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The Motorcycle Diaries

Travel in Taiwan

Today was the day. Today, I rode a scooter for the first time. It happened, I promise. I have photo and video evidence, otherwise I wouldnt believe it either. It was absolutely….terrifying!!!! It took me a while of watching everyone else before I was even willing to try. And then I had people walking me through it (Thanks Albert and Kelly!) because I’m going to be honest…I was really scared. But, I DID IT!!!!! I still dont like it that much…but I know I can kind of sort of scooter a tiny bit. Turns….not so much. Navigating around things….not so much. Speeding up…not so much. BUT, putting along really slow in a straight line with no obstacles….I have it down! And proud of it!

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Besides that traumatic experience, we had a really cool presentation today about Taiwan, living here, teaching here and the general education system. I learned a ton of fascinating things. We had to make a list of how we would get the most out of our time here and have personal and professional growth…one of my answers was: to go outside of my comfort zone at least once each day that I am in Taiwan. Well, I started today with the scootering and it wasnt a horrible catastrophe, so yay!! But there is just so much I did not know about this culture and schooling here and it really gave me a new perspective on things.

Education in Taiwan

Taiwan has the opposite of the USA in regards to public and private education. Public schools in Taiwan are much better than the private schools. Public schools are more selective and have way more funding from the government, so in turn have better resources. You get into the public schools with entrance exams. Taiwan (like China) is really hyper focused on rankings. Every parent wants their child to get into the top school and be the top student. Richer students will go to things called ‘cram schools’. Cram schools are essentially after school programs that mirror school. They focus on memorization and getting ahead. They commonly go until about 9pm. But of course, they are expensive and only the privileged can afford to send their children. This widens the educational gap because they are essentially going to school for 5 extra hours a day, every day, from an extraordinarily young age.

Private schools have a lot less funding and are there for the students who did not do well on the entrance exams to public school. But, they cost money…just like US private schools do. So, children who test worse (often poorer students without tutors and cram school from age 2), are made to pay to go to school (and a worse school at that). And, on top of all of this, Taiwan just implemented a 12 year system. So, every child legally must complete high school. This puts a huge burden on poor families, who now have to pay for private schools by law.

I found the whole thing completely fascinating. I had no idea that dynamic even existed. I am really interested to talk to my LET (local English teacher) about what they think about cram schools and the 12 year system. Come Masters and PhD I could delve further into these issues, because it is so interesting. I could easily write 100 pages about it and still have barely skimmed the surface. 

What's Next

Anyway, we had that talk and went over cultural norms and problems that could arise and other helpful topics. It was overall a pretty great day! We will have more of these talks and presentations over the next three weeks to prepare us to teach! (:

Tomorrow we will open our bank accounts and travel to NanAo to see the aborignial schools. Then, after we have seen those six schools, we will have seen all the options and I will have to start really thinking about what schools I want to preference. It is really really exciting to think that at this time next month, I will be done with my first week of teaching at an amazing elementary school in Yilan county, Taiwan. It’s still surreal that I am here and I hope the awe and excitement I feel for this experience and this country never wear off…but I honestly dont think it will. 

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