What exactly is Taiwanese elementary school like?

Planning on sending my kids to a public (government) elementary school in a couple of years. There’s alot of discuss on this forum about enrolling in schools, which are the best schools, Western Vs Eastern education philosophies etc, but I’ve never seen a description of what typical elementary school education is like.

I know every school will be different, but the government schools should all follow a similar structure, right? Things I’m wondering:

  • What time do kids start and finish elemetary school?
  • How many kids per class?
  • How many subjects are taught per day, and per week?
  • Is there a national curriculum that all schools follow?
  • Do kids have assemblies?
  • Do kids have recess / break times?
  • What’s the typical teaching method?
  • I hear kids get alot of home work - what does this homework consist of?
  • Do kids have to do practical project (make X), group projects, or have to write essays?
  • Do kids do art and drama?
  • what happens to a kid if they don’t understand the subject being taught and fall behind?

Would love to hear descriptions from parents on exactly their child’s school life is like, what’s good and bad etc.

Thanks in advance.

Some answers per my experience:

  • What time do kids start and finish elemetary school? 7:45AM to 12:00 everyday except 1 long day per week (until 4:00 pm)
    Grade 2: same as above but the long days are 2 per week
    Grade 3: same but now with 3 long days per week
    Grade 4: 4 long days per week
    Grade 5 and 6 , until 4:30PM every day and 1 day of the week until 5:45-6:00. These are normal academic hours. If including any club or extra curricular activity then the child is whole day at school. I wish I knew about this early in the game. It would change my decisions about my kid’s education. Now just trying to get her out of the system.
  • How many kids per class? depends on the grade. The higher grades more kids per class, but normally they try to keep it at 30max per class in East District Taipei.
  • How many subjects are taught per day, and per week? I think this is pretty standard. You will see the same subjects as in the US and you will see all subjects every week. It is not in the elementary school curriculum to skip a week without having the same subject class every week. Now, the in class time is much longer than in the west, so the hours are many more.
  • Is there a national curriculum that all schools follow? For public schools, yes. There is a minimum. Normally big urban areas will keep this minimum and add more to it (like creative areas, such as arts, and sports etc), less urban areas might keep at the minimum at their discretion. Overall the public education here is better than private education and does not stay behind in curriculum or performance such as the differences between private and public in the west.
  • Do kids have assemblies? Yes, in Chinese and many are a waste of time.
  • Do kids have recess / break times? Yes, 10min per class. It depends on the teacher. So if a class has 2 periods that teacher might decide to give 2 or only 1 break. For a single period class than it is 5-10min normally per class hour. Kids have lunch at school and after lunch they get 30 minutes (grade 1 and 2) of nap time and 20minutes grade 3 and above just for napping brush teeth etc.
  • What’s the typical teaching method? Teachers teach kids listen. Discussion is allowed but not encouraged during lectures. I don’t see much difference than in the west. Just here there is a unspoken etiquette of not challenging the teacher too much. Of course if you train your child to question that’s not against the rules, but teacher will try to evade or just don’t like the child that much. Especially if they see the question is taking too long or too many questions delaying their agenda.
  • I hear kids get alot of home work - what does this homework consist of? Same homework as any other elementary school kid. But more. Just quantity. So the times that they are normally ready to go home (times mentioned above) they either stay at school or go to a cram school to have it all done before coming home. Understand if you are a foreigner your will need SUBSTANCIAL Chinese skills to help even with the simple homework they take home. So the monster of cram school is a necessary evil. Also since the kids have such a busy and tiring day it would be even more demanding to ask the child to wait until a parent comes back from work to have them then start doing their homework. Children are tired and in growing stage they need to sleep early to face the long day. Hence, the cramschool.
  • Do kids have to do practical project (make X), group projects, or have to write essays? Yes, Taiwan is a group based culture. Most (90%and up) projects are made in group. Individual essays are made in class during writing classes and they are encouraged to write a simple diary as one of the daily home works also.
  • Do kids do art and drama? Yes, art is encouraged depending on which public school. Drama rarely, unless the child is enrolled in the Theater club or similar in the school , those are after regular classes. Singing in choir or group dancing is encouraged, everything that there is no individual expression is.
  • what happens to a kid if they don’t understand the subject being taught and fall behind? Cramschool. Either the school will provide an ‘after class’ cram school or you will need to enroll the kid in a private one outside. Teachers will not individually help a child that is falling behind, they are very pushed by school administration to keep up with schedule. It is the parents responsibility to assure the child keeps up. That’s why the level of private cram schools (not English ones, the ones that review Math, Chinese etc) enrollment is so high.
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12-Year Basic Education Curriculum for 2014
https://english.moe.gov.tw/public/Attachment/410214402371.pdf

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Sorry, I linked a wrong page. Will upload the correct one later.

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Curriculum Guidelines of 12- Year Basic Education General Guidelines

a file from National Academy for Educational Research, Taiwan
https://english.naer.edu.tw/

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Nice summary.

Additional: my kids classes in public school in new Taipei city average 25 per class I believe which is actually very good for a public school worldwide (this is supposedly a key metric for education quality, teacher:student ratio).

Schools can vary enormously in size . There are some gigantic schools here. My kids go to one of them with thousands of students.
The big schools have more arts , sports and music choices. Not all schools are the same .Some are big into music, arts, soccer or athletics or whatever.

Some neighbourhood schools are smaller and more homely, maybe more personal attention but will have less choice. Then you get the experimental schools, often in the hills.

The schools in Taipei city all have aircon , many have swimming pools. Schools in New Taipei city usually don’t (they surely will have within a few years). Educational apartheid is alive and well.

The students are referred to by their numbers by some teachers which I don’t like.

Schools have basic lunches provided that you pay every semester for…Kids could bring lunches if they like too.

Recess activities are starting to get more restrictive in terms of letting them them run around or what kind of playground equipment there is as lawsuit vulture takes hold here. Although the variation between schools is enormous in terms of their recreational equipment. Also with so many students running around in guess potential for accidents is higher. The schools often have some kind of nurse(s) to patch kids up and do an assessment of sick kids. Common diseases are the vomiting bug and flus but they’ll inform the class if kids start coming down with something.

The PE classes and mainstream classes for most subjects in public schools , outside of Maths and Chinese , are just cover the basics stuff, if you want your kids to do well you will have to enroll them in the after school classes in the many cram schools or community centers and churches here. Or you encourage their interest and education with lots of reading at home . There are tonnes and tonnes of choices for after school activities in Taiwan.

Oh my biggest bugbear is lack of 1-1 formal teacher meeting. You csn talk with the teachers informally, even LINE them, and they may have a group meeting of teacher and parents once or twice a year. There’s the homework book where teacher and parents can comment .
But I do find the lack of a formal review between teacher and parent to be strange, or simply lacking the individual attention/customer satisfaction you might get in a private school .

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I hated it. It was the most painful and traumatizing period of my life. The work load in elementary school was heavier than my US HS. I was hit and made to stand in front of the class daily as humiliation as punishment. It took me years to have normal interactions with teachers. I was so much happier when we moved to the US.

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That’s terrible, but they aren’t allowed hit the students these days. There is 'standing at back of class ’ still.

One of the very basic reasons for the heavy workload is Chinese. There’s no easy way to teach reading and hand-writing of Chinese because of the structure of the language. That is my belief.

Oh yes there are a lot of tests and pretests. Weekly tests, mid terms tests, end of term tests. That is another issue but would be the same in public and private schools I guess. Too many tests!

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I think if you’re an active and creative kid, don’t send them to public school in Taiwan. These things are discouraged and it will be a painful experience.

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Possibly. As I mentioned there are many classes outside of school to explore the creative side with expert teachers.
In the first few years they don’t spend a lot of time in formal classes (see owleyes post).
Private schools might offer better environment for that ? I don’t know. Some don’t, for instance the one I taught at , the kids hated it, (junior high school). Kangqiao gets good reviews mostly.

I have met many foreign parents with kids here and they seem happy enough overall with the public school and the after school choices. The public school my kids go to is getting more and more foreign kids , some with no local parents they seem to get by but I do think they need an association to help with the rising numbers.

I forgot to mention, all schools are providing an extra language tuition now - meanjng Taiwanese , Hakka, Vietnamese , Thai , Indo, Aboriginal languages…It’s happening and I think it’s pretty cool !

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學年別 縣市別 直轄市立 縣市立
Year2019 Area BigCity County&SmallCity
107學年 總計 24.28 19.41
107學年 新北市 24.99 -
107學年 臺北市 25.08 -
107學年 桃園市 24.66 -
107學年 臺中市 24.17 -
107學年 臺南市 22.41 -
107學年 高雄市 23.71 -
107學年 宜蘭縣 - 19.91
107學年 新竹縣 - 22.66
107學年 苗栗縣 - 19.22
107學年 彰化縣 - 22.31
107學年 南投縣 - 16.08
107學年 雲林縣 - 18.45
107學年 嘉義縣 - 15.24
107學年 屏東縣 - 18.39
107學年 臺東縣 - 12.83
107學年 花蓮縣 - 15.07
107學年 澎湖縣 - 11.85
107學年 基隆市 - 21.78
107學年 新竹市 - 25.34
107學年 嘉義市 - 24.74
107學年 金門縣 - 18.74
107學年 連江縣 - 10.95

If you read Chinese,
https://stats.moe.gov.tw/

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Didn’t know that. I’m not sure how things are these days, maybe there has been more improvements than I imagined.

Some improvements…A lot more needs to be done . But generally the kids seem happy enough.

Tired emotional kids from long days at cram school cos the parents collect them late…Another story.

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There’s good and bad…

I do not know how US schools are like anymore, as I went to the school in the 90s. I heard things are different. When I was in elementary the teachers aren’t allowed to hit you but the principal can spank you with a paddle… I do not know if this is still the case.

Fact is a Taiwanese student has to learn a CRAPTON of languages! I mean it. They have to learn to speak in mandarin, but also taiwanese, written Chinese (which is really hard to write!), and English. No American school kids has to learn any language except English, and maybe Spanish. Both of those languages are easy for the average Westerners to learn. Taiwanese students also have to learn math and science at a higher level than most Americans.

You can probably homeschool your children but consider this: If you plan to live in Taiwan, and so does your children, then homeschooling them just to avoid the academic rigors of Taiwan is not going to help them, it’s going to destroy them later in life. To get into a good university in Taiwan is going to require taking those standardized exams and not being used to the academic rigors here is going to jeopardize that. If your plan is that they live outside of Taiwan/China when they grow up then you can probably get by, but homeschooling is hard work, and the academic rigor of American universities are no joke either. How do I know? I go to UT Austin and their academic rigor isn’t for the faint of heart. Lots of people fool around and end up flunking out. Better to let your children suffer a little early in life than suffer a lot later in life… Maybe you don’t have to force them to be ultra competitive but you as a parent are responsible to make sure your children is well rounded enough to decide what they want in life. If they aren’t college material then teach them vocational things like welding and plumbing. They make good money even in Taiwan, more than office workers in fact. Just get them the compulsory middle school education and get them apprenticed with someone… We need good welders here in Taiwan, not idiots who shield the arc with their hands because they think 300nt for an auto darkening welding mask is too much.

What I do like about Taiwanese schools is they do involve the parents their children’s education, or rather they expect the parents to take far more responsibility than Americans would. Also they teach civic responsibilities, for example your children will be expected to clean the hallways, bathroom, etc. and may have to wash dishes after lunch sometimes (or rather you wash your own lunch box, the lunch lady isn’t going to do that for you). They do not hire janitors to clean everything like American schools does… I remember that they would often have a warm box to keep your lunch in when you come in the morning. I remembered that they are half day for Wednesday and Saturdays. I do not know if they still have school on saturdays now (that was 1988 or before).

Oh and by the way I am seeing more and more foreigners too, and not just Taipei city expat areas… lots of them in NTC and even down south… I would not be surprised if there are more foreign kids in school.

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Look like your questions were answered already. In my experience the volume of homework tends to err on the ‘too much’ side, although the amount varies day to day. My kid likes the public school, and he is lucky to have a nice teacher, (phew). Overall the public school get my thumbs up. (But less homework would be good)

That probably says more about your high school. Work load in elementary school is nothing.

Were you bad?

Yes.

Then you kinda deserved it

Hitting kids? Controversial.

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I don’t think a 8 year old should be hit and humiliated in front of the class because they couldn’t sit still for hours on end and wanted to be creative instead of conforming.

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