Sat, Sep 27, 2003 - Page 3 News List

High-school student shows the limitations of reform

By Chang Yun-ping  /  STAFF REPORTER

If the education reform could be defined in a simple fashion, it might be as follows: Parents, educators and students ought to allow every student to develop their diverse interests without allowing purely worldly values to dictate what paths students' minds may follow.

This is the vision that has led 16-year-old Lee Chih-wei (李致緯), a first-year senior high-school student of Taipei Jingwen Senior High School, to embark on an alternative learning journey that diverges from a system which weighs academic performance much more heavily than any other ability.

Appearing in a mini-documentary which the Democratic Progressive Party is using to showcase the progress of the education reform, Lee demonstrates his active participation in extra-curricular activities.

Unlike a typical high school student who groans about the pressure to achieve high marks, Lee indulges in insect collecting, fishing, photography and writing.

Since he was a little boy, Lee has fervently observed and collected insects, making him the owner of about 1,000 specimens, most of them coleopterans, and author of numerous entomolomy journal entries published in his school magazine.

"I would like to do anything having to do with insects in the future because it is what I love to study the most," Lee said.

Lee went to Chih-nan Elementary School because of the school's proximity to the mountains in Mucha District, Taipei City where he collects specimens and plays.

"He was born with a special love for Mother Nature ... I always call him a `fanatic' because he shows a true eagerness to pursue whatever interests him.

"He collects insects, raises them as pets, writes about them and paints them. Except in wintertime, he always comes home with bug bites on his legs and hands," Lee's mother Deng Chun-chun (鄧純純) said.

Lee was born to a blue-collar family. His father is a truck driver and his mother a full-time homemaker. They encourage Lee to develop his diverse talents. They do not believe in the mainstream values that demand good study performance and high grades.

"Not everyone is First-Girls'-Senior-High-School and Chien-kuo-High-School material. There is not just one kind of value, and there is no need to follow blindly what all the people say you should do," Deng said.

The two schools are the top girls' and boys' high schools in Taipei.

"In so many of the so-called star high schools, noted for their strong training of students to get into top universities in Taiwan, only a few geniuses are created while the rest of the common students are buried in a rigid and stressful life of study.

"Chinese parents usually expect too much from their children. They dictate that their children follow a predestined path. It's weird, parents here don't go to see their children compete in the school's athletic fairs, but when the joint entrance exams for high school or university come, they all accompany the children to the test[ing venue]," Deng said.

Lee currently is a member of an experimental study program initiated by President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) during his tenure as the Taipei mayor. The program is an eight-year experimental education program which focuses on the building of autonomy for students as they are given the right to decide what they want to learn.

Being educated in an alternative learning environment, Lee sometimes found that he was concerned whether he'd be able to make a decent living some day.

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