But can I ask where you think your children will be going once they leave Elementary school?
We don't plan too much beyond three years, so there is no definite plan. There are so many variables and things that can happen between first grade and sixth, with the kids and in our lives. We don't have plans to put them into international school in Taiwan, and we don't have dreams of them going to any particular university or college anywhere in particular, if they want to go to the higher education route. They are still pretty young, so it really hasn't come up for discussion yet.
Thanks asiababy. I'm far more anal than you, and need to have a plan for the next 10 years at least!
Well, we just got back from a holiday in Taipei and I thought I would tell of our experiences.
With limited time available and other things to do, as well as the desire to actually have some kind of holiday, we decided to restrict our school visits to four and to try to cover the different types on offer.
The first school we visited was TES. This is on a large site which is in a different part of the city from the secondary campus. The building was the largest for an elementary school I've ever seen and it easily had the best equipment and facilities of the four. They're also building a swimming pool in the grounds, though it won't be ready for 3 years. This school had everything you would expect of an international school - wide curriculum, school buses, foreign teachers, lots of clubs etc. However, we didn't feel it was for us. One of the main reasons for our plans to move to Taiwan is so that our boy can learn Mandarin, and it was clear that just wouldn't happen if he attended this school. The children do two hours of Chinese a week and the language of instruction is English, so he definitely wouldn't be taught any useful level of Chinese and nor would he pick it up through being in an environment where Mandarin is used extensively.
As a school, the staff were friendly (one British teacher chatted to us in the corridor) but one thing that struck me was how quiet
it was. I don't think I heard a child all the time we were there, and it takes a while to walk over the whole building! Clearly we just had a snapshot of what goes on, but to me it seemed quite a controlled environment and so probably not suitable for our rather boisterous boy anyway. I think maybe for secondary school we may be looking at international schools again but not for the time being.
The second school we went to see was the mountain school. This was a surprise visit and the children were at lunch and the teachers in a meeting, so we made an appointment to come back the next week. Unfortunately the day we were supposed to go back the mountain schools were all closed due to heavy rain and the very next day we flew home so we didn't manage to have a good look. I have emailed the English teacher with some questions I hadn't asked the first time round but so far she hasn't replied.
What we did manage to see was very positive. The air is noticeably cleaner up the mountain and the children learn about their natural environment and have a vegetable garden, as well as studying a curriculum. The difference in resources compared to TES is marked. For example, TES had a suite of about 40 up to the minute PCs, whereas the mountain school had two, only one of which worked! However, in terms of achieving our goal of placing our son in an environment where he would learn Mandarin it was ideal. The English teacher's English was good but I don't think that of the rest of the staff is, judging from the way I panicked them when I phoned them up. Also, my son's very young for his school year so he could conceivably go in a Grade 1, where Mandarin reading and writing instruction begins in earnest and he wouldn't be too far behind. The mountain school children (according to Taiwanese friends) are unlikely to have done much at Kindergarten.
The only problem is that I'm not sure how welcome an application from a foreigner child would be. The English teacher seemed to be trying to put us off (in a very pleasant way of course). She implied the prospect of extra help for our boy was doubtful and seemed generally uncertain about the idea. Also, I take the fact that she hasn't replied to my email as an attempt to put us off. It's understandable of course, having a foreigner child is going to make things more difficult for everyone, and who are we to come to Taiwan and expect the public school system to support a foreign child? Anyway, despite these problems, I think this may be the school we try to enrol him at when we return in August next year. It would be great to have him breathing that clean air for much of the day and I feel a small school would be a more supportive environment, even though he may not get extra help.
The third school we saw was Xinsheng Elementary school, which is one of two public schools mentioned in the article linked to in Beckypeiyu's post. These are two public Taipei schools that that have been set up to take non-Mandarin-speaking children in order to improve their language. Xinsheng itself is in Da'an but any child living in the city districts can attend, though there is no school bus. Parents apply to have their children transferred from whatever catchment school is in their area. They have a weird timetable, which is 8 - 12.30 every day except Tuesdays, where the school day ends at four, with no after school care I think (this isn't particularly relevant for us but it may make a difference if both parents are working full time).
This looked like a normal public elementary school from what we saw (we didn't get offered a tour). The difference is that foreign children get specific tuition in Mandarin to bring them up to speed with local children. The only things that put us off this school were that we would be restricted to living within commuting distance of the school when we really wanted to live further out, and the fact that children can only stay there a maximum of two years before they're transferred back to their local school. I don't want to put my boy through the trauma of uprooting him from his school here, moving to Taiwan and putting him in a new school for a year or two then uprooting him again to go to another school, make new friends etc. Otherwise, this school would be great because of the support the children get in learning Mandarin, and the fact that he wouldn't be the only foreigner child there.
Finally we visiting the school at the top of Aleegulotty's list she kindly wrote out. This was the Fuxing Elementary school, or Lih Jen I think it's also called. This was a really lovely private school that is a bit cheaper than TES and also in Da'an (like Xinsheng). This school has a very long school day, 8 - 4 every day and they have buses from everywhere just about it seems. All the children (there is a mixture of foreign and local children) are taught for half of the school day in Mandarin and the other half in English. Non-Mandarin-speaking children receive 8 hours of Mandarin tuition a week in small classes of four to eight children.
We felt this school was a welcoming place and that the staff were very professional but caring. Once again, though, the location put us off.There are children enrolled there who bus in from as far away as Danshui, but it would be a very long day indeed for them. There is even quite a long commute for children from Tianmu due to the traffic. Also, the English programme is so good I'm not really confident about how much Mandarin my boy would learn, though I'm probably being picky.
So there we go, massive post but I hope it has given others some insight on what there is on offer generally in Taipei at least and so some idea of enquiries that could be made in other parts of Taiwan. As I said, I think we will be foisting ourselves on the mountain school, what with the clean air, short commute and largely Mandarin-only environment. It was by far the poorest school in terms of resources but we can supply the extras outside of school time so that's no problem for us. Taiwanese friends were divided as to which was best. One opinion was that city schools are better because they're better resourced, whereas others advocated the mountain school because children should be allowed to have a childhood (guess that's the voice of the schoolchild who was burnt out at 14