The education system in Taiwan – Representing an exam culture?

Last month, I went to a café in the evening to meet a friend. All cafés around Taipei Main Station have been really crowded, mostly with High School students who studied for their final exams. I don’t really need to ask my own students when they have their final exams at their schools since I can already find it out by looking at the guests in a café. 😉

Students in Taiwan really seem to take their final exams very serious; they learn so much that they even take a nap in a café! I never saw something like that in Germany, and me as a student, while preparing for exams, even while preparing the graduation exam, never thought of going to a public place like a café or a library. I always studied at home, just me alone.

In my opinion as a former student in Germany, however, I also need to admit that most of the written exams didn’t have the same extent than the final or mid-term exams in Taiwan. Meaning….except for my graduation exam, I didn’t feel any special exam pressure. Of course, I also had to prepare my exams very carefully (usually it wasn’t possible to write an exam without careful preparation since that way it very probably would have turned out quite bad), but I never had the impression that the exam would determine my future school career.

For sure written exams are important… a teacher, I realized this very fast, however, in my opinion, the importance of exams in the Taiwanese education system is highly overdrawn. I’m not quite sure how students in Taiwan get their grades, in Germany, next to the results of the written exams, classroom participation such as asking questions or giving presentations is also evaluated, and this part for 60% of the total grade. I presume that classroom participation is not weighted that high in Taiwan, right? Furthermore, the graduation exam also includes an oral exam. I don’t really want to claim that an oral exam is relatively easier, I just want to express that it seems that there are not only one or two big written exams in Germany that determine the future school career, but a lot of smaller exams and daily classroom participation get evaluated.

In that way, written exams in Germany don’t count as that much dramatically important, at least not that important as one could obviously find out, when the final exams will take part. The entrance exams for German universities are also different compared with Taiwan, however, I guess that the comparison of both procedures would exceed my Chinese abilities; moreover, a lot of German university policies are also rather strange….

I would just like to say the following to all teachers: Written exams can only reflect a part of a student’s abilities. I hope that Taiwanese students one day don’t need to go to a café in order to study, but in order to reflect on the contents of the books together with their classmates.

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