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Sun, Jul 01, 2001 - Page 2 News List

After prom, TAS students pack their bags for the US

The Taipei American School has evolved into being a training ground for admission into US universities and this year's graduating class is no exception

By Lin Mei-chun  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei American School students pose for pictures at their high-school prom, a dance that is traditionally part of graduation festivities in American high schools.

PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES

While around 126,000 Taiwanese high-school students will join the competitive Joint College Entr-ance Examination today to vie for spots at Taiwan's universities, the 200 graduating students from Taipei American School (台北美國學校, TAS) have long had their futures planned -- 99 percent of them will attend universities in the US.

In this school whose student body is split 20:80 between Westerners and pupils with ethnic Chinese roots but foreign citizenship, going to the US for college education is a natural choice.

"TAS provides an American college preparatory curriculum ... It is just like an American factory, located in Taiwan, manufacturing products especially for colleges in the US," said Geoffrey Lee, an 11th-grade student at TAS, and an "ABC," or American-born Chinese.

Taiwanese universities are singularly unpopular destinations for TAS graduates.

In the class of 1999, only 2 went to a Taiwanese college. In that of last year, there were only four.

The reason is simple: Taiwanese parents send their children to the school to sharpen their English-language skills to pave the way for entrance to an American college.

As the US remains a dominant power in the world, and most Taiwanese are very receptive to its culture, Taiwanese parents have long been keen to send their children to study in the US. And if they want to keep their children close to them while receiving an American education, TAS -- the largest and oldest of Taiwan's nine American schools with 2,100 students and 52 years of history -- will be their top choice.

Founded in 1949 by missionaries and expatriate business leaders, TAS has reflected the evolution of the US-Taiwan relationship. During the period from 1954 to 1978, while the US retained a military presence in Taiwan, the vast majority of the school's students were children of military personnel.

process of evolution

Since the withdrawal of US forces in 1979, the school has evolved into a college preparatory school with a strong academic program and international reputation. Beginning in the late 1980s, the school served increasing numbers of returning expatriate Chinese from over 40 countries.

But nowadays, an overwhelming majority of students are of Taiwanese ethnicity with foreign citizenship. Parents of the school's students are members of diplomatic and trade missions or are academics, engineers, doctors, politicians, and proprietors of family businesses.

The school's alumni have excelled worldwide in many fields. There are countless distinguished alumni in Taiwan, including Nita Ing (殷琪), president of the Taiwan High-speed Railway Co (台灣高鐵), Taiwan actress and director Sylvia Chang (張艾嘉), movie star Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武) and Linda Arrigo, democracy activist and former DPP chairman Shih Ming-teh's (施明德) ex-wife.

Access to the school is the exclusive preserve of a privileged few. It costs around NT$500,000 a year to attend the upper school. Annual tuition in a public Taiwanese senior high school is NT$20,000.

Being wealthy is not the only criterion; the school also requires students to hold foreign citizenship.

Students include children from prominent families in academia, business, politics and the arts. One of this year's high-profile graduates is Stanley Tzeng (曾允中), the son of Minister of Education Ovid Tzeng (曾志朗). Stanley will continue his studies at Columbia University where he plans to major in computer science.

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