All Eyes and Ears on Your Grade

The science and nature course at Kang Chiao international School. Provided by Yen-Li Ho.
Adviser:KUANG-KUO CHANG(章光國)
By  I-TING SHIH(施怡婷), HUI-YU CHENG(張惠瑜),  WANG-LING TSAI (蔡宛玲),  YUN-CHEN YANG(楊昀蓁)
It Can be Unpleasant and Painful for Most Schoolchildren 

Jenny Chen, an English-major senior at Shih Hsin University, still could not believe and forget what happened to her while in elementary school.  

Stunned back then, she recalled that “When teachers announced students’ exam grades and awarded a big hand to the highest-scoring student in front of all other pupils, it really made me uncomfortable. I think grade is very personal, and it shouldn’t be made public.”

That scene appears normal to pretty much every single Taiwanese student, but it drew serious spite from Chen as a strong contrast to her previous different cultural encounters.

Chen said she attended an international school in Indonesia from first grade to third. “Our school issued only an A-to-F report card to parents in every semester,” said Chen. “More importantly, teachers discussed about our academic performances individually, providing us with some learning advice.”

According to a survey of schoolchildren’s learning experience conducted last year by the Children Welfare League Foundation, a non-profit organization devoted to children welfare, nearly 80 percent reported they felt exhausted, and more than 12 percent excessive exhausted.

Ya-Hui Chen, the director of the institution said in a TVBS interview that students in Taiwan face a never-ending torrent of  exams. Parents take for granted to compare their children’s grade with others’, imposing more pressures on their kids. As a result, more and more students have to spend much more time attending cram schools to earn better grades.

“After graduating from senior high school, I plan to pursue a bachelor’s degree in America,” said Shuen Chen, an 11-year-old student at Kang Chiao International School.

Shuen said he wanted to study aboard because he has become used to its western educational style. He said he is so afraid that he will not be able to accommodate himself to Taiwan’s college life even though he is confident he will do extremely well in the college entrance examination in the future.  

Shuen’s mother, Yen-Li Ho, explained why she has long decided to send her sole child afar to the United States. She said, “I’m nearly 40, and the educational environment I experienced was very rigid. I don’t want my child to learn in such an oppressive system.

“The school teachers have designed a variety of interesting courses for students in Kang Chiao, and Shuen has been exploring the knowledge very actively. “

She said Kang Chiao’s “flipped education” paid more attention to children‘s characteristics,   including their teamwork and communication abilities, not just focusing on the grades.

Teaching and learning styles Differ in Western Societies
The parents’ visiting day of Carver Elementary School in L. A. . Provided by Wan-Yu Shih

However, the most typical scene in Taiwan facing most pupils is barely played up in the Western cultures. In the United States, one of the most splendid shows was put on stage at the Carver Elementary School, a public institution in Los Angeles, California. The students arranged a colorful musical show of “Les Miserables,” a famous historical novel by Victor Hugo.

At Carver, Wan-Yu Shih, 11, shares her learning experience from her history courses about the U.S. civil war. She said this assignment required students to garner information and present it to local residents of San Marino City on Feb. 2, the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, the former U.S. president whose slavery emancipation policy led to the country’s civil war.

“That’s so meaningful,” said Wan-Yu. “I really learned a lot from the assignment. Before this class, I don’t like American history at all because it’s too complicated.”

Wan-Yu said that all courses at Carver are oriented with current affairs, hands-on trainings and pursuits of innovation. “It not only leads us to actively explore the knowledge but also encourages us to improve our problem-solving skills.”

She said Carver’s “innovative education” philosophy emphasizes integrating life with humanity development and task-based education system to help school children explore the world, cultivating their self-learning capacity from a variety of modules.

Cross-Culturalism Must-Learned Lesson for Educators  

Jenny Chen is graduating from college soon but feels not quite ready for her new life albeit she has gone through numerous school exams. She said, “Sometimes, I got an excellent score on the exam, but my teacher told me I  were not the best and should work harder. It really frustrated me. I’m not sure if I can achieve any goals, including applying for a master’s program.”

Li-Ru Chen, CWLF’s CEO, said students are psychologically harmed by the diehard “grades are everything” mentality. It undermines their learning motivation and sense of confidence.

To break this long-established mindset, both Lee and Chih-Heng Chen said, it needs enduring, collaborative effort particularly from educators and parents. Lee said, “In addition to the influence of some older-generation teachers, parents’ old-fashioned thinking about how school children shall be taught and disciplined is the other major obstacle that has prevented our education system from moving forward,” she pointed out

Lee explained further that even today, most parents in Taiwan still hold the opinion that extraordinary academic performance is the necessary building block for a bright and successful future career. As a result, such parents not only are resistant to change in teaching style but are confused about why some teachers intend to practice the so-called “flipped classroom.”

“That is why I spend time writing commentaries online, not only to communicate with the public but to educate parents” Lee said, adding that she remains optimistic. “Overall speaking, our education system is making progress, but it still needs time to reach a new milestone.”

Grades as Everything Mindset Dies Hard 

Jenny Chen is graduating from college soon but feels not quite ready for her new life albeit she has gone through numerous school exams. She said, “Sometimes, I got an excellent score on the exam, but my teacher told me I  were not the best and should work harder. It really frustrated me. I’m not sure if I can achieve any goals, including applying for a master’s program.”

Li-Ru Chen, CWLF’s CEO, said students are psychologically harmed by the diehard “grades are everything” mentality. It undermines their learning motivation and sense of confidence.

To break this long-established mindset, both Lee and Chih-Heng Chen said, it needs enduring, collaborative effort particularly from educators and parents. Lee said, “In addition to the influence of some older-generation teachers, parents’ old-fashioned thinking about how school children shall be taught and disciplined is the other major obstacle that has prevented our education system from moving forward,” she pointed out

Lee explained further that even today, most parents in Taiwan still hold the opinion that extraordinary academic performance is the necessary building block for a bright and successful future career. As a result, such parents not only are resistant to change in teaching style but are confused about why some teachers intend to practice the so-called “flipped classroom.”

“That is why I spend time writing commentaries online, not only to communicate with the public but to educate parents” Lee said, adding that she remains optimistic. “Overall speaking, our education system is making progress, but it still needs time to reach a new milestone.”