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Taiwan schools putting business before education

BY ROSS KENNEGER / The Wild East / Opinion

Working for Xinmin Private Elementary school in Taipei this year was a head-shaking, riveting experience. I’m writing this piece to talk about the chaos I’ve observed in the modern Taiwanese classroom, and to offer other foreign teachers some advice here in Taiwan.

To begin with, the students were grouped together by age, with little concern for vast differences in ability or emotional stability. The management then applied an English program that is designed for and used by American students in America, “Reading Street”, to a class of 35 G1 students. It was absurd and obviously a money model that is putting business before education.  

The dear Taiwanese teacher had very limited time, too much homework to grade and the disciplining of disruptive students, plus the constant demands of paying parents and long days – as in all of Taiwan, Taiwanese teachers are overworked and under-appreciated, a form of what should be considered “teacher abuse”. 

The 35 students were drilled and driven like cattle through the Chinese program. Genuine “Care” and the buttressing of students’ capabilities were not priorities. The Taiwanese teacher relentlessly told students not to move and not to talk, while I, the English teacher, was encouraging the opposite, since that is how children best learn languages.

The Taiwanese teacher was driven to the use of furious threats backed up by a lengthy stick. Nonetheless, she was met with collapse on the part of the students. The children were quite blatantly in need of a properly structured and leveled program, not to mention it was a plainly detrimental experience for the rest of the class. Far too much of my time was spent enforcing interest and correcting behavior. 

Beyond the 12 students with near no English level, there were 5 students who had definitive emotional challenges. Put simply, the composition of the class should not have occurred in the first place. 

The money model laid waste the dreams of parents for a more inspirational education… but the books were shiny!

Help from management was requested several times. A “legal disclaimer” was written after a handful of pencils were thrown directly into a girl’s face. And I informed parents. Finally, I filmed the violence of the Taiwanese teacher and that of the students. Nonetheless, I was told, loudly, that the class was my responsibility entirely.

In the end, one parent agreed to transfer to a more suitable class and two others transferred to another school, though not by my behest. The class significantly improved, as evidenced by high grades.

But my dismissal was swift. The radically unbalanced state of my G1 class and the management’s refusal to reconcile the demands of special needs students created friction that eventually led to my dismissal. It happened, quite cowardly, on the last day of the semester and without warning. This kind of crap is unacceptable, and it’s illegal. By law a school must issue three written warnings, signed by you, and a 10 day notification.

The icing on the cake is that Xinmin Private Elementary School’s upper management is, as reported by Liberty Times Net on April 17, under investigation for allegedly embezzling more than NT$250,000,000 million. The CEO was caught with another NT$50,000,000 in cash in his office and other places. Has there been a severe lack of re-invest at Xinmin?

My friends, this dereliction of duty was more than bad luck. It should be a crime. For those who claim this is “the nature of the beast”, it simply is not. It was a systemic failure that needs greater regulation in quantity, quality and labor demands.

It is commonly known amongst expat what the money model does to bright eyes after 6 years. Certainly, not all good. The creativity is crushed out of a student in Taiwan, so many expat parents take them out of this empty, spirit-crushing educational environment.

I’ve taught for nearly two decades, and owned four schools in Neihu. I‘m now married and raising a boy, have an APRC and a mortgage to pay. The fact that my boy attends school in NTC makes the issue of English language instruction all the more compelling. And since I know my rights, I am pressing Xinmin Private Elementary School for wrongful dismissal.

Some advice to the wise: seek the completion of your contract, plus any bonuses you may be entitled to. Further, keep dated notes on the behavior of staff — have no doubt, notes are kept on you. Make a point of collecting business cards and e-mails, especially from parents. Expect evaluations and cautionary meetings to be defined as such, and make sure they are held in English. Do not sign anything you do not agree with. And keep in mind, as in my case, that the Mandarin may not be fully translated.

Fortunately, we are not alone in Taiwan. Agencies here do effectively protect students’ and teachers’ rights.

Some other advice: Outline your case and analyze your contract. The school may have acted in breach of it. Contracts often contain illegal elements as well. Inform the Ministry of Education and report to the Council of Foreign Affairs. Approach your local Ministry of Labor Affairs and request a free “Mediation”. If you have recorded abuses by phone or e-mail, contact Apple Daily. To further champion the cause, mobilize social media – forumosa.com is a good site. Additionally, open a facebook page, state your case and google a lawyer. You can contact me,  Ross Kenneger.

Finally, I put it to Taiwan’s Ministry of Education: “If a student must pass an English proficiency test, then should not the school that teaches it be expected to pass an administrative test?” If Xinmin is to profit by an English program, then demand it be sufficiently qualified to manage one. For example, do the Taiwanese teachers have proper degrees, because they certainly do not act like it!

It is time the finger be pointed at and the blame be laid on someone other than the “foreign teacher”. Education must come before business.

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Exclusive interview with hip-hop artist SHAMAN

Shaman a.k.a. Elliott Tsai on his new single, Peace Up: "There is a lot of fear and confusion. There is also a lot of anger and resentment. I just want to put something else out there for people to focus their energy on, such as the feeling of peace."
Shaman a.k.a. Elliott Tsai on his new single, Peace Up: “There is a lot of fear and confusion. There is also a lot of anger and resentment. I just want to put something else out there for people to focus their energy on, such as the feeling of peace.”

The Wild East / Exclusive 

Rapper/Songwriter The Shaman, a.k.a Shaman Dragon, Sha Dra  玄武, ELAV8, has released a hot new self-produced single, PEACE UP.  He took the time to grant  this exclusive interview to The Wild East magazine.

The Wild East: Love the new video, PEACE UP!

Shaman: Glad you liked the video. : ) Also, thanks for checking out my conversation vidz! Got a lot more coming…

The Wild East: At the beginning of the PEACE UP MV there was a sign saying ‘Non-duality Gate’. What does ‘Non-duality Gate’ mean to you?

Shaman: Non-duality Gate is the place where one can realize that everything is ONE, everything is connected, everything is whole, everything is everything else, nothing is separate, etc. This is a concept that comes up in Buddhism and Physics, the idea of life as a paradoxical, for example free will vs. fate or wave/particle duality in quantum physics.

Wild East: What’s the motivation behind your latest single, PEACE UP?

Shaman: Peace. Right now in the media and in the world, there are many tragic situations happening. Disease, war, and oppression are just a few of the things plaguing humanity. There is a lot of fear and confusion. There is also a lot of anger and resentment. I just want to put something else out there for people to focus their energy on, such as the feeling of peace.

The Wild East: Also, what’s going on in your life’s trajectory at the moment, to inspire this song?

Shaman: As for the inspiration for the song…my goal in life is to help focus human consciousness on something positive and healing, such as peace. When people are watching violence, consuming it with their minds, I believe that helps to make it more of a reality. I wish to create a reality of harmony by getting people to think “PEACE”, to feel it, using words, music, and imagery.

“’Peace up’ is not a noun, it is a verb. It means to emit a strong peaceful vibration of total calm.”

The Wild East: Where was the video filmed (Bangcock?), and which temple?

Shaman: Actually, the video was shot in Taiwan, Ba Gua Mountain in Taichung city, and Fo Guang Monastery in Kaohsiung City. The latter is 36 meters high and the highest standing Buddha in Southeast Asia. It is also surrounded by 480 smaller Buddhas.

The Wild East: Since your days with THC (Taipei Hiphop Crew), how is your production organized?

Shaman: These days, I’m doing most everything by myself, with the help of a camera person. So, the music, vocals, video direction, and video editing are done by me.

The Wild East: You said you’d changed your point of view regarding being half-Taiwanese, half-American, since I published your piece ‘A tale of two cultures‘ on the Foreign Community Page of The China Post, in 2009. Care to elaborate?

Shaman: As far as race, my whole thing with that is we need to stop seeing people as crayons in the coloring box and realize we are all connected. We need each other, pure and simple. If you don’t see that, then karma will be b****!

Wild East: What are your future plans?

Shaman: Currently I’m in the process of launching a website soon which will feature my music, films, artwork, and spiritual discussions among other things, and I will be posting there on a daily basis. I wish to share more of my spiritual experiences and understanding through various media in order to help elevate humanity’s consciousness.

We are at a crunch time with humanity I feel, and there is a lot of truth out there, as well as a lot of lies. Trends, movements, protests etc are all becoming worldwide viral phenomenon, and I think some of the synchronicities and shamanistic happenings I have experienced can help give guidance to those who seek it.

Have questions for the Shaman? Write them in the comments below.

( Here’s a press release that was written about PEACE UP ! –> http://www.mondotunes.com/sha-dra-elav8-releases-new-single-

peace-up/ )

Link to Shaman’s ‘A Tale of Two Cultures’ in The China Post: http://www.chinapost.com.tw/taiwan/foreign–community/2009/02/22/197199/A-Tale.htm

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