Monday, April 10, 2006

The Joy of Adult Students

Adult economics class students

It is universally agreed, even by the students themselves, that the adult students I teach at night are lightyears better than the day students in attitude and comprehension. This manifests itself in grades -- the night students, working with the same material, get much better grades than the day students. The result is that the university administration is constantly complaining that our night students receive grades that are too high.


Charlotte: Why do we always get stuck with the short, fat, balding teachers? Aren't there any that look like Brad Pitt? Lily: Don't even talk to me about it.

The adult students are associate degree holders from two-year programs in the old vocational system, which is currently being phased out with the reforms of the last several years (or maybe not. Taiwan's reform program is a good example of mosaic evolution, in which the resultant creature exhibits a mixture of archaic and advanced traits). They attend another three years of night school, and emerge with a BA degree. Most of them are individuals who have spent some time in the world of work before returning to school to finish their degree. They thus exhibit a higher degree of maturity and dedication. Unless assigned writing homework......



The contrast was brought home to me by an encounter I had today with S, who came up to take graduate entrance exams for our masters program. She graduated last year having taken several courses from me over her four years. We exchanged hugs and plopped down in the stairwell to chat. Self-judgments being the most fearsome, she told me today that she wished she had gotten more out of her time at Chaoyang. But she was just too immature, she sighed. I keenly felt the lack of absolution I had to offer in my Father-Confessor role, and was reduced to murmuring quiet noises of sympathy for feelings that I could profoundly empathize with. That difference in maturity is why adult students are often far more rewarding to teach than the 18-22 crowd here at Chaoyang. No question -- I adore the young people who populate my day classes, but they can be exasperating students.


Another big difference is the variety of adults. The testing system (may its designers be perpetually forced to take tests in the afterlife) and the Ministry sorting system ensure that the student body in any particular department in a given university is more or less uniform in ability, at least in the 18-22 bracket. Though there are broad similarities, your adult classes may contain ex-infantry officers, flight attendants, international salesmen, government functionaries, and others who can bring real-world experience to their university classes.




Unfortunately university regs permit only 8 hours a week with night classes.......

PS: I posted this mainly so I could experiment with Blogger's photo upload system. If you set to "medium" or "small" size the compression is large and the photos will not look very good if increased to 400 pixels in width so that they fill the main posting area nicely (see photo of Karen or Denise above for (un)clear example of "medium" photo which I have increased to 400 pixels in size). By setting to "large" I got better results (ex: pic of Simon).


Anonymous said...


I found the same thing when I taught evening classes in the States; my conclusion was that maturity came partly from work experience, but also evening students were paying for their education (usually daytime students get parental support); further they had more clear goals as to what they wanted their education for--even if it was to qualify for a better position. Thus their motivation was stronger.

nosta said...

I have 3 night-school classes this semester, so I too can confirm the students are oodles better than the day-students. What jerome said is all true, but I think that in Taiwan there's an additional factor explaining why the night students are superior: the educational system has failed them once already. Night students tend to come from bad high schools or vocational schools, and have often either dropped out to work or become disillusioned with getting an education in Taiwan and never take the entrance exams. So the teachers tend to be quite smug about looking down on them...

From my perspective as a prof in Taiwan, it's really depressing that the best students in Taiwan are the ones that everyone thinks are the worst and, moreover, the ones who have managed to educate themselves over the years. To me, this speaks volumes about how pitiful the higher education system in Taiwan is. My night students work twice as hard on their essays and cover twice the material as my day students, yet they're supposed to be too busy with work/family to study (according to our Chairman). See, it's not just that the night students are so good, it's also that the day students are SO bad!

Anonymous said...

Great points, Nostalgiphile. Dead on.