Less well-known is the extent of this problem in Asian universities. I have taught at Korea University in Seoul. Newsweek ranks the school as one of the best in Asia. However, it is a private school, and has developed its own system of admissions and completion. I had the privilege of teaching students majoring in Physical Education. All of them were on school sports teams. Some of them were on the National and Olympic teams. I had the privilege of teaching one young women who was on the national archery team, which is one of the top teams in the world. Unfortunately, I only saw her once. Students on school teams can receive a grade no lower than a 'D' and are therefore guaranteed graduation without ever attending even a single class.
On the other hand, the students who did come to class were fantastic. Not only were they really interesting people, they really wanted to come to class.
I understand that universities in Japan have a similar system, but I have no personal knowledge of this. I was told by a Japanese informant that talented baseball players can get scholarships to top schools and then get hired by top companies to play on a company baseball team without ever demonstrating academic ability. I understand this is the same for rugby.
I have also been told that the fairness perceived in the current system of student selection in Taiwan is a relatively recent innovation. For most of the post-War period in Taiwan, schools and professional examinations had quotas. Students whose families came from the various provinces of mainland China were given special position in application to university or professional licensing exams. While students from Taiwan competed against each other, students from Hunan, Hubai, or other mainland provinces were selected from provincial quotas.
The educational system favored mainlanders in other ways too...it was in Mandarin, not the local language, Taiwanese. The necessity for intense study means that it favored nuclear families that could afford to invest heavily in children's education. And so on.....Scott's interesting point is that an attempt to be fair is actually new to education in Taiwan.
Speaking of education, Jon Benda reported on a conference at Tunghai of directors of university language centers in Taiwan, "Perspectives on the Language Centers in Taiwan's Universities" Symposium:
I'm not going to summarize each person's presentation, but I want to mention a few of the major themes that came out of the presentations. In no particular order, here they are:
- There's an increasing attempt to reach out to honors or otherwise advanced students through special semester-long or short-term courses. The program at one school (and possibly more) is also feeling pressure from the rest of the school to offer courses and other kinds of help to graduate students and faculty who now are feeling more pressure to publish in English-language international academic journals.
- Most of the language centers would probably be better labelled "language programs" because they are responsible for the required first-year English courses and elective language courses. There was one (if I remember correctly) language center that did not have the responsibility for the FY-English program. It operates more as a center that offers short-term courses, lectures, study groups, and other activities for extracurricular English learning. (And the staff there consists of one director, 2 staff members, and no faculty.)
- There are more and more attempts to make use of computer-aided self-study systems so that students can learn on their own. Some programs require the computer-aided learning to be graded as part of required courses; some just provide the learning stations and hope that students will come. (One director mentioned that they had increased the number of computers in one lab from 7 to 41, but only the same 7 students were showing up...)
- Most of the directors complained of being understaffed, particularly in terms of full-time faculty. As one director put it, the problem is not a sense that part-time teachers are not as hard-working; the problem is that because it is difficult to give part-time teachers the same level of pay and facilities as full-timers (office space, etc.), part-timers usually have to teach at more than one school and therefore cannot be around for program activities, office hours, or important program meetings. This makes it harder both for students to have more interaction with their teachers outside of the classroom and for programs to be as unified as directors would like. [This is my recollection of what was said--if it doesn't quite accurate to others who were there, please let me know!]
- I felt a sense that teachers and administrators in the language center are not as highly respected as teachers or administrators in regular departments. The term "second-class citizens" was used more than once in characterizing the language centers' status.
- Related to this, I noticed a concern that language center faculty will end up being evaluated in the same way as faculty in other departments (in other words, a heavy emphasis on research), despite the heavier teaching responsibilities that come with teaching English to the entire freshman class, teaching English electives to upperclass students, and running various programs to encourage students to use English outside of class and to ensure that the English proficiency of the students meets some sort of externally defined standard (the GEPT or TOEFL, for example).
This pretty much confirms what I've seen at the language centers I've seen and taught at.
Jon Benda at Notes of a Former Native Speaker has also written a wonderful three-part review of A Pail of Oysters:
The exchange between Li Liu and Barton is arguably the climax of the novel, and in it Sneider depicts an embodied rhetoric of empathy that emphasizes personal emotional connections as leading to political commitments. Li goes to the Friends of China Club and stands outside, staring in at Barton, "knowing not why, except that the man with the dog lived there. The man who was the friend of his friend Didi. The man who had been glad for him when he learned his god had come back to Chung Hwa Road" (299). Li Liu appears unsure himself about what he wants to do, but he knows that there is an empathetic connection between the two of them. Barton has shown friendship to Li's friend and has shown common feelings with Li over something important to the latter. In effect, Li goes to Barton because the American has successfully demonstrated empathy for others, which is a highly valued part of the sentimental ideal of engagement that Christina Klein argues is part of the Cold War era middlebrow aesthetic of commitment.
This is the kind of writing that makes blogging so useful.
Mark at Doubting to Shuo? frequently blogs on interesting teaching programs. Here he discusses one that is hard for me to believe:
The best program for first and second graders I’ve ever seen is one in Neihu, run by a guy called Ross. He doesn’t have the same phonics system, and so his kids don’t quite match mine in terms of new word recognition and pronunciation. But what he does have is a full fledged cultural studies program. The kids learn about a different part of the world every couple of weeks, learn some key facts about it, do some related activities, and move on. After they’ve covered the whole planet, they start going back and learning about smaller places in more detail, and learning about history. By the third year, they’re re-enacting the Persian wars on the whiteboard, taking roles as various Greek Gods in their writing assignments and talking about playing Age of Empires. While this may not sound like such a great thing for an English program, it is. The kids have tons of things that they can talk about, things that they want to talk about, in English. In my whole time in Taiwan, I’ve never met other kids who like history, but at Ross’s school, they do. I’ve seen them play a Civilization/Risk kind of board game on the whiteboard in which the kids are literally arguing like this:
Sudent one: Let’s attack Russia. We can use the diamonds.
Sudent two: No no no! The blue team has Canada, they can start building ships with all the trees. We shou-
Student three: Let’s build things this turn. Wait. Move next turn, ok?
Student one: But Russia has oil, too…
Ross gave them a minute or so to agree on a move and then went on to the next team. They could harvest natural resources from areas they controlled, and then use them to build all kinds of different things. He said they didn’t play these games very often, but it was a sight to see. Oh, and after a couple of years of doing this, the kids’ pronunciation gets pretty good, too.
Wish my college students were this motivated.
One of the best things about this dictionary is its compact size. It is easy to handle and not too heavy or bulky so you can easily carry it round and refer to it. All the characters are arranged in alphabetical order according to Hanyu Pinyin. There is a Hanyu Pinyin index at the front of the book. It seems a little redundant, but it might be useful if you are not sure about the exact pronunciation of a character. There are also radical indexes and stroke number indexes at the back of the dictionary.
The format of the entries is very easy to read and particularly useful for someone who has a good knowledge of pinyin, but not characters. The entry for each character begins with the pinyin followed by the character in red type. There is then a definition or definitions of the character in English. Following this there is a list of words that begin with that character. The list is arranged with the word written in bold in pinyin first, followed by the character and a definition in English. The definitions given are clear and concise, but there are no example sentences and it does not state whether the word is noun, adjective, particle, etc.
David also had a great post full of pics on his recent trip to the ceramics center in Yingge, which I shamefacedly confess I have never visited.
However, you can’t take this at face value, because it comes hot on the heels of Frank Hsieh (who has been under heavy DPP pressure to apply for the job) announcing that he wouldn’t apply, but would be willing to be drafted if noone else applied. Given that Shen received a phone call from DPP Chairman Yu Shyi-kun (游錫堃) before deciding not to apply (and got lavisly praised by Yu for doing so), you’ve got to wonder exactly how much pressure was applied to stop Shen standing.
When it became clear that noone was going to stand for the DPP candidacy DPP Legislator You Ching (尤清) realised he had a chance to sneak in when noone was looking. By picking up an application form and applying right at the last minute You nearly threw a huge spanner into the DPPs machinations. After a very frantic inspection of the form, the DPP managed to find a minor mistake in the application, and (with a huge sigh of relief) threw out the application.
So, after pressurizing a candidate who wanted to stand to stop him, and throwing out the candidacy of another on a technicality, the DPP is left with no candidate. This leaves them free to draft a candidate who has publicly stated that he has no interest in the position. In other words, the DPP are in a complete mess - and their process can be called neither particularly democratic nor progressive.
Redundant saying: the DPP must get its house in order.
It's nice to sit outside and blog. Don't know why there aren't more people doing it, considering so much effort has gone into making the city wireless. I guess people think of the computer as an indoor mechanism, not something you use in a park or by a stream or on a high mountain in the clouds or in paradise. Where did that come from? The writer tends to be influenced by the environment in which he/she writes. Right not right?I hope to catch Wulingren's show one of these days. Why don't you post the info so we can all tune in?
Well, some of you are perhaps wondering how my first week as a radio broadcaster went. It went well. In the beginning (as I create my own world), I will focus mainly on news preparation while I get trained. Frankly, I'm relieved I haven't been immediately assigned to do my own program. It is kind of a "man man zou" (take your time) attitude. However, if you start listening to RTI, you might already at a random moment hear my voice, and it will reveal itself with greater frequency. Yesterday, I already recorded two actualities (an actuality is radio talk for a sound bite, an actual quotation in a story, really the actual voice of a character being reported on). For a few brief moments, I was the voice of President Chen Shui-bian on his return to Taiwan after an eventful trip pretty much all over the world (all because he wasn't allowed to land in the States). Then, Shirley asked me to read an actuality for her show after she did the news. It was a friend of hers--who she described as a Taike臺客 (that is, a person who loves everything about Taiwan)--talking about Taiwan Beer and how it is better than other beers: "I like American beer, but it is too strong. Taiwan Beer is like water. So good." That was very funny. I know there are people who think American beer--at least large-scale commercial beers like Budweiser--is like water. And that's not usually a good thing.
I’m no expert on KMT internal politics, but this sounds like wishful thinking to me. If Wang were going to make a move, he would have done it a long time ago, with the sour grapes and momentum of the campaign for the KMT chairmanship behind him back in July. Sitting on the sides sniping at Ma does nothing for a broader campaign - it just distinguishes Wang as a respected power within the party rather than a mindless boot-licker. A bit of criticism shows that Ma is rocking the boat and making an effort to actually reform the KMT. The split fantasy is all that is left for the idea-bankrupt DPP, a repeat of the lucky happenstance that got current ROC president 陳水扁 Chen Shui-Bian elected in 2000 and the only thing that can save the party from a much-needed reckoning.
I personally feel that Wang isn't going to make a move until Ma screws up big time. Then look for revenge. Those accusations of Ma's that Wang was engaging in vote buying and cheating must still rankle.
This is an announcement that I'll be giving up on blogging at the leaky pen. It's not because I'm sick of politics and culture-critique in Taiwan. Neither is it the "international community's" consistent indifference to my ramblings about the plight of Taiwanese culture. I have some readers, friends mostly, who comment with stuff "Uh, wtg man," or "dude, you misspelled ass-pirate" and stuff like that. Nor am I convinced that no one worth a shit is really reading what I'm writing. There might not be, and you wankers may well have grown too cynical and unimaginative to read the rants of this demented Taiwan blogger--but that's not the reason we're abandoning the leaky pen either.
You'll be missed, and by many people. And not just tlp -- Big Ell's blog passed away as well:
Another month gone and another month without a post, normally I would apologize to my 3-4 readers but this happens so frequently that I don’t really care anymore. With my two year blog-anniversary coming quickly, I continue to struggle to come up with things to write or comment about. It appears that I am not alone as some other
blogs (much better then mine) have also closed up shop. MeiZhongTai, Suitcasing and the Leaky Pen were all excellent blogs and have all shut down for a variety of reasons. I am close to making the same decision but will stick it out for the next couple of months and see if I can get my motivation back. Maybe I will just start posting pictures or links, who knows. Blogging used to be fun but it’s turned into a job, an unpaid job. Taiwan
I hear ya. At Suitcasing someone posted this Slate column on why I shut down my blog:
"I realized something: Blogging wasn't helping me write; it was keeping me from it."
PWC’s are personal water craft, better known by their brand names; Waverunners, Seadoos, Jet Skis, Whaledenters, or Oilshitters. They look like marine snowmobiles. According to the lady with the bin lang soiled metal teeth who tried to rent one to me, there are around sixty of the craft on Nan Wan alone and they rent for 1600 an hour.
I’m a swimmer, by nature but I believe my views on these little Antichrists to be shared by sailors, surfers, paddlers and sunbathers alike. You’re swimming through the water, unwinding from the concrete jungle when suddenly the air is full of violence; Japanese zeroes seem to be dive bombing the beach, their wakes splashing salt water up your nose as they narrowly miss your face. Lucky there’s no propeller.
On the Kenting National Park government website, under the heading Important Information, it states, “According to Article 13 of the National Parks Law, the following behaviors are prohibited in the national parks: burning plants, (insert pot joke), hunting or fishing, polluting the air or water, picking flowers or damaging plants, carving in trees, rocks, or signs, littering, driving off designated roads, or any other behaviors prohibited by the administrative authority of national parks.” (3)
My son was almost killed by badly driven boats at Kenting a couple of years ago. I know just how you feel.
Saturday or Sunday I was passing by the Nobel bookstore on the corner of Kung Yi and Chung Ming Nan and I saw three Mormons standing on the corner preparing to go out and hassle motorists trapped by the red light. Not two, three. They appear to be massing. I am pretty sure that, despite the temple, Taiwan has some sort of legislation against that sort of thing.
This isn't going to stop until people are hurt and others go to jail. A couple of weeks ago I encountered two idiots attacking helpless drivers trapped at a red light down by China Medical College....and wrote a letter to the Taipei Times about it:
Today marked the third time in as many months that I ran across Mormons proselytizing in the street. As I was making a left turn into a narrow street I was forced to swing out wider than I had intended to avoid a Mormon on a bicycle importuning some luckless local on a motorcycle in the middle of the intersection.
The Mormons smiled patronizingly at me when I yelled at them colorfully to stop hassling people in the road. They were indifferent to realize how dangerous such activity is. As the light turned green, they were still there, preventing the scooter driver from moving forward.
This behavior really has to stop.
Hey posse (no Tonto jokes Ken). Here's a mini-cast on Uplifter.org recent developments. If the spirit moves you, please get involved. The rest is in the mp3, thanks. Carolina Chapter and the Minnesota Chapter are both having meetings on 3/25/06. Please try to attend or steer some friends that are interested in getting their "Web" feet wet(learn to blog/vlog/podcast).
Some Uplifter.org members Dave Slusher, Ken Nelson, James Slusher, Garrick Van Buren, Eddie
Dickey, P.J. Cabrera, Jer.
I'm too busy at the moment, but maybe you can find the time to help the project.
There are ways to read the Nelson Report (NR) and then there are ways to read the Nelson Report. The NR is not about truth; the NR is not about reality, no the NR is simply about those that reside within the Washington D.C. Beltway and how they perceive the truth and reality of where they work. In the NR we can glean the thoughts and motives that these people have for their decisions and actions, but what may be more important, we are getting via their expressions the way they wish or hope that the public perceives the thoughts and motives behind their decisions.
Recently there has been a lot of flap, over how President Chen Shui-bian of the democratic country of Taiwan requested landing rights and stopover privileges in the U.S. Chen was limited to the choices of Alaska or Hawaii where there would be limited media attention for this renegade president who was always complicating world affairs. If any insult was taken by this president of a democracy who was being told in effect to use the “servant’s entrance and not to linger too long," the storm of insult would exist in Taiwan and not in Washington. Chen was looking through the wrong side of the telescope and had been getting bad advice on what the real thinking in the Beltway is. These perceptions need to be examined.
Chen is said to be out of step with reality. Further the State Department allegedly wanted to punish Chen because he did away with the National Unification Council (NUC). That the NUC was based on false premises, that the NUC had never been followed by China, that the NUC had not done anything in over six years, that the NUC had no budget etc. these were all irrelevant. The China that violated what was stipulated in the NUC still thought that the NUC should be a mythic reality and that Chen should not do away with it. Since China believed this myth, then the U.S. State Department was told it should believe the myth. Supposedly this made the myth reality for the world. Chen was therefore told that he was upsetting this status myth and he should sit in his corner and not complain.
The Nelson Report is a long-time insider consulting report on what goes on inside Washington. Don't miss his piece on the NUC:
The misquotes, shocks, and misinterpretations over Chen Shui-bian's jettisoning of the National Unification Council (NUC) Guidelines continue to be so numerous that it is time to put them down in black and white so that everyone knows what exactly we are talking about and who has not been fulfilling them. I have already commented on them in my piece "Inane Flap Over an Outdated and Inept National Unification Council" posted February 27, 2006, which briefly puts them in a historical perspective. Here below are the guidelines as taken from Taiwan's Mainland Affair's Council's Mainland Affairs Information and Research Center and published by the Taipei Times. I have placed my own running comments in parenthesis.
Good information and comments.
There's been some recent and unpopular changes in the Taiwanese National Health insurance system. The employer's share of the burden has gone down while everybody 'premiums are adjusted upwards, with the double-income-no-kids crowd getting screwed the hardest. (Gee, I wonder why...) People are not happy.
I don't think I've been here long enough to evaluate whether the adjustments are just or necessary. But I think it provides a useful reality check to see how those new increased premiums compare to what the average, insured family in America has to pay, which Kate has provided . Of course, Taiwan is a much less wealthy country than the States. Taiwan's GDP per capita is about half. So lets stack the deck against the Taiwanese system by only looking at the premiums paid by the top income bracket, which is naturally the highest (those making more than 4.6 millions NT [or about $140,000 USD] annually or more.).
So, after the unpopular premium hike, the most anyone pays for the NHI scheme in Taiwan is 3000NT or about 9o dollars a month. That comes out to $1080 annually. The vast majority of the population pays much less. Compare this to, say, the average individual rate in the United States at $3,495. Even taking into account that the GDP per capita in Taiwan is half that of the U.S. and thus wages of doctors and nurses and so on must be cheaper, the NHI is still a bargain.
I understand that a lot of apples are getting compared with oranges. This is just a quick reality check. C'mon, people. If Taiwan can do it, we can too.
What’s the best way to run optical character recognition (OCR) on texts written in Pinyin with tone marks? Adobe Acrobat 7.0 Standard, the most advanced such software I have on my computer, doesn’t have a “Pinyin” setting. I’d be surprised if any OCR software currently does.
Getting second tones, fourth tones, and umlauts to be read correctly shouldn’t be a big problem, given how the same marks are standard in the orthographies of many European languages. But first tones and third tones are a different matter. The best that can probably be hoped for at present is a more-or-less regular rendering of vowels with first- and third-tone marks as something else that can be fixed quickly through a search-and-replace procedure.
As we continue our coverage of Kaohsiung’s unstoppable surge toward global dominance, word comes that the Uni-President Corporation is planning on building the “Kaohsiung Eye”, a wholly tasteful giant ferris wheel based on the equally tasteful Eye of London, with an attached shopping mall to boot.
But now, despite that kind of idealistic commitment to the truth, the KMT helps the CCP bury corpses. Say it ain't so! Someone wants to look into whether the Communists murdered members of a religious minority and harvested their organs? Why, a trivial little matter like that, and the KMT's appetite for investigations vanishes. Let's just quietly kill this in committee instead, they whisper.
What's remarkable about the entire affair is that even members from the People First Party (a heavily pro-Communist political group) were in favor of the measure. Their allies in the KMT would have nothing of it, however. An investigation like that would destroy all of the KMT's hard work to cozy up to the Communists. An investigation like that would look bad when China makes a grab for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. An investigation like that would make the Taiwanese reluctant to hitch their wagon to China's star.
Hualien to Taidong via Route 11 too easy for you? Here's a more strenuous version that criss-crosses the Coastal Mountain Range three times! You should be fit, ready to ride about 120 km both days, and be able to handle climbing up to 900 meter in one day on moderate (by Taiwan standard) grades. Rank advises riding from about 5:30am till 11:00 am and then 3:30pm till 6:00pm if possible. It can get really hot--sunscreen and precautions against sunstroke are in order. Assume that you can buy water every 5km unless we say otherwise.Photos, advice, everything. Very cool. And the first great ride:
Cycling from Hualien to Taidong on Route 11 down the coast is a classic ride suitable for beginners. Almost anyone in reasonable shape can enjoy this ride, which can easily be completed in two days. Rank recommends doing this ride from Hualien to Taidong because you will have the wind at your back most of the way. There is one short climb at about 25km up to about 300 meters. Be sure to stop at the Baqi (Baci) lookout point at km 33 or so for a coffee and an ice cream to reward yourselves. Spend the night in Shitiping around km 63 at the hostel above the big seafood restaurant (NT$800/double) but eat at the friendly seafood place behind this one up the hill.
I tried doing this, got sunstroke, and had to quit. The Lost Spaceman also had entries on biking on the East Coast:
When engaging in discussion about the world's great cycling destinations, I have often announced to startled listeners that Taiwan may very well be one of the best. There are thousands of kilometers of coastal and mountain roads out there to be explored by cyclists of every experience level. From downtown cycle paths to the cross-island highways, Taiwan is a web of surprising discoveries for those who travel by pedal.
One of my favorite rides on the island is Highway 193 from Guang Fu to Hualien. It's a simple afternoon ride inside the Coastal Range and a perfect long ride for beginner or intermediate riders as the climbs are gradual and the scenery evolves along the way.
You guys are making my mouth water.
Don't miss the podcasting at Getting a Leg Up, The Bluesman's Killing Floor, Misadventures in Taiwan, Ugly Expat, The Formosa Diaries, and What's Up in Taiwan. As always, great photos at 35togo, Unplugged, the forgetful's photo gallery, the forgetful's photo gallery, amateur commune, andres, Clarke vs Matt, Cat Piano, T_C at Fotolog, battphotos, Fotologging Taiwan, Photoactionboy, leftmind, MaMaHuHu, Everything Visible is Empty, Roger in Taiwan, Love Songs (Are for Losers), Photoblogging Taiwan, Eight Diagrams, Tagging Taichung, Finding the Rabbit, and The New Hampshire Bushman in Taiwan and The World. Also, Waiguoren Project wants your stories.
Maddog wants you:
Jerome Keating has written a scathing open letter in protest of the way Chen Shui-bian, the democratically-elected president of Taiwan, was treated with respect to potential transit stops on a recent diplomatic mission to Central America which comes on the heels of the treatment of Hu Jintao, the unelected leader of China, as a VIP during his recent visit to the White House.
Go read Jerome's letter, then add your name to the rapidly growing list of Taiwan's supporters by filling in the blanks here.
I signed. So should you.