The government’s revamp of the way it teaches students aims to ensure motivation to learn comes intrinsically rather than from the outside.
It is no secret that the educational system in Taiwan produces some of the highest test scores in the world, especially in mathematics and science, according to the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). However, from next year the curriculum will focus on fundamental motivation and essential competition.
Audrey Tang, a software engineer and Minister without Portfolio in the Taiwanese government, is a leading figure in plans for an ‘education for global citizenry’ in the country, which are due to be implemented in the coming year.
“In our basic education system, starting this year, we are shifting from a standardised, answer-based, very East Asian education system that somewhat encourages core competitiveness to a new curriculum that emphasises core competency, which is intrinsic motivation, rather than extrinsic motivation,” Tang told reporters.
“The students are encouraged to design their own capstone projects and design their own curriculums. The role of teachers switches from being the bearer of standardised answers to a co-learner,” Tang explained further. “This is a real sea-change in basic education.”
According to the official, the incoming curriculum was the first to be created not just with involvement from parents, but also students themselves. The aim is to create a kind of education that is sustainable, takes into consideration the wellbeing of students, and encourages innovation.
“Sustainability, inclusion, and innovation are the rough consensus across generations of what a lifelong learner should focus on,” Tang said.
“That is how we are designing our curriculum, so that any school can really choose to use any way, but preferably open source hardware and software, to teach about, say, media competency.”
Taking the latter as an example, media competency under the new changes would not just mean media literacy, i.e, learning about how to deal with the media as a passive consumer. Instead it would take on issues such as access to broadband internet as a human right, the fact-checking of news, source gathering, and developing different points of view.
While the Taiwanese authorities are hoping the changes will bring about a paradigm shift in the way children are taught, there are still unanswered questions.
Firstly there are concerns over how effective a curriculum designed by parents and students would be. On the one hand, parents and children get to decide what kind of subjects the latter want to learn, but on the other parents are not experts on the educational system, and might deprive their children of obtaining the right knowledge on subjects.
Tang has sought to allay such fears by reassuring doubters that the pioneering scheme is based on 10 years of academic research.
The latest plans are a culmination of a decade of trial and error in pilot curriculums designed with input from parents.
“We look at what worked and took what worked into the basic education curriculum,” Tang clarified.
“We look at what didn’t work and put cautious stories about it in the basic education curriculum.”
Taiwan has the sixth highest PISA ranking in the world for overall quality of education, with a score of 523.7.