Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiwan

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Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiwan

Postby LAguy » 13 Sep 2010, 23:27

Hello everyone. I am not yet in Taiwan. I am planning to move to Taiwan next year,around June or July. I am considering about my kids' education in Taiwan. They are 7 and 9 and will be 8 and 10 by next year. I have been searching for information about education for foreign kids in few forum sand I found this forum very helpful. Now I know that it's more practical for me to send my kids to local schools because it is too pricey in American/Int'l schools. I found many examples of foreign kids educational choice but unfortunately my case is quite different from most of people here. Most of the family stories in here have at least one parent who can speak Chinese so they can help their children a lot at home. I can barely speak everyday Chinese but I can't read or write. My wife is zero at Chinese. So we can't help my kids with their homework in Chinese. Additionally, many advised that kids from 8 to 10 should not be relocated to Taiwan because there will be many writings from Grade 4. Hence, kids at that age may not be able to catch up school work etc. I found all the advice negative to my decision of moving to Taiwan. Shall we start taking Chinese class from now? I noticed that my kids picked up another Asian language very fast 2 year ago. So I assume they may pick up Chinese much faster than I can imagine and would have no problem with Chinese classes at Taiwan local schools. I may be very wrong.

I will move to Kaohsiung where there are less international schools than Taipei and where living cost is considered relatively lower. Please share with me your thought, your advice on the kids' possible Taiwan education. Please feel free to ask me any question if you want to know more our situation so as to give better advice. Thank you very much.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby elburro » 13 Sep 2010, 23:45

If I had two kids at that age that spoke no Chinese, and I couldn't afford to send them to one of the international schools here in Taiwan, that would be my reason to not move to Taiwan. I just can't see the kids pick up Chinese fast enough to follow classes here.

How long are you staying for?

Maybe there is a way of arranging homeschooling.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby Mucha Man » 14 Sep 2010, 00:35

LAguy wrote: ...So I assume they may pick up Chinese much faster than I can imagine and would have no problem with Chinese classes at Taiwan local schools. I may be very wrong.


On average it takes a child 5-7 years to catch up to his peers in a case like this.

They might sound good in a year but academically they will be light years behind. They won't be able to read or write nor know their science or math or language terms in Chinese. I can see how you are doing anything but setting them up for failure.

I'd say homeschooling is your only serious option.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby Jaboney » 14 Sep 2010, 00:54

Welcome aboard, LAGuy.

Aside from a very serious language barrier, the very different philosophy and practices behind local schooling... yikes. Long hours, rote learning, constant testing: it's one thing if you come up through the system and know the language. If you know neither the language, nor the system, it'd be hell. Sure, it'd be the kind of hell that may later turn into a fabulous best-selling memoir about the shit you had to overcome and bring an hour on Oprah's sofa, but aside from the short term fame and royalties, I'm pretty sure it'd suck hard and long.

As you've been combing through the site, I'm sure you've come across any number of parents opining that the best option is put their kids in local schools until they hit high school, then send them back home to escape the local variety. You're kids aren't yet that old, but you'd be doing the opposite. I've had ONE student whose parents brought her back to Taiwan from the US, right into junior high. Her spoken Mandarin was pretty decent, but she was LOST in local schools. HATED it here. DANCED IN THE STREET when that major quake struck because she figured it would mean moving 'back home'. Eventually graduated by correspondence, barely.

I can't imagine any circumstances under which I'd go that route.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby Petrichor » 14 Sep 2010, 02:55

Hi LAguy

We're in a similar position to you. We'll be coming out next year with a just-turned 8 year old who will have no Chinese at all, and is completely blue-eyed, blonde-haired white. When we come for a scouting visit in four weeks' time we'll be dropping by the various school options.

While I don't have experience of Taiwan, I do have the experience of taking a 5 and 2 year old to live in Laos. At that age adaption and acquisition of language is automatic, and the benefits of being a falang outweighed the disadvantages. Now in both our cases out children will be quite a bit older, and adaption slows as they age, though the speed at which they do it still far exceeds an adult.

How do I know this? Well, I taught English for Speakers of Other Languages in the UK for many years, and the children of the people I taught were leagues ahead of their parents in no time, so that you got the inevitable parents relying on their children for interpreting. This applied to even quite old children. In fact, at my older sons' school a Polish girl arrived at aged 14 speaking no English and went on to ace her A' Levels four years later.

That said, that was Polish and Eastern Europeans have an excellent attitude to education that puts British schoolchildren to shame. I've no doubt that the greater difference between English and Mandarin as opposed to a European language will slow the process. And acquiring written Chinese would be an uphill struggle starting so far behind their peers.

I'm in no position to advise you but wanted to let you know that I think it wouldn't be impossible, just pretty difficult, and you're risking your children's emotional well being to put them through, though with clear benefits to them in the end.

From our perspective, I would rather that our son went to a local school at least until high school, both because I know total immersion will be the quickest way for him learn Mandarin (our main reason for moving to Taiwan) and because I'd rather not that he became insulated in the expat bubble world. However, I know that that would entail a big risk to him and the last thing I want is for him to hate his life. :( We're lucky in that we can afford to send him to TES, though it would be a significant proportion of our income, but that could well defeat our purpose. (I was reading someone's blog who'd been here 2/3 years and her children couldn't speak anything other than English - how is that possible? :s ) So in our trip we're hoping to have a look at one or two bilingual schools that may be a happy medium (and cheaper!) Not sure if such schools exist in Kaohsiung but that might be something worth checking out. That way the difference in cultural aspects of schooling wouldn't be so great either. I agree with other posters that this is potentially a source of greater harm than the language difference.

One thing you could do is start teaching them written Chinese at home, now, and also as much spoken Chinese as you can. There are a huge amount of free or fairly cheap resources out there and it could become an enjoyable parent/child bonding time too. I'm not sure what exists in children's Mandarin TV programming, but our son watches a lot of Japanese cartoons and can now pronounce a lot of Japanese, knowing roughly what he's saying from the subs. I think the thing is to maybe go for a trip and do your research. Be prepared to return if things don't work out. At that age a year's disrupted schooling isn't going to be life-changing. With a lot of preparation and care it may not be disastrous, and the struggle it will no doubt be worth it in the long run if you succeed.

I know I'm overstepping myself with this and bow to experienced forumers' superior knowledge, but also know that kids are very adaptable and resilient. Even in the case of an generally unhappy time, the experience of living for a year in a very different culture will benefit them for the rest of their lives.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby JuliaZ » 14 Sep 2010, 05:54

My company (HTC) wanted to move me and my family to Taiwan and I said thanks but no thanks. My kids are 10 and 2 (will be 11 in January and 3 in April). My little boy would learn and adapt just fine; he can't read English yet either, so I'm sure he could learn to read and write English and Chinese at the same time if we got him a good teacher.

My daughter, on the other hand, is in the gifted program at home (home being Bellevue, Washington), reading and writing two years ahead of her peers... but she has an incredible grasp of English and a tiny bit of spoken French -- no Chinese at all. She has a chance to continue to excel in her classes in English; why would I take that away from her and throw her back to the start of schooling in Chinese?

My husband and I both speak zero Chinese... it's not like we could help the kids.

Instead, my company brought me here for a month this time and I will come for two months two or three times next year. During my long visits, they are going to fly my family here for 7-10 days... so the kids can dip their toes in this water, so to speak... I'm hoping to get my daughter into Chinese classes at home, too, and if she studies that with any real effort, she will be a better Chinese speaker when she comes to visit than I will be, being that I am living and working mostly in the standard ex-pat English-speaking bubble.

I am trying to decide if I want to get serious and start taking private Chinese lessons. I am working really long hours and I'm pretty stressed out by being away from my toddler, starting at a new job, having a big workload, being alone in a place where I don't know anyone, living alone. (Most parents of a toddler would rejoice about a month on their own, but I am an extrovert through and through and it's very draining to always be alone except when in the office. I'm trying to make some new friends here, but that takes time). i can't decide if making real efforts to learn Chinese would stress me even further, or if it would make things easier. I think I am going to let it be during this trip, learning whatever I can in passing, and then I will try to hook up with a good bilingual teacher when I first come on a 2-month stint.

In short, I wouldn't throw my kids right into local schools and I doubt it would be a good idea for your kids either, unless you managed to sell them on it being a great adventure AND you started Chinese reading, writing, and speaking lessons at home immediately. Kids can accomplish amazing feats of learning in a year, and I bet after a solid year's instruction, they would succeed at a bilingual school and would also be able to make more local social contacts that way.

Good luck, and keep posting your thoughts and experiences. These are not easy decisions to make! One further thought for you... what do your KIDS think? Have you asked them? Do they go "oh, cool!" or "hmmmm". Their attitude towards the whole situation will make it or break it... you can't make them like it if they don't. :aiyo:
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby Redmenace » 14 Sep 2010, 07:43

You need to remember that public school's here are not set up to accommodate foreign language speakers. Back home there are ESL programs in every school, and community services for immigrants. There's none of that here. I would bet your children's teacher would just ignore them and let them fail. The teacher would see his or her job as just delivering the lesson, and if the children are not ready to absorb it, then that's not the teacher's problem.

I have a "white" friend that grew up here, and his spoken Mandarin is flawless. He says in school his teachers ignored him because his marks were bad, but they were afraid to discipline a foreign kid. He never really learned to write Chinese or English at an adult level, and it's become a real issue for him in his life.

I plan to send my child to grade 1 here in a couple of years, but I really think it's a mistake if the child is not a Mandarin speaker already.
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby nohobobo » 14 Sep 2010, 11:24

Based on my own experience, a kid coming in to grade 1 here with zero Chinese could probably pull it off. A kid coming into grade 2 who could speak Chinese already but couldn't read or write would have a very, very difficult year but could probably get caught up if they worked very hard. It might even be possible (but extremely difficult) for a very bright kid to come into grade 3 here from the U.S. if (1) they already spoke Chinese when they arrived, and (2) had also been cramming Chinese reading & writing for at least a year in anticipation. After that I just can't imagine how it would be possible. The education system moves too fast here. Even normal kids struggle at times.

I know the American Schools here are expensive, but I think there are other international schools that are a bit more reasonably-priced and still offer a good quality of education. I don't really know that much about them (especially the schools in Kaohsiung) but maybe some other Forumosans have a better idea.....
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby BigJohn » 14 Sep 2010, 12:08

When I was 10-12 years old I lived in a small African country where there was no good English language education beyond grade 6. So, my parents and some other parents set up a small distance learning group. 7 kids, two teachers. One the math/science supervisor, the other was the English / lib arts person. We worked through our correspondence courses with supervision and help from those two. I chewed my way through American grade 6 in 4 months, using only 4 hours per day,and had social contact with peers or near-peers.

Maybe you could try something similar. There's no shortage of talented ex-pat teachers in Taiwan who would like to make a bit of extra money, and with the INternet these days there are so many additional resources to choose from. You just need to choose the right distance program.

Just an idea!
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Re: Please give me your advice on my kids' education in Taiw

Postby LAguy » 15 Sep 2010, 00:09

Hi. I am so much appreciated for all your comments and advice to my situation.

To elburro and Muchaman: Thank you for the comment. the offer is quite good for me and my family need a change, I guess, so we think of moving to Taiwan once we get the offer. If I decide to take the offer, I'll stay in Taiwan for few years. I've been looking for an alternative like some other parents suggested. So far I haven't found any international school in Kaohsiung that has more reasonable tuition and fees. There is one IB school recommended by a local acquaintance that has tuition and fee alone of approx. NT$150,000 per semester for grade 1 throu 6. Do you think this price range is much more reasonable than TAS/TBS ? I've never thought of homeschooling, honestly. I read some posts by a mother (I think she's Asiamom!?) in women only forum that she's homeschooling the kids herself. That's incredible to me. I want to ask that mom more about homeschooling but I can't sign in that forum. I'll try to check it out.

To Jaboney: Thank you for your comment and that's exactly what I was worrying and that's reason I started planning and gathering info as much as I can so that I won't be making mistake on my kids' future. For the time being, I just think it might be a competitive advantage for my kids' future when they are also fluent in Chinese. But I must think hard for the pressure I may create upon my kids which is against my intention when I seek education for them in Taiwan.

To Petrichor: Thank you for your comment. I would be worrying if my kids were younger than primary school age. There's chance that I can stay in Taiwan until my kids reach the high school age. I don't have many good opportunities back home. I've been living in foreign countries since university. Pls do me a favor by letting me know what you find out about local schools or bilingual schools after your scouting trip to Taiwan. Would it be possible for you to ask if they have a branch in Kaohsiung area? I'd much grateful.

To JuliaZ: Thank you for your comment and your wish. In fact, I started looking for a Chinese tutor few days ago and I hope that our kids and my wife can start learning soon. I think you totally right about bilingual school as other posters have the same comment. Perhaps, it's really indeed a good choice for the first year. If you happen to find any bilingual school for your girl, pls do let me know by posting in here. I am very thankful. I did also discuss briefly with my kids. They are excited as they had some memory of a month's long in a Taiwanese camping trip a year ago. Of course they didn't think of any challenge they may face yet when they are not just visiting as last time. I let them chew in the idea first. I'll talk to them again after we start the Chinese class few days later. I'll come back here and post our evolutionary decision making process.

To Redmenace, nohobobo, and BigJohn: Thank you for your comment. I totally agree with you.

Here are my summary of all your comments:
1> It will be extremely difficult for the kids of 8 and 10 to start at local school in Taiwan => consider not to relocate to Taiwan. Is there any successful example out there? Did anyone bring your kids at age of around 8 to 10 who did not speak Chinese before they came to Taiwan but survived and studied well?
2> Bilingual school is a good option. Can anyone suggest any school so I can check with them in details? (Contact number, email address or website etc are highly appreciated)
3> Homeschooling is also an option. I guess I will try to do it as an extra activity, once or twice a week. That will hopefully help my kids a bit more. Hence, I may need to start pick up written Chinese as well. Anyone has specific suggestion regarding this issue?

I am very sorry for the long post and hope I can hear from experienced parents who have lived in Taiwan. Thank you very much.
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