Saturday, April 03, 2010

Musings on Teaching

I'm really enjoying my current university position, in which I teach the required English courses for students from across the university. This semester I have two classes with my awesome nursing students.

One of things teaching here has done is made me a believer in same sex schooling. I've noticed that as the sex ratio in my courses approaches 50-50, the behavior of students in the class declines mightily. My single sex classes, male or female, appear to be better behaved and easier to handle. Fewer stupid jokes and giggling, more attention to the front where the teacher is. Better overall performance in assignments too.

Another interesting thing I've noticed over the years, since I've taught at two universities where nursing students play a prominent role, is the high quality of the nursing students. Not only do they outperform my other students, they also have better attitudes, are more willing to interact, and are interesting and fun to teach. They seem to want to get more out of their education. They tend to be overwhelmingly female, so this may have something to do with the way females are socialized in educational settings in Taiwan. It may also be related to the fact that nursing in Taiwan is highly competive -- the island produces more nurses than it needs -- and the requirements for getting into a nursing program are strict, meaning that the human material is often outstanding. I always look forward to my nursing classes. Students in medical programs here generally tend to be excellent, doctoring being the most popular career parents pressure their children to enter.

This leads to another thing I suspect many teachers at medical universities here have noted: the number of students in medical programs who don't want to be there. Most of the nurses seem to want to be nurses, but I keep running into people in the pre-med programs who don't want to be doctors, but explain that their parents have pushed them into it. Several students have told me that they switch to Chinese medicine programs because they are easier -- and the health system covers traditional Chinese medicine, meaning that there are jobs out there for traditional Chinese docs. Interestingly, the traditional medicine and western medicine programs have considerable overlap -- a smart student once argued to me that traditional Chinese medicine has become so extensively westernized that it has lost much of its "tradition."
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Anonymous said...

The first pre-med/med school student I bumped into when I got here 13 years ago also very much didn't want to be studying medicine. He wanted to go into advertising but was going along with the father's pressure...

Patrick Cowsill said...

Costco is making strides in Taiwan. I put up a post on my own blog on how they're helping to influence the local culture in a positive way. Hopefully more people will write and speak to foreign companies who do business in Taiwan, especially when those companies cooperate with local companies that shun out groups and appear xenophobic if not racist:

Anonymous said...

"...helping to influence the local culture in a positive way."

I was at Costco last night noticing how, with Costco, Taiwanese now can't live without the 400 pack of Oreos and 40kg of chocolate covered marshmallows.

It is definitely changing local culture.

Marc said...

Some revision is needed regarding your points about TCM practice.

**Several students have told me that they switch to Chinese medicine programs because they are easier**

I'm not sure how 'easier' is being defined here. It takes 5 years to complete a degree in TCM along with an internship and passing a licensing exam. And job prospects are quite limited. Perhaps there is the impression that it’s easier, because the traditional literature is Chinese, unlike the difficult-to-translate medical English.

The are 3 types of exams: one for the TCM degrees holder from Taiwan's two TCM universities; one for Bachelors and Masters holders from other programs who changed to TCM study; and the third for those who are considered “self-study.” If you hold a TCM degree from another university (including China, including a doctorate, and even if you are fully licensed in another country) you are considered self-study.

According to the Examination Yuan, there are over 10000 applicants waiting to take test number 3. Add that to the candidates waiting to take the other tests and you have a glut of new TCM doctors.

**the health system covers traditional Chinese medicine, meaning that there are jobs out there for traditional Chinese docs**

The Ministry of Health offers only 4% of its overall health budget to TCM. So, insurance reimbursement for TCM clinics is relatively in pennies, compared to what Western medical clinics and hospitals get.

There is a number I read somewhere of licensed TCM holders in Taiwan who have never used it, since opening a clinic and making ot successful is very difficult.

With mushrooming hospitals being built all over the island, designed as resort hotels and day spas, there's little interest in promoting Chinese medicine, and people are easily drawn to the modern hospitals, than the quaint traditional clinics. The media also contributes to the perception that TCM is a superstitious folk medicine, which convinces many people to bypass TCM in favor of the 5-munite hospital consultation and the bags of drugs.

TCM doctors and clinics are always looking for ways to compete in the commodified healthcare system, but are thwarted by the government. The most recent example is the new restriction that tui na--or therapeutic massage--can now only be given by the licensed doctors, and not by assistants. We've noted a considerable drop in business in our neighborhood clinics as a result of this ridiculously draconian rule.

**a smart student once argued to me that traditional Chinese medicine has become so extensively westernized that it has lost much of its "tradition."**

To the extent that the way TCM is taught in Taiwan unis, this is sadly true. The panels that oversee the curricula, budgets, and even determine who passes the TCM exams, are not TCM doctors, but are all Western medicine doctors. This ensures that TCM is always landlocked in the Western medicine world, and that authentic traditional practitioners (such as those who previously have their MS or doctorates from China or from such universities as Bastyr in the US), are discouraged from entering the Taiwan marketplace and championing the practice.

Voyu Taokara Lâu said...

Instead of Chinese medicine, how about call it Sino medicine? According to the Chinese government, there are more than 92 ethnic groups in China. Many ethnic groups in China do have their traditional medicine. That's why I would like to suggest Sino, a term for the Han ethinic people, in place of Chinese, representing the possessive of a political state.

BTW, Zhongyi (Chinese medicine) is actually a new term that is not heard before KMT came to Taiwan. This is evidenced by that my grandma and the senior Taiwanese say this term Hanyi (Han medicine) but no Zhongyi.


Dr Tang said...

Girls worldwide tend to be ahead of boys on verbal skills, too, until the late teen years. This often gives them confidence in academic pursuits that eludes more of their male peers until later.

Males in many cultures are also socialised to 'be strong'--that is, to handle problems themselves and expect little sympathy from others if they are having difficulty. A all-male class, lacking female peers for whom young men feel compelled to perform, can provide them with an environment in it's easier to admit problems and request assistance.

Different cultures offer them different covers for lack of confidence. Elsewhere the class clown and angry rebel acts find their adherents, while in Taiwan the preferred cover-up is to appear detached and 'cool', like the noir-ish heroes in Hong Kong action movies. One sees young men sitting at the rear of the room and leaning back, watching events passively as viewing a game of snooker through a window while taking a cigarette break.

Marc said...

Voyu Taokara Lâu said **my grandma and the senior Taiwanese say this term Hanyi (Han medicine) but no Zhongyi.**

Actually, hanyi is the name Japanese gave to the practice. You never hear that term used in China.

Another term used in Taiwan and perhaps HK was 'guoyi' (national medicine).

The classics don't seem to indicate some special name for the practice of TCM. Before all this divide and conquer mentality around the various parts of China, as well as in the medical fields, it was just called "medicine."

Anonymous said...

About coeducation. The problem is your evaluation function. If we view school as a place where students learn math and history and hopefully how to behave well, then maybe same sex schools are better. On the other hand, in my view this practice at least seems to reinforce the old problem of gender seperation, thus making girls from venus and boys from mars.

Anonymous said...


I'm really curious as to why you claim racism when I'm Taiwanese American and I have the same difficulty as any other foreigner getting a credit card in Taiwan. All my other Taiwanese American friends are in the same boat. It sounds like you just have an axe to grind.

Voyu Taokara Lâu said...


Thanks for mentioning that the classics don't seem to indicate some special name for the practice of traditional Chinese medicine and the term 'hanyi' is the name Japanese gave to the practice.

Actually this sort of traditional medicine is practiced in not only China but also other countrys where there are Sino inhibitants. For example: Singapore, Malaysia, US, and ,needless to say, Taiwan.

Since the term is a new coined one (not found in the classics), I think Hanyi (Sino medicine) is a more appropriate name to call this cross-boundary medicine. And this term also conforms to the fact of a multi-ethnic China.

Another example pertinent to this:

When we say Chinese languages, we may include languages both Sino ones (Mandarin, Cantonese, Southern Min, Shanghai...) and non-Sino ones (Zhuang, Miao and Wa etc.).

I just want to suggest a more clear language use. And no matter the term 'hanyi' is coined by Japanese or not, I think it is a better term then Chinese medicine.

jerome in vals said...

I would submit “Sinic Medecine” and “Sinic Pharmacopeia”. No pun intended where it leads us to sinicism, sinicize and sinicization. Example:

The Fujianese and Cantonese male laborers the Dutch brought on Formosa wedded plain aborigines. Later on, Qing proceeded with a policy of partial assimilation that led to the sinicization of the mixed blood offspring and related full-blood Peipos.

Then, the Japanese administration, overlooking the Peipo question, nipponized the Formosans over a fifty years period. That policy led young Formosan elites to assume themselves integrated into a Japanese polity.

While avuncular, Chinese-face-minding Uncle Sam averted his gaze, the KMT exiles who commandeered Formosa launched into an all out policy of sinicizing (sanitizing?) Taiwan again.

First thing, they de-nipponized their hosts, the way refugees at entry port are de-loused. Strange for, who needed DDT the most?

What would Uncle Sam have done without Taiwan? Pour DDT on hundreds of thousands or millions of Chinese milling around at Angel Island? What the captions under the photos would have read like in 1950s US dailies?

Could the surge of anti-Chinese racism have been appeased? At what amount of coddling from the China lobby?

Is it so long ago that America can’t find gratitude to show the Formosans?