MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

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MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby asiababy » 09 Oct 2009, 10:28

I received this booklet (and one clearly outlining the criteria for financial assistance) in the mail yesterday, and imagine it is being sent to all parents with children about to enter elementary school. It is a very interesting booklet and if you don't read Chinese, I encourage you and any Chinese-reading person involved in your child's parenting sit down and look through it. I don't have mine with me right now, but the questions that I noted are:

*Do children need to know Chinese pronunciation before elementary school? No, let the elementary teachers teach it, and if the teachers rush over it like some rumors go around, you can report your teacher to the Education Dept.
*Do children need to go to math school? No. Let them learn when they are ready
*Do children need to learn a foreign language before elementary school? No, it's not a requirement, let them have a childhood

The message was pretty much, free play is good for children, don't rush them into learning, and you don't need to spend a lot of money on those preparation classes before elementary school starts. Whilst at face value it might be easy to say, yeah I know that, there is a lot of information in the answers that started a good discussion between my husband and I about how we want our kids to learn, and what is "good" for them.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby sandman » 09 Oct 2009, 10:33

I think, without having given it much thought, admittedly, that on the face of it its a brilliant message and shows that they really are interested in these education reforms they've been banging on about for so long now.
I see it as the government trying to soften the ground in preparation for REAL reforms -- they probably realize it would be useless to simply impose reforms without the support of parents.
Maybe by the time mine's old enough for school he'll have more chance of at least a semblance of a happy school life.
I hope so.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby Okami » 09 Oct 2009, 11:32

As someone who sees this from kindergarten to elementary school transition. I have to say that my initial reaction is that this is BS. It's thrown out there to make poor parents who can't afford it not feel bad that their kid is behind in class.

*Do children need to know Chinese pronunciation before elementary school? No, let the elementary teachers teach it, and if the teachers rush over it like some rumors go around, you can report your teacher to the Education Dept.

Zhuyin Fuhao (bopomofo) is crucial before they go to elementary school. Without it, your kid is playing catch up and isn't able to understand a good deal of his homework initially. The class time that is devoted to teaching it IIRC is minuscule. It isn't that it's rush, it's that they devote f-all time to actually teaching it.

*Do children need to go to math school? No. Let them learn when they are ready

Math is rushed in school. You can give your kid a head start early or watch him struggle with the tests. It's all about the tests.

*Do children need to learn a foreign language before elementary school? No, it's not a requirement, let them have a childhood

This one is a mixed bag. Kid's who start early are less mystified by foreigners and see them as normal. Kid's who don't; run in absolute terror from them or will completely clam up in class. Language acquisition is reportedly easier the earlier you start. Language classes are normally the closest that some kids get to play time.

I think the best marker that this is bunk is upper middle class and up, educated parents. They(as a group) sure as hell are not doing this nor will do it. They have a better grasp of the issues and know that without these classes their kid may fall behind and not catch up. Once a kid falls behind in elementary school, he basically washes out without some serious after school support to bring him back up to level.

This is why Anchingbans proliferate because they are subject to market forces. If there students do bad on the tests, the parents move them to a better anqinban. The classes are smaller and there is more individual attention. The anchingbans have every reason to do the job right and make sure their students understand the material and succeed. Especially when you consider that 1st and 2nd graders do 4 half days and only one full day of school a week.

Yes, I think the system is screwed and that students should be doing more hands on life relevant stuff, but this is the system. The emphasis is on tests and scoring high on them. I'm willing to bet good money that the English part of the exams have material that is not taught in the elementary school English classes.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby sandman » 09 Oct 2009, 11:41

As someone who sees this from kindergarten to elementary school transition. I have to say that my initial reaction is that this is BS. It's thrown out there to make poor parents who can't afford it not feel bad that there kid is behind in class.

Quote:
*Do children need to know Chinese pronunciation before elementary school? No, let the elementary teachers teach it, and if the teachers rush over it like some rumors go around, you can report your teacher to the Education Dept.

Zhuyin Fuhao (bopomofo) is crucial before they go to elementary school. Without it, your kid is playing catch up and isn't able to understand a good deal of his homework initially. The class time that is devoted to teaching it IIRC is minuscule. It isn't that it's rush, it's that they devote f-all time to actually teaching it.

Quote:
*Do children need to go to math school? No. Let them learn when they are ready

Math is rushed in school. You can give your kid a head start early or watch him struggle with the tests. It's all about the tests.

But isn't that the whole point? That the MOE is trying to get away from that mindset by implementing real, meaningful reforms. They can't just make the reforms without first "coaching" parents to accept these major changes, otherwise there would be an outcry.
As for whether it will simply end up as yet more mealy-mouthed posturing, time will tell. I'd LIKE to think this booklet suggests otherwise, though.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby Okami » 09 Oct 2009, 12:10

But isn't that the whole point? That the MOE is trying to get away from that mindset by implementing real, meaningful reforms. They can't just make the reforms without first "coaching" parents to accept these major changes, otherwise there would be an outcry.
As for whether it will simply end up as yet more mealy-mouthed posturing, time will tell. I'd LIKE to think this booklet suggests otherwise, though.

In a sense I would like to see it too, but the reality that without real reform at the basic school level, like more Zhuyin fuhao classes, your setting people up for failure or a hard time. I'll ask my anqinban today how much Zhuyin fuhao is taught in 1st and 2nd grade, but it's pitifully low amount of time in relation to its importance.

Math is crucial and even in my neck of the woods, math only buxibans are quite common and most anchingbans have additional math courses that parents can pay for their children to attend.

There is a huge gulf between elementary students that have had kindergarten and those that have not. It gets even more pronounced for those that have had bilingual kindergarten versus those who have not had any kindergarten. Free one year kindergarten was a great reform, but what are they teaching? I remember the initial start of this and it was glorified free babysitting. I'd assume it has improved. Private kindergartens give 2 years of Zhuyin Fuhao instruction and work with pronunciation. Good ones also work on hand strength and dexterity, key determinants of a good student.

Considering that 50 kids in a class is the norm for junior high school and that I have no 3rd year junior high nor 3rd year senior high school students because they are all studying for entrance exams every day, all day. I'll believe they are serious about reforms when they reform just these simple things.
*More Zhuyin fuhao classes
*smaller classes in Junior high school

I'm not holding my breath on this though. I'm edging towards home schooling if we stay in Taiwan longer than I want to.

What reforms would you like to see Sandy? I'd like to have a constructive dialogue on this.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby asiababy » 09 Oct 2009, 12:55

Okami,

There is a huge gulf between elementary students that have had kindergarten and those that have not. It gets even more pronounced for those that have had bilingual kindergarten versus those who have not had any kindergarten. Free one year kindergarten was a great reform, but what are they teaching? I remember the initial start of this and it was glorified free babysitting. I'd assume it has improved. Private kindergartens give 2 years of Zhuyin Fuhao instruction and work with pronunciation. Good ones also work on hand strength and dexterity, key determinants of a good student.

By free kindergarten do you mean the ones attached to the elementary schools? It's not free, it costs about 20,000 for a semester, running until 4pm each day. Yes, there are subsidies for those who can't afford it, but subsidies are also available if you want to study in private schools. My son is in his second year of his kindergarten. Personally, I am very happy with this system. They do have a curriculum, the teachers are trained preschool teachers, and their activities are planned to work on those milestones in child development that are in curricula worldwide. The children also have a good amount of free time, which I now see was sorely lacking in the private kindergartens I worked in. Whilst they do introduce some pronunciation and the idea of it, they spend more time developing children's vocabulary, grammar and so on through stories, drama, songs, and other experiences (we could label it art, science...)

In a sense I would like to see it too, but the reality that without real reform at the basic school level, like more Zhuyin fuhao classes, your setting people up for failure or a hard time. I'll ask my anqinban today how much Zhuyin fuhao is taught in 1st and 2nd grade, but it's pitifully low amount of time in relation to its importance.


It was quite interesting to me, that the MOE wrote that actually Zhuyin fuhao is not as important as people think it is. They said, more time needs to be put into teaching children more vocabulary through experience, reading to them more for understanding, so they can understand their schoolwork better. Also, they talked about the difficulty of re-learning the pronunciation if it hasn't been taught accurately. (I don't have the booklet in front of me so I can't quote it exactly, I will extract some points, including the other questions, over the weekend.)

Okami, my nieces had 8 weeks of Zhyin fuhao instruction in first grade. That's pretty much all they did. That really seems enough to me, after that you have to spend time reading a lot of things to start learning the Chinese characters, such your written math problems, story books, and so on.

From the booklet, I felt that they were trying to stop people panicking and forcing their children to cram a lot of things into their minds before first grade, but rather let them get a balance of spending time with family, having shared experiences, or learning how to handle times when there is "nothing to do".

I know that a booklet won't change too much, but like sandman, I do see it as a small step toward at least starting people to think about the choices they make for their children.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby Okami » 09 Oct 2009, 13:38

I agree that it's a good first step, don't misunderstand me on that.

What I'm saying is that I see both kindergarteners and elementary school students deal with the impact of their courses. When you see 2nd graders who can't or struggle to sound out the Zhuyin fuhao to do their homework. How can the MOE tell us that it isn't important? What if the kid has no support at home? In 8-9 weeks how well can you work on the pronunciation of any student in a 30 student class?

Consider that I deal with 3rd, 4th and sometimes 5th graders who don't know their alphabet really well, such as you say a letter and they can't figure out how to write it. This is after 1-2 years of elementary school English and sometimes 1-3 years of cram school English classes.

The system here does not help those that fall behind. Once a kid gets behind here, it's almost impossible to catch him up. Most teachers have very little desire to even catch a student up from what I have seen. The parents are not only trying to get their children to succeed, but to stay up with the teacher and material in class. Parents have kept their kids in cram school and after school programs merely to maintain their child's level.

From the booklet, I felt that they were trying to stop people panicking and forcing their children to cram a lot of things into their minds before first grade, but rather let them get a balance of spending time with family, having shared experiences, or learning how to handle times when there is "nothing to do".
If they really wanted to change this, they'd do away with a large chunk of the testing that is forced on the kids. I have 3 2-day breaks this semester so everything can be stopped so the students can prepare for their elementary school exams. They'd also treat all schools equally rather than giving the lion's share of resources to Taipei education establishment. Cram school also provides an alternative to free time which often involves poor supervision from elderly grandparents where the kids watch TV and play video games. Has anyone seen kids here spontaneously start playing baseball at the school grounds, how about soccer? Most of my students don't even go to their friends' home.

As far as kindergarten, you tend to get what you pay for. I worked for an expensive half day English on in Jingmei that had a good chinese program, lots of playtime, and a park next door that the kids went to almost everyday. The English program was acceptable for a half day school and you were pretty free to play games and read books as long as the students were learning and having fun. Parents complained about it incessantly. They'd rather save a few bucks sending their kids to some dank Englishe school around the corner that didn't provide half of what we did.

For most of us on this board we are educated and well off. You, Sandman and I are going to be looking at schools and choosing the one that best suits what we feel gives us the best value to us and education to our child. We aren't going to be looking for a school that spends 4 hard months of the year preparing for the graduation and Xmas show. We are not going to accept our kids being educated by someone without an Early Childhood education degree. We are not going to accpet the teacher screaming in class. The problem is that Taiwanese parents will accept this if the price to face ratio is right.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby sandman » 09 Oct 2009, 13:53

Erm, the kid's mother is a Taiwanese parent and she sure as won't accept those things, either. And among her large coterie of mother-cronies her views on the issue don't make her stand out particularly. They're becoming more and more mainstream, as far as I can tell. These are mothers with babies. I wonder what the attitude will be by the time their kids are in the position that your pupils are in now?
I would like to hope that things are changing, even though its so slow its hardly perceptible. I think this booklet is a sign -- sure, a tiny one -- that change is afoot. And I hope like HELL that I'm right and you're wrong, but I know that's all it is -- hope. A man can hope.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby anglophonus » 09 Oct 2009, 14:05

They apparently didn't do the Xmas show nonsense when my wife was in school; she's appalled by it too, and by the cram-school-and-test frenzy. Just to show that there are some Taiwanese that would welcome changes....

And why are they doing Xmas shows in a Buddhist-Daoist country, anyway?!? I don't think there are many many Buddha's birthday performances at schools in Kentucky or Manitoba.
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Re: MOE booklet: 8 big questions for parents

Postby Okami » 09 Oct 2009, 14:23

Taiwanese parents accepting no Xmas or graduation show nonsense is an absolute myth from my personal experience. In some cases a good Xmas or graduation show is what attracts parents.

The main crux parents who don't like the system nor want to participate in it have is where do they send their kid to school and hope he gets an education without becoming a motorcycle mechanic or a cook. They also don't have the out that we do that our child can switch to a different system, we have large amount of free time to teach them and do things, and that we also have large amounts of disposable income.

And I hope like HELL that I'm right and you're wrong, but I know that's all it is -- hope.
I do too, Sandy

I personally would like to see more experimental parent-focused elementary schools of the sort that the teacher's college on Hoping runs. I would love to have my kid in a class at an elementary school in Taiwan with 19 of her peers learning in English and Chinese bilingual enviroment with real teachers for 5 full days. I mean what would it take, 5-10 hours of volunteering by each parent a week, maybe $5-10,000NT/month.
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