Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Idle minds are the devils playgroud...

....And there are no idle minds here in Taiwan!

I don't want to do put up any sweeping generalizations about Taiwanese culture after only a couple of weeks here, but one thing I have noticed is that these people study A LOT!

From a pretty early age most children are sent to something called a buxiban (pronounced boo-she-ban) or "cram school" after regular school. Basically, they spend the first half of their day at regular school, just like kids all over the world, and then in the evenings they go to a cram school. At the cram school they spend three hours straight working on one subject: math, science, English, etc. And then, they go home around 9:30 and possibly even study more before they go to bed.

Rinse and repeat...

This is not just for wealthy kids or for kids with controlling parents, this is for almost all kids. The amount of time spent studying is just boggling our minds right now. There was one lady in class today who said that she stays up every night until 6am to study her English...6AM! on a regular basis!

As Nick just said, someone needs to tell her "Honey, go to bed two hours earlier, and get two more hours of sleep every night, and I guarantee that you will learn more English than you are right now.”

But, from what we've noticed, this seems to be par for the course over here. On our way home from work today Nick said “You know, if Americans spent as much time studying as the Taiwanese do, we would be the most powerful country in the world times two.” And, at the time I agreed with him, but then I started thinking more about it, and it really brings up the issue of quantity versus quality.

One of my colleagues today was telling me that during the summer break, when regular school is out of session, kids actually spend more hours per day studying (at a buxiban) than when they are in regular school. This is just amazing to me! And its not because the parents want to dump their kids off so that they're not home, it's really because the parents love their children and want the best for them. And that means non-stop education. Its quite an intriguing cultural difference.

I'm really trying not to look at this from the perspective of an American who thinks that their way is better than everyone else's but I can't help to think about what kids miss out on by spending so much time studying. Studying for that amount of time in one day really has to be counter-productive, because our brains cannot focus for that many hours in a day.

I can't help but think how happy I am to have been born in the US for the simple fact that I had time to just be a kid and goof around....

Well, enough on this for now, like I said, I really don't want to be making any sweeping generalizations about a culture that I have only been experiencing for a couple of weeks now, but I'm sure we will revisit this topic again at a later date.

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