5. Use interdisciplinary learning: Based on my observations, US teachers tend to teach one curricular discipline at a time, while Taiwanese teachers try to incorporate several into a lesson. For example, I observed a science teacher and art teacher in Taiwan collaborate in guiding students through a science project that involved drawing. Studies show that interdisciplinary learning helps students apply their knowledge in various contexts and thus enhances their academic performance.
6. Instill personal responsibility: In US schools, janitors clean up after the students. In Taiwanese schools, the students clean up after themselves. Cleanup time is a daily ritual wherein Taiwanese students clean the school building, sweep the school grounds and dump trash. Studies show that students who become more responsible tend to improve their academic performance.
While the Taiwanese education system is excellent, it’s not perfect. For example, critics say it favors rote memorization over critical and creative thought, puts too much pressure on students to pass entrance exams and relies too much on buxibans — or cram schools — for educating students.
Nonetheless, US schools could improve by adopting some of the excellent practices used in Taiwanese schools.
Bill Costello is training director of Making Minds Matter, which teaches parents and teachers strategies for educating children.