Taiwan Academics: Excellence or Obsession

The school year is just getting started, and many students (judging from my personal experience) are doing their first academic thinking for three months. I wasn’t always disappointed to return to school, but the joke was that we had to spend at least a few days reviewing everything we should have – but hadn’t – remembered over summer break.

Young Student in Taiwan
Young students in Taiwan have a lot of school to look forward to.

ETaiwanNews.com recently ran an article from Associated Press about the competitive nature of Taiwanese education. The article featured 16-year-old student  Jaleese Liao, who talked about preparing to test into high school. In Taiwan, difficult tests at significant points determine what educational options are available to students in the following years. Jaleese was trying to get into a top high school so she could then place into a medical school.

Jaleese reveals that she spent an average of 10 hours a day at cram school during the summer, studying and taking practice tests. She retook the official test for high school because she hadn’t scored high enough (96%)! When she didn’t make it into the high school she wanted, she felt ashamed to see people who had encouraged her and thought she’d make it.

Interesting from my point of view is not so much whether the Taiwanese approach is right or wrong. The article shows several facets of Taiwanese culture beyond its competitive educational system: the effort parents make to allow (or push) their children to achieve academically and therefore financially; a mixed approach to education that incorporates Western science and technology, but seems to remain tied to traditional Chinese ideals (not necessarily bad); and the importance of “face” and social shame.

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Ready to Go

We haven’t done a good job of posting updates during the summer. I like to think that’s because not much has been going on. But then I realize that I never posted the announcement about the birth of our new baby! (Details were in our prayer letter, so if you didn’t get that update you want the details you can let me know.) Well, after all our waiting, he showed up at last during the second week of July. Since then we’ve been trying to adjust to having three children – take care of all of them and get work done.

Wanting to be home for the baby and for recovery time, we didn’t plan any deputation meetings during July and August. Now we’re ready to start, and the Lord has given us a full schedule for the fall. Our schedule has 21 meetings from the end of August to the middle of December. Although we feel out of practice for packing up and everything, we look forward to returning to our deputation ministry after what seems like a long break. Our first trip – just a week – will ease us back into the travel routine and let us see how the new baby will do. Then we’ll have a month on the road; after that comes an almost two-month trip to New England.