The outdated factory system
Annie Chen’s letter “Exam system fails students” (Letters, Dec. 27, page 8) raised some fantastic points. I believe that in order to fully understand the structure of Taiwan’s educational system, we have to look a little more at its history.
The educational system that exists in Taiwan is based on the idea of preparing people for society. A large part of that society is based on the types of jobs that predominate. Taiwan still has a strong factory-based economy. A large part of the economy and workforce here is in factory jobs. If we’re going to look at the problems of education, we have to start by looking there. Schools are designed as factories because they prepare students for factory work.
Schools operate on set time schedules, often signaled by a bell. They treat classroom subjects as separate from each other. They group students together arbitrarily (age being the main qualifier; not ability). They seek to standardize the finished product. They try to get students to work alone, even though collaboration brings about better learning. When this system of education started to become popular, it was described in terms of a factory model that saw the students as a final product that needed certain skills to work in factories. Many books actually label this the factory model of education.
There is a valuable idea educators use called Bloom’s Taxonomy. It can be thought of as a way of understanding how we process information. At the very low level, it simply involves remembering and recalling information. What I see, in almost every school I have taught English in, is that this is as far as most of my students are able to go. They might read a story about slavery and be able to tell me what color shirt the man was wearing or what his job was, but not link it to any relevant information to bring about a discussion. Many of the English storybooks used in cram school classes are often so dull and unengaging that students only write stories looking to practice this level.
What scares me about this style of education is simple: I do not believe it can prepare most students for Taiwan’s future. The businesses that are growing now grew out of a creative passion for new ideas: Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft and Apple are just a few examples. The people who are successful in today’s world are those that think creatively and develop new ideas. People I talk to who are happiest in their jobs are happy because they have a certain amount of responsibility and creativity to come up with new and better ways of doing things. Tomorrow’s leaders are certainly not the ones who can pass a meaningless standardized test and nothing else. Unless we face this fact, we will continue to harm our students.
What does the KMT claim?
Recently there has been a lot of debate on the existence or non-existence of the so-called “1992 consensus.” This states that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) agreed that there is “one China,” but that they held different interpretations of its meaning. While it is quite obvious what the CCP’s interpretation of “one China” is, I can find no clear interpretation from the KMT. Is its interpretation “one China, one Taiwan”? Does its “one China” include Taiwan, Tibet and the various other islands that the CCP currently claims? Without clarification of what the KMT’s interpretation is, the argument of the existence or non-existence of the consensus seems meaningless.