Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Teaching English in Taiwan II: Education Obsession

The obsession with education was one stereotype that was holding up: there were schools for sports, music, air hostesses; schools that taught you how to get the most out of school; schools to teach independent thinking; and schools to break over-reliance on school. Never fret if your kid went to violin class and was told they had no talent, someone will promise to drill that talent into them. People were obsessed: one nine year old student, Michael, already had piano, maths, calligraphy and English; parents were prepared to flog themselves, and their child, to death because it was necessary to be play the piano, speak five languages while fencing and moonlighting as a nuclear physicist from your day job as a broker.

But of all these obsessions English was the biggest: walk a hundred yards and there was another bright, colorful sign for Bright Sparks or Achiever Kid California English School…Pick up the newspaper and there were columns of job advertisements for Native American Speaker Required.

Having never attended a minute of extra-curricular schooling in my life it had taken a while to get used to.

“So you are saying these are all private schools…the kids go there in the evenings?” I kept asking people in the hostel when I first arrived.

“Yes,” they answered.

“So, I mean who goes then?”


“What do you mean everyone?”

“Everyone,” they answered.

“Bloody hell…What for?”

At which point the next few questions and answers automatically popped into my head: Because they want to learn English…But…that much? Yes, you dick: that much.

“Thanks,” I said and wandered off still shaking my head.

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