Time for School: Modern Education in Taiwan
Let’s Go to School
Going to a school, becoming a student, and receiving education, is an experience shared by most people. “Time for School: Modern Education in Taiwan” takes the perspective of students to examine how we, innocent and ignorant to begin with, get to know ourselves and see the world through education, and thus develop the ability to think independently, so we can question and challenge existing systems. At the same time, the state tries to nurture us through modern education so that we become “ideal citizens.” Education has also enabled modern Taiwan to develop into a society of “collective bodies,” where people display societal unity while maintaining their own unique personalities.
Entering School: Becoming One of Us
Why do we study? Unlike traditional education that focused on nurturing academic elites, Taiwan’s modern education began during the Japanese colonial period and targeted the public for general education; through the collective and purposeful education system, ideas are forged and bodies are trained. This constructs the foundation for social consensus, so that the many different “me’s” can get together and become “us,” a group of people that have common feelings and ideas. Consequently, education becomes the index of a person’s usefulness to society. People’s abilities are labeled and categorized, forming a set of new standards of value, taking us into a modern society that emphasizes educational background.
Starting Classes: The Making of an Ideal Citizen
Have you considered why modern schools teach these subjects? Languages allow us to communicate with each other, while geography and history provide perspectives to know the world and understand our past. However, oftentimes we also see national identity imposed on students. Math and science guide us to explore the unknown world and face modern life. Physical education and various practical courses prepare our bodies and skills to be productive in an industrial society. Art and music classes enrich our aesthetics and cultural life. Through examinations, we check our learning results. However, by whose standards do we define an ideal citizen? When we receive education, we should remain constantly cautious, keeping in mind that we shall pursue the concept of citizenship built on universal values.
Cheering on Youthful Days: Our Memories of School
What do you remember most clearly about your time in school? The stress of academic pressure, relationships between close peers, competitions in which we gave all we had, popular activities and publications, rebellion and resistance against the system, trips we went on together, and the future and dreams we shared with each other…every flavor of our youthful days has left a deep imprint on our lives. Our old classmates sometimes share closer bonds with us than our own kin.
Years Later: My Future is not a Dream
Do you still remember what you wrote down as “My Aspiration” when you were young? Have you become what you envisioned yourself to be? National policies in different periods have through education shaped ideal citizens according to the needs of the ruling regime. At those times, we perhaps accepted or challenged the system. Looking back at our educational journey, what is education to us now? What are the influences of education on our later lives? Through dialectical processes, reviewing all of these aspects of learning, our true colors gradually become clearer.