National Chengchi University's weekend conference entitled Alternatives and Innovations: Indigenous Taiwan Education, Experiences and New Beginnings shed new light on the education reform debate.
Among the topics discussed was the creation of a more humanitarian learning environment in Taiwan's public schools.
"An education that respects human rights is the only way to teach our next generation to value those rights," said educational philosophy graduate student Tsong Pei-lin (
Minister of Education Tu Cheng-sheng (
A total of 20 presentations consisted mainly of research pa-pers from graduate students and professors of the university's education department. Researchers offered new findings on education in Taiwan, many criticizing failings in both conventional and experimental school systems.
Using the ideas of French thinker Michel Foucault, Tsong compared the authoritarian control of students in Taiwanese public schools to prisons. "In one Kaohsiung high school," he recalled, "the classrooms all have grill windows leading to the homeroom teacher's office. The teacher can watch the students' every move at any time without their knowledge. This sort of invisible pressure and deprivation of privacy is very like that of high-security prisons, especially since teachers have unconditional authority within the classroom un-der the name of discipline."
"Even the widely accepted institution of testing," he said, "can be interpreted as a method of manipulating students, as opposed to a true teaching method."
Teachers and principals from several experimental or "forest" schools were invited to discuss their experiences. Such schools are popularly called "alternative" and usually place emphasis on inspiring creativity and individuality in students. Ideally, faculty should also be encouraged to work creatively on new methods and material.
"Since the first alternative schools were established in 1990," reported graduate researchers Huang Yuan-he (
Both proponents of experimental education and those who sought to reform the current system stressed the importance of creating "creative capability" in the next generation.
"Human learning is constantly moving and is non-linear," said researcher Chen Lee-Hung (
In a paper entitled Meeting Tomorrow's Technology in Education, a group of elementary teachers argued for the value of interactive computer programs.
"Even if these new technologies have not yet proved to be more effective than traditional teaching methods," said presenter Lee Hua-long (
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