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.
\nIn 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.
\n"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.
\nTaiwanese universities are singularly unpopular destinations for TAS graduates.
\nIn the class of 1999, only 2 went to a Taiwanese college. In that of last year, there were only four.
\nThe 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.
\nAs 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.
\nFounded 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.
\nprocess of evolution
\nSince 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.
\nBut 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.
\nThe 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.
\nAccess 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.
\nBeing wealthy is not the only criterion; the school also requires students to hold foreign citizenship.
\nStudents include children from prominent families in academia, business, politics and the arts. One of this year's high-profile graduates is Stanley Tzeng (
PHOTO: CHIANG YING-YING, TAIPEI TIMES
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