I was transferred after middle school, and those are the hardest times in Taiwan because classes change a lot. In Taiwan, you leave school at like seven after the after school hour classes. However, when you get to middle school, it’s more like until 9 p.m. where the class ended. Also, you don’t get summer. Summer is about two weeks long. So, when I was in school I was in private school. It was elementary school private wise. It was truly traditional, because back home, traditional private school is more strict than public, like in the U.S. Back home, private school has rules on how long your hair should be and there’s rules on many other things, like grade requirements.
The teachers were really strict there because they’re all really old traditional teachers. One thing that my school would do was put everything to competition. our school like to, in order to promote the students who worked harder, they decided to have a competition. So, we have four classes for a different classroom, and each room would be filled with different grade levels for our students. For example: we use the color system because originally we used letter system: A, B, and C. But, some parents complained that all the smart kids were in A so everyone should be in A.
So we changed it to red, blue, green, and yellow. But it’s still the same thing, they put the smart kids in one class and the dumb ones in another until you get down to the dumbest class. The only way to be in the smart class was by improving your grade. The top two or three people in the class would get moved to the next class so that you’re doing your own work. For the competitions, there’s a math competition every year, a speech competition, and there’s also a typing competition.
I remember my Elementary teacher would punish me, physically punish me, for not achieving what she required. It’s a common thing back when I was a kid. It’s not so common anymore because society changed.
Back then it was really common to beat and punish kids. It’s just that everyone feels like it’s just a Chinese thing. There’s this saying:
“With the stick you can build a really smart, respectful kid.”
So that’s why they did it.
One of the most significant memories I have is when I got, like, a sixty something on my math quiz. My teacher said he had to hit me on my palm with the ruler for each point I lost. And he’ll line us up in the front of the class so this smart kid can see who is last; see who is a dumb kid. And the teacher said, “OK this is the first person to get hit once.” And they would get one until it went down to forty something. So with the whole class we’d know who’s the bottom and who’s the top. That’s a big thing, so it was pretty tough. Some teachers are really aggressive too. I got thrown out of my classroom multiple times because teachers, they would grab my chair and take it and throw it out. They felt like I wasn’t good enough to be in their class and they don’t want to be dragged down with me or the entire class, so that’s why they did it.
We started intensive learning back in kindergarten. I don’t know what you guys learned in Kindergarten, but for me, I started learning about multiplication and the basis of English and Chinese. So when you graduate, when you get out of kindergarten, you are required to know how to do all the multiplication questions, and you have to know how to write characters and spell vocab speaking in the proper English. Some other things I learned early on was working with the computer. I started learning how to use the computer when I was in elementary school, but back then, it was most like focusing on how to use it. We focused on symbol stuff, word, PowerPoint, or paint- like how you draw? That’s the first two grades, and then later on they also taught us how to make email accounts. Then later on they started teaching us how use web browsers.
When I was in third grade, we started learning how to make web browsers. And after we got really good at web browsering, we started looking to how they hack a computers, which we figured out pretty soon how to do. Some teacher actually tells you how to just for fun and curiosity. Another thing we focus on is just typing. There’s a program that we have to do every day before class starts. It’s a web site. You know how those fake testers test your typing speed? We had to do that for every class we went to because there was a requirement that you had to boost the site before you graduate [kindergarten].
For example: if it takes you five minutes to type a page of essay, basically copying not actual typing, just think of it as already pre-written. You just have to type it out. For example: regular people take five minutes. So first time takes you five minutes. By the end of the year you need to make that shorter or else you’re not passing the class. They focus on progress a lot, and then that’s generally how they do it.
Another thing to do is like, show the whole list of the class; whose the fastest and whose the slowest. So they group up the fastest in one area with the better computer, and the rest of us are using the crappy one. So you would be motivated to be better, because you want to be treated better and form more respect.
The teacher will go one by one by name, because back home, teachers would literally call you by number. They’d say, “Number 14 come to front. Number 12 come to front. Number two go stand behind because you’re falling behind.” Well the number changed based on your grade. So if you’ve got 80 kids in the class, no one has a number until the first tests, and then you get assigned a number. It’d be like, “Oh, you’re number 80 because you’re the lowest grade in the class,” and the number changes as it goes.
Here in the United States, parents would go crazy if they heard what students in Taiwan had to deal with. But my parents might hear about my teachers punching or slapping me in the face for not doing well, and my mom, dad had the same treatment when they were kids so it would be like, “Oh, this is common.” So, parenting and teaching back in Taiwan was really harsh. It was like punishment. But my dad would hit me with a wooden stick for not doing well in school like my grandmother. She didn’t do it to me, but according to my dad, she would force him to kneel on a pile Rice. You know, like, uncooked rice so it’s really hard? On a pile of rice for an entire afternoon for not doing well in school. So, it’s more of a fear system. Everyone feared the teacher as a sign of respect to them. And it’s also something they do in Asia. It’s a crop system.
You take all the wheat, and take out all the unnecessary
plant, and only have the best crops that you harvest.
That’s just how things usually go, usually children that get put in the dumb classes don’t go to the next grade. Generally if you get put in a dumb school in middle school, you get put in a dumb class in high school. Then you never go to college and you’re thrown out of society. Generally you don’t even go to high school, so that’s basically how it is.
Math and Science were heavily pushed all through school because that’s generally our biggest labor force around the world. People who are good at math and scientists are valued. The financial technology sector especially because that’s what we’re famous for, or at least use to be, so math class was heavy. For example, My cousin, Maggie again, she’s studying at a current university. She’s older than me and she can do calculus without a calculator. My younger cousin Mandy, she’s learning calculus in her first year of high school, college level, my level, calculus. So math was heavily the focus. I left Taiwan to go to Thailand because, unfortunately, I’m not very good at math; that’s why I left in the first place, because I wouldn’t have survived the math level. Another thing to focus on is language– Chinese wise. We focus heavily on literature. It’s kind of different from the way you learn in the United States. You know how in the United States you read Shakespeare? We read ancient Asian texts.