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stuDYING Abroad: A Polish Perspective on Taiwanese Education

Updated: Apr 14, 2018

by a helpless uni.conn

I'm an exchange student in Taiwan, thus I get to experience the way Taiwanese school works every day. There is one very disturbing thing, above the others, most Taiwanese students share-no enthusiasm for learning. Some might say "what do you mean? Their education system is one of the best in the world". Well, it is at least in terms of scores. A typical Taiwanese school week is around 50 hours long. This sole fact, alone, sounds rather dreadful, how can they find a way to develop properly, experience teenage life if they spend 10 hours in school every day? But what struck me the most is that this 50-hour work week contains what we could call “fun classes”-music, art, design, extra languages.

Unfortunately, Taiwanese students don’t use the opportunity that high schoolers in many countries are not given. For example, in Poland, unless you choose to go to a senior art high school, you’re not getting any art class at all. Same goes for music, design and technology etc. The reason why is the belief that if students can’t write their final high school exam (equivalent of A-levels or SATs) in a certain subject, it means that they’re not going to care anyway and it’s a waste of state money and students time, it’s better they just prepare for the standardized college-entrance examination. As a result, the only classes we receive in Poland are the exam-oriented ones plus a PE and a Catholic religion/ethics class. This system is not good for our development. A variety of research has shown that challenging your creativity and doing art-oriented classes triggers a more balanced and full development. It also helps us study and consume knowledge and information better.

However, the Polish can learn from Taiwanese students, in that if we had this kind of opportunity we would probably just throw it away. You may ask how exactly? As an example, I will describe to you what happened to my aesthetics & design class. It was one of the classes that we could choose (I mean it was compulsory to do something, but we could’ve chosen from 3 options). During the first lesson our teacher said that she doesn’t want to put more pressure on us so we won’t be graded. She asked us to bring materials ourselves and said she can help us with whatever project we want to do. But hardly anyone was bringing materials, people were just talking and watching TV series on their iPads. As a result, our teacher gave up. She stopped asking us to bring materials and started playing movies on the big screen in front of the class. This made me realize that our Polish system isn’t that bad.

In Poland we spend around 35 hours in school every week. This allows us to study on our own as well as develop our passions and thanks to that, keep some of the enthusiasm everyone had on the first day of school. Polish students study hard for their exams, but they still have the will to learn something that will not help them in a way that gets them into a university. For example, some students in my Polish high school, stay there after school to learn Norwegian or Turkish while none of them is planning to move to these countries or even develop fluency in the language. They’re doing it to have fun and learn something different. Meanwhile during my Japanese class in Taiwan everyone is sleeping or doing other homework. There is only one reason for this attitude; they’re not tested in that subject.

This brings me to a very sad conclusion, even though the Taiwanese education system is doing such a good job in preparing kids for university exams, it is not giving them other important skills, passions or interests, that they should get from school-enthusiasm and learning. And at the very least, in my opinion, if after graduating we don’t have any enthusiasm for learning, we might as well not have gone to school at all.

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