Wed, Sep 11, 2019 - Page 8 News List

The Liberty Times Editorial: The fundamentals of education

It is not without reason that there is a lack of confidence in education reform in society. The nation has gone through three large-scale educational expansions after World War II, beginning with the post-war universal six-year elementary school education, which was later expanded into the nine-year national education, followed by the increasing number of high schools and universities in 1990s.

The progress has undoubtedly raised the educational level of Taiwanese, but the supply of quantitative and qualitative improvements have outgrown demand, with the result that what people learn in their academic ivory tower has become disconnected from industry and society at large.

Most of the teaching is directed at helping students pass exams and there is less focus on adaptable education or paying attention to what is required to actually get a job.

In sum, the educational system suffers from a supply-demand imbalance and the credentialism that asks students to study hard for higher diplomas in complete disregard of non-academic performances continue to be deep-rooted to the present day.

Students have become “exam-taking technicians.” Countless exams are conducted throughout the school years, but they do not necessarily cultivate a habit of lifelong learning. After freeing themselves from exams upon graduation, many people simply forget what they learned at school and stop reading books.

As a consequence, the reading and learning habits of Taiwanese in general fall far behind that of Japanese. To make the situation worse, Taiwanese spend their childhood sleep deprived, preparing for exams, with few outdoor activities.

Nor is there proper life education in Taiwan. From the post-war era to the present day, the cultivation and practice of public morality have received scarce attention. Proper life education used to be implemented before the war, as evidenced by people who are now in their 80s and 90s — also known as the “Doosan” generation (多桑世代) — who grew up during the Japanese colonial era and received a Japanese education.

Life education to nurture one’s moral character was taught in kogakko, the public primary schools established by the Japanese government, to cultivate the virtues of consideration and politeness, refraining from inconveniencing others, and paying attention to one’s hygiene and appearance in the early period of personality formation.

Many other aspects of modern civic morality, such as punctuality, honesty, diligence, keeping one’s word, being disciplined and law-abiding, were also taught and practiced in school and daily life, and were then carried out throughout one’s whole life.

Life education received little attention after the war, and many people now even think that contravening the law and discipline is being clever and competent.

The model provided by the Doosan generation is often missed; Taiwan would be much more civilized if these characteristics were revived and cherished.

The example that the Doosan generation sets for the rest of us is not only one of life education, but also language proficiency, as many are fluent in their mother tongue Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), Japanese and Mandarin.

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