. Likewise, discipline and such matters are frequently out of control in Western schools compared to Taiwan.

Then, at the tertiary level, it doesn’t help when people in Asia witness the insane identity politics now eating Western universities alive. Perhaps the most egregious example is the following:

Who the hell would want to copy Western education systems? Why wouldn’t East Asian countries keep doing more of the same, given the alternative?

Seriously, that’s the most horrifying thing you can find in all of western tertiary education? :rofl: First of all, it’s arguably not even western. (The video is from South Africa, right?) And even if it is, a resilient system can withstand challenges when they need to be withstood and make adaptations when adaptations are needed.

Who “the hell” would want to copy western education? Parents all over the non-western world have been answering that question for the last 100-odd years, and Taiwan is no exception.

In a nutshell, what I believe the system needs to give children that it’s not giving them now is

  1. psychological health, and
  2. critical thinking.
    I don’t see this kind of change on Taiwan’s horizon. Hopefully I’m wrong.
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We could have taken examples of students storming the offices of university administrators in various US universities and making demands, or the rampant examples of so-called diversity training and so on. (South Africa is still nominally Western, or its universities are, at least.) My point is that these universities aren’t resilient to these challenges. They have been giving in to them.

I think you’re missing the point about people sending their kids overseas to study. A lot of it is purely for the piece of paper, not even for what is necessarily taught there. Asians in particular are very big on empty credentialism. Regardless of that, no one seems to be trying to copy the education systems from the West, otherwise we would see all of that stuff over here. There’s definitely a disconnect there, which leads me to believe that it is simply about the right piece of paper. Also, as I said, it’s getting harder and harder to make the case for the West (at least at primary and secondary level) when Asian countries are wiping the floor with Western countries on the PISA tests. Taiwan scored 560 on the mathematics component of the last PISA test; the USA scored 481 (science: 523 vs 497; reading: 523 vs 498). Why would Taiwan reform its education system to be more like the USA’s?

What do you even mean by psychological health? How many Taiwanese kids are on Ritalin? Is there a need for metal detectors at Taiwanese schools? When was the last time a Taiwanese kid went on a killing spree? I’d say that there’s far better psychological health amongst Taiwanese kids than in the West, particularly America.

What do you even mean by critical thinking? Anyone who actually thinks critically in a Western university gets shouted down or shamed by a mob, a la that video I posted. Staff who engage in wrong think find themselves hounded out of the university. Also, I would add that if Taiwanese students can get into top American universities and do very well at them, whilst competing with American students who have been trained in “critical thinking” then there probably isn’t a problem with Taiwanese students being able to think critically.

These are just empty buzzwords thrown around. They don’t really mean what people say they mean. Note that none of this is to say that the Taiwanese education system is perfect or does not need to be reformed. I know how I would reform it, but it’s not how most people would reform it, probably because most people ascribe to modern notions of “psychological health” or “critical thinking”.

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Here’s an idea: resurrect this classic and deconstruct it! A Taiwanese Educator on Taiwan's Education System


  1. Did we watch the same video? So someone somewhere believes in black magic and decolonization. Not new ideas. You think the sky is falling, fine, run along to your bunker, it was nice knowing you. I’ll take my chances on the surface. :sunglasses:
  2. It’s just a piece of paper for some, true. Is that why the Chairman sent his daughter to the Beautiful Country? (And so on…)
  3. Psychology is a very complex subject. I would love to discuss it further with you but don’t have time. Perhaps in the future. :bowing:

Oh dear. Now it’s Australia slipping down the ranks (compared to Kazakhstan of all places). At least they teach “critical thinking” in Australian schools.

Does this mean you’re trading your Aussie bunker for a central Asian one?

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Haha. I don’t have an Aussie bunker (yet). I wouldn’t mind travelling through Central Asia as it has an interesting history, beautiful scenery and is off the tourist trail, but living there wouldn’t be high on my list of priorities. It’s landlocked and the climate is brutal before we even get onto anything else.

Still, it’s pretty troubling that Australia, which is supposedly pretty high tier, got beaten by Kazakhstan, which is supposedly pretty low tier. Changing times though. The world of my twilight years is going to be very different to the world of my youth.

There could be some kind of political or financial connection between the school principals and the Jiao guan. A lot of the principals in Taiwan are corrupt (proven fact look it up…).

I think it’s very important Jiao Guan are phased out ASAP , leeches on the education budget and our taxes.

Education reform is a massive issue here, many of the parents attitudes are pretty backward as well though.

Critical thinking and more time for project work and outdoor activities are what’s needed. Learning Chinese reading and writing is a huge burden unfortunately that’s hard to avoid.

No one has actually explained what critical thinking is or why it is good. It is always just posited as an unalloyed positive. Yet there is plenty of evidence that at the primary and secondary levels of school, especially in areas that are really important such as mathematics and science, the West is getting its backside handed to it by East Asia. East Asians also seem to be vastly overrepresented in the hard sciences at Western universities. This gets casually ignored or dismissed though.

Is this the much vaunted critical thinking on display, the argument for its importance and relevance?

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East Asia has a massive middle class and eager to study technical subjects as a way to get ahead.

That’s definitely a good thing, but it’s not like they have a special apitude or teach science better here, otherwise they would do their grad degrees in Asia.

A lot of the education focus is about getting ahead, not about love of science or math. Not that it needs to be either I guess.

Critical thinking is important.
For instance…hydrogen fuel cell power in Japan.
This is a wonderful technology. But Japan’s lemming like following of the leader down this uneconomic Alley is going to hurt them bad.
Critical thinking would allow management to step back and evaluate from a more economic and practical perspective and switch the focus to electric vehicles.

Which is what they are finally doing now in Toyota.

Another example is focus on GDP growth in Taiwan or ‘more Hours in work equal growth’ is automatically beneficial for everybody.

anyone looking at the environmental and health impact and also wage growth and where exports are being produced would deduce there’s a problem with this assumption.

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Guy-In-Taiwan wrote:

No one has actually explained what critical
thinking is or why it is good. It is always just posited as an unalloyed
positive. Yet there is plenty of evidence that at the primary and
secondary levels of school, especially in areas that are really
important such as mathematics and science, the West is getting its
backside handed to it by East Asia. East Asians also seem to be vastly
overrepresented in the hard sciences at Western universities. This gets
casually ignored or dismissed though.

Is this the much vaunted critical thinking on display, the argument for its importance and relevance?

Here’s a starter for you:

Frankly, I don’t understand your point of view. The West is a total failure, Asia is a total failure, critical thinking is a total failure… Is there anything, anyone, or anywhere that isn’t a total failure, in your view?

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Sure, I’m not actually saying that 1) everything is perfect in Taiwan (or East Asia), 2) critical thinking isn’t important.

The first thing I want people to do is actually define what they mean by critical thinking, rather than just throw it around as an empty buzzword that no one can act upon.

The second thing is that yes, East Asia really lets itself down when it comes to universities. It also lets itself down when it comes to quality of life, although we could have a whole other discussion about how screwed up modern life is in the West also. Universities over here are notoriously bad. However, at the primary and secondary level, a lot of the evidence points towards East Asia mopping the floor with the West. The latest PISA results have just been released, and once again, they’re not good for the West compared to East Asia. We need to acknowledge this, rather than pretending that it isn’t true.

This likely leads to one of three outcomes:

A) East Asians study in the West and remain there;
B) East Asians study in the West and return to Asia;
C) East Asians study in the West and return to Asia and also eventually improve their universities.

Only the first is actually a positive for the West (and certainly not for the locals outcompeted by Asians for good university places). If outsiders can come in and use your system against you, I’d hardly suggest that that is something to crow about, especially if you begin from the assumption that your own primary and secondary systems are so much better than theirs (yet they still beat you). If anything, I’d say there needs to be some critical thinking applied there.

Also, I would add that the direction Western universities seem to be heading in involves all of this trigger warning, safe space SJW nonsense. I don’t think that that bodes well for Western universities. Of course, we could also talk about the looming bursting of the student loan bubble and what effect that is going to have.

Finally, on the economic and technological fronts, probably the greatest point of philosophical departure that I have from just about everyone else on this forum is that I don’t believe in progress as a straight line, and perhaps ironically, I don’t believe that Western society and culture are automatically superior. I think that this century is going to shake up all sorts of basic assumptions that most people from the West take completely for granted. Westerners are going to have to radically change their conceptions about the world, either to remain top dog or because they lose that spot. Dismissing East Asian educational approaches out of hand is quite dangerous in my opinion. It’s also not like there haven’t been a ton of lemming-like economic decisions made in the West in recent years. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves with self-congratulation on that front.

Ok, here is another professor’s view on what’s wrong and who is to blame

Professor Prudence Chou’s article (summarized by the KMT organ linked above) includes this nugget: “Of course, then Presidents Lee Teng-hui and Chen Shui-bian deserve the most blame.” Hmmm! I guess the past eight years under President Ma are totally irrelevant–except, of course, for helping to radicalize the next generation of students with his administration’s revanchist curriculum reforms.


I think the professor means that in relation to the insane number of universities created at that time that have resulted in tons of graduates with often worthless degrees. Just compare, Taiwan has 160 universities, Germany with 3x times the population has 70. Of course lots of stuff went wrong later as well.

Yup, I totally get it.