And Where Have Our Schools Led Us?

The past 50 years have seen Taiwan transformed from a colonial backwater based on agriculture into a computer hardware factory for the world. Without the input of the last few decades of Taiwan history, a computer revolution that changed the world would not have been possible. And our schools have led the way. Our schools have educated two generations of disciplined, industrious workers, managers with great leadership skills, engineers with the technical skill to rebuild an island destroyed by war, and businessmen with the spirit and vision to guide some of the best workers in the world.

But all this has come to an end. The computer industry has moved to China along with much of what was once traditional industry for Taiwan. And now our workers find themselves competing for jobs not just with other Taiwanese but with workers from the USA, from Europe, from Japan, from Hong Kong, and from Korea. Our companies are competing in a global economy dominated not by factories and manufacturing but by banks, insurance companies, securities, and software. And in Taiwan, even with a literate, disciplined, industrious workforce, we find we’re not at all ready for this change. We find that our schools have failed us in their preparation for a global economy.

Taiwanese with enough money or special position have their own solution to this. They send their children to boarding schools in America or to summer camp in Australia. But for the rest of us, the solution is not so clear. The Ministry of Education has failed us here. Their answer to preparing our children for a global workplace is more of the same: more tests, more textbooks, more time at school. All of this has meant more hours at cram schools, more pressure on our children, less of the childhood that we all believe children really need to grow up to be happy and healthy.

But I’m not telling you anything new. Certainly everyone here has thought about this at one time or another. The reason you and your children are stuck with the same old schools isn’t because we don’t know this system doesn’t work. Rather, it’s because our schools can’t think of anything else to do.


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