By Kevin Stoda

As most readers know, I am teaching in Taiwanese schools currently. This is the second time I’ve taught in East Asia. In 1992 though 1994, I taught in 3 Japanese schools in Niigata Prefecture. There are several similarities between the two countries and their schools. One reason for this is possibly the fact that colonial Japan had controlled and educated the peoples of Taiwan for approximately 50 years. (In no way do I want to laud colonialism. Rather, I simply want to explain only the reason for similarities in the development of school and society–even after the Japanese vacated the islands of Taiwan in 1945.)

One of the more remarkable similarities is in the area of cleaning their own classrooms and schools each day. That is right, both Japanese and Taiwanese students are responsible for keeping the school grounds, their own classrooms, and the rest of the school clean.

At one of my schools, all students clean at the same time, i.e. usually in the morning at 10:10am . At other schools, the students of different grades clean at different hours of the day. At lunch time, the students are also responsible for cleaning their tables.

These activities of cleaning all create a sense of community and responsibility for one’s world and environment. Bob Costello has explained, “In American schools, janitors clean up after the students. In Taiwanese schools, the students clean up after themselves. Cleanup time is a daily ritual wherein Taiwanese students clean the school building, sweep the school grounds, and dump trash. Studies show that students who become more responsible tend to improve their academic performance.”

See Costello’s article here. He explains in a little more detail some disctinctions between Taiwanese and American schools:


About eslkevin

I am a peace educator who has taken time to teach and work in countries such as the USA, Germany, Japan, Nicaragua, Mexico, the UAE, Kuwait, Oman over the past 4 decades.
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  1. eslkevin says:

    Good Education, Made in Taiwan
    By Bill Costello • October 23, 2009 at 12:15 AM

    Recently I was invited to observe classes at two public elementary schools in Taiwan: Dan Fong Elementary School and Affiliated Experimental Elementary School of Taipei Municipal University of Education (ESTMUE).

    Dan Fong Elementary is located in Taipei County. With more than 2,000 students, it’s considered a middle-sized elementary school in Taiwan.

    Some Taiwanese elementary schools—such as Kuanghua Elementary—have as many as 5,000 students. By comparison, the largest elementary schools in America have less than 3,000 students.

    ESTMUE is located in Taipei City and serves more than 1,600 students. It conducts research with the Taipei Municipal University of Education in order to promote educational development and innovation.

    As an American educational researcher who believes that cultures should borrow the best practices from each other, I wanted to find out if Taiwanese schools use practices that American schools could benefit from.

    The Taiwanese education system produces students with some of the highest test scores in the world in science and math.

    The two primary international assessments that examine the performance of students in science and math are the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA).

    The former assesses science and math performance in grades four and eight, while the latter assesses the science, math, and reading literacy of 15-year-olds. Fifty-nine countries participated in the most recent TIMSS in 2007 and 57 countries participated in the most recent PISA in 2006.

    In science, Taiwanese fourth graders ranked second in performance when compared with their international peers; eighth graders ranked second; and 15-year-olds ranked fourth. All three ranks represent performances significantly above the international average.

    In math, Taiwanese fourth graders ranked third in performance when compared with their international peers; eighth graders ranked first; and 15-year-olds ranked first. Again, all three ranks represent performances significantly above the international average.

    The high test scores are impressive, but it’s difficult to draw firm conclusions from them because school systems vary significantly by country. For example, America tests a wider array of students than Taiwan.

    At Dan Fong Elementary and ESTMUE, I observed six excellent practices common in Taiwanese public schools and worth adopting by American schools:

    1. Serve nutritious lunches: Unlike in America, Taiwanese school lunches do not consist of processed foods high in fat and sugar. Instead, they generally consist of rice, soup, meat, fruit, and vegetables. Studies show that improving nutrition boosts academic performance.

    2. Keep students active: While American schools have cut back on or completely eliminated physical education and recess, Taiwanese schools provide physical education classes twice a week and 10-minute recess periods four times a day. Both Taiwanese elementary schools I visited had athletic tracks, which are rare in American elementary schools. Studies show that increased physical activity leads to higher academic performance.

    3. Require school uniforms: School uniforms are the norm in Taiwanese public schools. Only 15 percent of American public schools require them. Studies show that school uniforms raise academic performance while lowering violence, theft, and the negative effects of peer pressure.

    4. Use hands-on learning: I observed more hands-on learning in the Taiwanese schools than I have in American schools. For example, Taiwanese students went on a field trip to a castle they studied in social studies; they collected local plants and used them to make a dye in science; and they worked with compasses and rulers in math. Studies show that hands-on learning involves students in real-world activities and thereby improves their academic performance.

    5. Use interdisciplinary learning: Based on my observations, American teachers tend to teach one curricular discipline at a time while Taiwanese teachers try to incorporate several into a lesson. For example, I observed a science teacher and art teacher in Taiwan collaborate in guiding students through a science project that involved drawing. Studies show that interdisciplinary learning helps students apply their knowledge in various contexts and thus enhances their academic performance.

    6. Instill personal responsibility: In American schools, janitors clean up after the students. In Taiwanese schools, the students clean up after themselves. Cleanup time is a daily ritual wherein Taiwanese students clean the school building, sweep the school grounds, and dump trash. Studies show that students who become more responsible tend to improve their academic performance.

    While the Taiwanese education system is excellent, it’s not perfect. For example, critics say it favors rote memorization over critical and creative thought, puts too much pressure on students to pass entrance exams, and relies too much on buxibans—or cram schools—for educating students.

    Nonetheless, American schools could improve by adopting some of the excellent practices used in Taiwanese schools.

  2. eslkevin says:

    I meant to link a more serious article (above) to follow up on the need for more well-rounded education beyond kindergarten.

  3. eslkevin says:

    October 27th, 2009 at 1:15 PM

    I did receive education from both Taiwan and abroad. I didn’t go to any cram school while I was in Taiwan, but all sorts of reference books written as study aids on many different subjects were just enough and in many instances too much for me to swallow. In stead of finding them helpful, I actually hated these repetitions of exercises and practices, etc.

    But while I was not happy with these extra practices, when I went abroad, I found myself very strong in math compared to the other students. So in math, more practices did help in building up speed.

    Generally speaking, I think the Taiwanese education is quite successful in producing good students in math and physical sciences.

    But in social sciences, Taiwanese education does not train a student to be an independent thinker, researcher, and debater. The main reasons I think is lack of good textbooks and teachers.

    While Taiwanese students make headlines on winning math and science competition, and while many countries participate in English-language debate competitions, I don’t see any debating teams from Taiwan. So I think the methods used in social science education need some review.

    On a side note, Taiwan really needs to train some quality English-speaking reporters, journalists to speak for its people on the mainstream media.

  4. eslkevin says:

    After I wrote this article, my wife (from the Philippines)noted that in public schools in the Philippines, students clean the schools too.

    It is also done in some private schools there.

  5. eslkevin says:

    In the Philippines where I have been over the past month. Students have a lot more responsibilities in cleaning and maintaining their classrooms and schools than do those in Taiwan.

  6. What is wrong in keeping the school clean by the students and teachers. We have been doing so since childhood in Pakistan.Being working as an elementary head teacher in a Pakistani public school, I face a lot of difficulties in keeping my school clean.In Pakistani public schools we do so with the help of students in the morning. While govt. is taking serious action against this practice and is not even providing the sweepers too. I think it is the responsibility of each and every person to keep the surrounding neat and clean even if it is done by the students at home or in school.Plantation, cleanliness and light labor make our kids strong and active, it also improves the discipline.

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