Opinion | Taiwanese students feel ‘neglected’ by education system

Taiwan’s education system is known for its rigorous style, yet deeply rooted foundation issues taint its polished surface. (Photo courtesy of Shutterstock)

Taiwan’s education system is known for its rigorous style, yet deeply rooted foundation issues taint its polished surface.

The basic mentality shared by various stakeholders in a student’s life, such as parents, counselors, teachers and tutors, is that greatness requires sacrifice. Academic achievement is prioritized over critical thinking skills and creativity.

Local university students that are enrolled in International College programs benefit from being immersed in a diverse learning environment. Nevertheless, this has also brought to light some painfully obvious schooling differences.

Taiwanese students shy away from opportunities to openly discuss academic topics even in a nurturing classroom environment.

According to Ken, a sophomore Taiwanese student in university studying journalism and mass communication, “Even if I have something to say, I will not put my hand up because I am afraid of saying something wrong and looking stupid. Even if the teacher asks me directly”.

His classmates, Jas and Pat agreed, saying that even though the learning environment was supportive they were too shy and not used to raising their hand and joining in classroom discussions because they had never done so before.

An opinion cannot be right or wrong, a system that pushes students to pursue a singular correct answer excludes the exploration of other solutions and instills the perpetual fear of making mistakes. So how do students learn, if not from their mistakes?

Transitioning from an educational career that focuses on listening to an environment that encourages participatory and active learning is taxing. Local Taiwanese students are deprived of the necessary tools to become fully functioning members of society that retain emotional intelligence, problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Not unlike other East Asian education systems, there is an overemphasis on rote learning and preparing for examinations. Taiwan’s government has overlooked fostering a healthy self-motivated attitude in the student population contributing to higher levels of stress and mental illness.

Another second-year student, who does not wish to be named, stated: “I just memorized my way through middle school and high school. They don’t check your understanding, they just want you to pass so you can go to a good university”.

It seems as though each phase of a student’s life is simply a stepping stone for attending prestigious schools, rather than being molded into a flourishing intellectual.

Growing up attending an international school, there are certain elements of my education that brutally juxtapose my brother’s, who currently attends a local school.

The public education system, albeit all-inclusive and affordable, functions on a one size fits all approach that overlooks the individuality of students.

Memorization may work in local educations systems, but in an international environment, it hinders students from achieving self-actualization and becoming well-rounded lifelong learners.

Beginning at elementary levels, students should be encouraged to express themselves creatively using a variety of communication tools disregarding a system where grades define success. The institutional change will take years but tangible change can begin on a smaller scale with teaching styles and in classroom activities.

In light of the recent tragic incidents at NTU, Taiwan’s government must prudently reevaluate the foundation of their education system for the sake of current youth and future generations.

By implementing counseling services and breaking the stigma of mental illness, authorities should create a safety net for youth to express their discomfort.

Taiwan harbors a hard-earned reputable image in the international spotlight, but core elements of its identity are crumbling and failing to equip today’s youth with the tools they need to prosper.


Those struggling with mental illness and experiencing suicidal thoughts should call Taiwan Suicide Prevention Center at 0800-788995 or Taiwan Lifeline International at 1995. Foreign residents can call the Community Services Center’s emergency hotline at 0932-594-578, 24 hours a day.