Gifted Education in Taiwan: Part One

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This post describes the development and current operation of Taiwan’s gifted education programme. It completes a tetralogy of studies of gifted education in the ‘Asian Tiger’ economies.

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The UK’s attention is arguably over-focused on Hong Kong and Singapore, two relatively small English-speaking jurisdictions with which we have close political and historical ties. South Korea – a much larger country – is sometimes tacked on as an afterthought, but Taiwan is the oft-neglected fourth member of the club.

It performs creditably in PISA rankings but is outstanding in TIMSS (and to a lesser extent PIRLS). My own analysis suggests that Taiwan is particularly strong at the advanced benchmarks for high achievers in these studies, especially in maths and science.

Although there are many freely available online materials about Taiwanese gifted education, few are in English and those that have been translated are often difficult to understand. Recent comprehensive studies are particularly hard to find, with several inaccessible behind paywalls or because of the continuing problems with ERIC.

The post is divided into two parts:

  • Part One sets out the background and charts the historical development of gifted education in Taiwan during the Twentieth Century;
  • Part Two reviews more recent developments, immediately before and after publication of the pivotal White Book in 2007, highlighting several policy priorities and problems that the programme is seeking to address.

For the sake of consistency I have anglicised the American spellings in quotations.

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Taiwan in a Nutshell

Taiwan is an island country in East Asia, located 110 miles off the coast of mainland south-east China, east of Hong Kong and north of the Philippines.

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Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw

Locator Map of the R.O.C. Taiwan courtesy of josh-tw

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It consists almost entirely of the Island of Taiwan, once called Formosa. The state’s official name is the Republic of China (often shortened to R.O.C.), though the country is sometimes called Chinese Taipei, to distinguish it from the People’s Republic. The largest city is New Taipei City.

The R.O.C. was initially established on the mainland in 1912, but relocated to Taiwan when the People’s Republic was formed in 1949. The post-war Chinese Nationalist Government was eventually succeeded by a democracy.

The President is head of state and appoints a cabinet (the Executive Yuan) including a first minister (the Premier).

The Legislative Yuan, a single house legislative body, has 113 elected seats.

Taiwan has an area of 16,192 km2 and a population of approximately 23.3 million making it the 51st most populous country in the world. Some 15 million of the population are aged 0-14.

The economy is the world’s 19th largest. Per capita GDP (PPP), at $38,486, is broadly comparable with the UK’s.

The country is divided into five Special Municipalities, three Provincial Cities and 14 Counties..


taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk

taiwan roc political divisions labeled courtesy of ran english talk

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Taiwan’s economic transformation is described as the ‘Taiwan Miracle’. Consistently high rates of economic growth over the past 30 years, on the back of technological development and strong exports, have rapidly increased its wealth. Investment in human capital has been critical to its success.

The currency is the New Taiwan Dollar. One thousand $NT is worth about £20 (almost $US 35).

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Taiwan’s Education System

Responsibility for education in Taiwan rests with the Ministry of Education. The incumbent Education Minister is Wei-Ling Chiang.

There are currently nine years of compulsory education, comprising six years at primary (elementary) school (Primary 1-Primary 6) and three years at junior high school (Forms 1-3).

Senior high school (Forms 4-6) is presently non-compulsory but will become so from 2014.

Teachers are trained in specialised teachers’ colleges or on university-based courses. The same institutions provide professional development.

In the 2011 school year (August 1 2011 to 31 July 2012), there were:

  • 8,100 schools in all
  • 2,659 primary schools educating 1.46m learners and employing over 98,000 teachers
  • 742 junior high schools with 873,000 students and 51,000 teachers
  • 336 senior high schools with slightly over 400,000 students and over 36,000 teachers
  • 155 vocational schools for 366,000 students employing almost 17,000 teachers
  • 114 comprehensive senior high schools (accommodating academic and vocational tracks) with 84,000 students and
  • 188 pilot combined high schools for junior and senior high school students (the number of students and teachers is not given).

The Ministry website offers a different classification of senior high schools, distinguishing ordinary and comprehensive schools from ‘magnet’ and ‘experimental’ institutions. There are also junior colleges, with either 5-year or 2-year programmes. The 5-year providers admit students on completion of junior high school.

In anticipation of the extension of compulsory education, the Government announced in 2011 that education expenditure would increase to 22.5% of the national budget, adding a further NT$20bn.

The total education budget in 2011 is said to be NT$ 802.36 billion, or 5.84% of GDP (net of funding for private education) but another Ministry source says that:

‘In the 2010-11 academic year, the total education budget was NT$652.3 billion, of which preschool education accounted for 3.44%, primary education accounted for 26.52%, junior high school education accounted for 14.61%, senior high school education accounted for 16.05% (high schools 10.60%, vocational schools 5.45%), higher education accounted for 38.70% (college 0.77%, universities 37.93%), and 0.69% went to other institutions.’

The ROC Yearbook’s Chapter on Education provides useful background, offering this helpful diagram of the education system.

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Taiwan education system - from ROC yearbook

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Elementary and Junior High Schools

The commentary on the compulsory education sector notes that class sizes at elementary and junior high schools are currently 25 and 32 respectively, giving pupil-teacher ratios of 15:1 and 14:1 respectively. Primary and junior high schools are operated at district level and take pupils from a designated area.

The curriculum includes:

‘seven major areas of learning: languages, health and physical education, social studies, arts and humanities, mathematics, natural and life sciences, as well as interdisciplinary activities. Each school has its own curriculum development committee, which reviews teaching materials in light of the school’s particular approach and the needs of students. Some junior high schools offer technical courses to students in their third year of study, paving the way for their enrolment in vocational schools or five-year junior colleges upon graduation.

Languages constitute 20 to 30 percent of the overall curricula, with the other six areas accounting for roughly equal shares of the remainder. English is a compulsory subject from the third grade. Besides English and the official language, Mandarin, students from first through sixth grade are required to study one additional language spoken natively in Taiwan—Holo, Hakka or an indigenous language… Local language study is optional in junior high school.’

The Wikipedia entry on Taiwan’s education system offers further detail but may be somewhat outdated. In elementary schools the timetable typically runs from 07.30 to 16.00, except on Wednesday when school finishes at 12.00.

It says that, in junior high schools, the curriculum includes:

  • Classical and modern Chinese literature and poetry, composition and public speaking.
  • Maths, including algebra, geometry, proofs, trigonometry, and pre-calculus.
  • Essential English grammar
  • Science: biology (first year), chemistry (second year), physics (third year), earth science (third year) and technology (all years)
  • Social Studies including civics, history (Taiwan and China in first two years; world history in third year) and geography (Taiwan in first year, China and East Asia in second year and world geography in third year)
  • Home economics, crafts, fine art, music and drama
  • PE and outdoor education.

The Wikipedia entry emphasises that pressure remains intense to achieve the best possible outcome on entrance exams for senior high school, but the Taiwanese Government material gives a different and more up-to-date perspective.

It says that over 97% of students graduating from junior high school in the 2011/12 school year continued their studies. Forty-three percent continued to senior high school while the majority pursued vocational education in either a senior vocational high school or a junior college.

To be admitted to one of these post-compulsory options, students can either make an application or pass a Basic Competence Test comprising Chinese, English, maths, science and social science. The application route is being introduced progressively, while entrance exams are simultaneously phased out.

By 2014:

‘students will be required to sit for competitive entrance exams only if they wish to be admitted to selected schools or specialised programmes’.

Other sources suggest a somewhat different and longer timeline (see further coverage at the end of Part Two).

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Post-compulsory Education

Ministry of Education material says that Senior High School education

‘is designed to cultivate physically and mentally sound citizens, laying the foundation for academic research and the acquisition of professional knowledge in later years…’

While Wikipedia adds:

‘In many high schools incoming students may select science or liberal arts tracks depending on where their interests lie. The different learning tracks are commonly referred to as groups. Group I consists of liberal arts students, Group II and Group III of science based students (the latter studies biology as an additional subject). Science based curriculum consists of more rigorous science and mathematics classes intended to prepare the student for a career in the sciences and engineering; the liberal arts track places a heavier emphasis on literature and social studies…’

Another source explains that, during the first two years, the curriculum is similar for all students and they do not specialise until the final year.

‘Core subjects include: Chinese, English, civics, the philosophy of Dr Sun Yat-Sen, history, geography, mathematics, basic science, physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, physical education, music, fine arts, industrial arts, home economics, and military training.’

In 2011, 94.67% of senior high school graduates went on to higher education.

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Vocational high schools

‘serve to cultivate technical personnel with professional knowledge and practical skills, and to help students lay the foundation for their future careers.’

They tend to specialise in fields such as agriculture, business, engineering and nursing. Students work towards ‘national examinations for technical or vocational licenses’ required for employment in their chosen field. However almost 82% progress to higher education.

Comprehensive High Schools offer both academic and vocational options and students can select from amongst these before deciding whether to pursue an academic or vocational track.

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2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu

2006.09.13 courtesy of Max Chu

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The History and Development of Gifted Education

Drawing on the distinctions made in the material available online, I have divided the historical development of Taiwanese gifted education into four fairly distinct phases, each of 10 to15 years’ duration:

  • Earliest stages – 1962-1973
  • Development of experimental pilot programmes – 1973-1984
  • Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law – 1985-1999
  • Development in the early years of this Century, publication of the White Book of Gifted Education in 2007 and subsequent progress.

The remainder of Part One covers the first two phases.

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Earliest Stages – 1962 to 1973

The cause of Taiwan’s interest in gifted education was very similar to that in Hong Kong and Singapore: a determination to achieve economic growth through investment in human capital, given the limited natural resources available.

This was formalised in the outcomes of a Fourth National Conference on Education, which took place in 1962. The Conference noted the benefits to gifted learners and to Taiwanese society as a whole.

Some sources say that the earliest provision was developed by a small group of administrators in 1961 (others say 1962), though all agree that there was no formal plan and very little funding.

The Ministry mentions an early pilot for musically talented learners located in Guangren, a private primary school in Taipei. Another source has it that this:

‘began in a private primary school, Kuang-Jen, in Taipei in 1963. Kuang-Jen Primary School was founded in 1959 by the Catholic Church of the Sacred Heart of the Blessed Virgin. Since the inception of the SMP in Kuang-Jen, it has come to be regarded as setting the standard for gifted music education.’

Guangren and Kuang-Jen are in fact the same.

Initial pilots for academically gifted learners in two Taipei elementary schools started in 1964. Gifted education began to emerge as a topic at academic conferences and the first research papers were published.

Four years later, when compulsory education was extended to include the three years of junior high school, special education legislation was also introduced which acknowledged the needs of gifted learners.

The Ministry of Education says that the first separate special class for gifted learners with ‘general abilities’ (see 1984 categorisation below) was introduced in 1971 in an elementary school attached to Taichung Normal Junior College (now National Taichung Normal College).

Pupils were selected to undertake experimental courses which supplemented their normal Chinese, maths and science curriculum. Even at this early stage there was emphasis on stimulating creativity.

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Development of Experimental Pilot Programmes – 1973 to 1984

The history of developments during this period is heavily reliant on various papers attributed to Wu-Tien Wu, a former Director of the Special Education Center at NTNU.

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Elementary School Pilots

In 1973, The Taiwanese Ministry of Education began a nationwide six-year pilot programme in elementary schools. Eleven schools began to offer separate classes for learners identified on the basis of IQ.

Evidently the pilot met with only mixed success. A 1982 paper by Lin and Wu ‘Gifted Education in the Republic of China ROC’ (Gifted and Talented International Volume 1.1) says:

‘Although it has not achieved the results expected by many people, the programme did call people’s attention to the needs of gifted and talented children.’

Another 1985 paper published by Wu, also in Gifted and Talented International (Evaluation of Educational Programmes for Intellectually Gifted Students in Junior High Schools in the Republic of China) adds that, in 1978, the Ministry of Education asked a team at the National Taiwan Normal University to evaluate the pilot as it then operated, in 18 classes drawn from six participating schools.

They were to focus particularly on academic achievement in Chinese and maths, intelligence, anxiety and self-concept. Outcomes were assessed against a comparison group drawn from ordinary classes in the same areas.

Overall, the conclusion rather damns with faint praise:

‘The result has been somewhat satisfactory’.

More specifically, the evaluators found a positive impact on achievement in Chinese and maths, while those in the gifted classes showed less general anxiety but higher test anxiety and had poorer self-concept.

‘Generally speaking the advantages of the gifted education programmes seemed to exceed their disadvantages’

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Junior High School Pilots

In 1979, however, the pilot was extended to junior high schools. Wu and Lin explain that government guidelines were published in 1980, providing for redesign of the elementary school pilots as well as extension to the junior highs.

The guidelines set out four aims:

  • To study learners’ intellectual characteristics and creative abilities
  • To develop suitable curriculum and teaching methods
  • To support personal development (‘an integrated and healthy personality’) and so
  • ‘Determine a suitable educational system for gifted students’.

The guidelines specified that two full-time teachers should be deployed in every elementary school gifted class, and three in every junior high school class. No class should contain more than 30 pupils.

A separate class was to be provided where there were enough pupils who met the selection criteria. When there were too few pupils for this purpose, they should stay in their normal class but have access to a ‘special resource classroom’ where they might benefit from supplementary teaching and specially designed materials. Such resource classrooms were often operational after the end of the normal school day.

Participants should be identified through multiple criteria including teacher and parental recommendation, individual and group intelligence tests, as well as tests of aptitude and creativity.

One source suggests that pupils attending resource classrooms should be accelerated by one grade, especially in science, maths and languages, but there is no further reference to this.

Moreover, the guidelines advocated an ‘enrichment approach’ designed to expand learners’ knowledge and understanding. Teachers were encouraged to develop supplementary resources to complement the standard textbooks, to use creative teaching methods and problem-solving strategies. Additional activities – research, field trips, sport and recreation – were to be available during the summer and winter holidays.

Teachers were expected to undertake specialist training, while area-based expert ‘consultation groups’ were to support programme development and evaluation.

By 1981, one source says 36 elementary and 19 junior high schools were involved in these various pilot programmes involving over 3,000 learners. Another source gives different figures – 69 schools, 362 teachers and 5,055 students – while a third provides different figures again (these are included in Table 1 below)

Two evaluation teams visited twelve participating schools in the final year of the junior high school pilot. Eight of the twelve offered special classes and four had resource classrooms.

Six focused on ‘general intellectual development’ while four specialised in maths and science and two in languages.

Of the 1,000 students covered by the evaluation, 814 were in special classes and 274 in resource classrooms. The evaluators randomly selected comparison groups.

They were asked to assess:

  • Impact on achievement, creative thinking and personal adjustment;
  • The comparative effectiveness of special classes and resource classrooms; and
  • Obstacles to effective implementation.

They found that emphasis on additional enrichment declined as students approached their all-important entrance examinations for senior high school. Overall benefits were proportionately greater for younger students. Most schools tended to place too much emphasis on imparting knowledge and too little on cultivating creative, leadership and communication skills.

Some less motivated learners were permitted to remain in special classes and this caused problems, while on the other hand ‘homeroom teachers were reluctant to let the truly gifted go to the special class’.

Resource classrooms created more problems for administrators, including timetabling and deployment issues. Almost half of the teachers had no formal training in gifted education.

Parents were generally supportive but were ‘preoccupied with the idea that entering the best senior high school was the best thing for their children’. This placed pressure on the schools and influenced teaching.

Parents were also concerned that the resource class model imposed excessive workload because the children had to complete work for two teachers rather than one. Learners – including those attending resource classes – preferred the special classes for the same reason.

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Other developments

Wu explains that pilot programmes were extended into senior high schools when a third phase was begun in 1982, but these were confined to maths and science. The elementary and junior high pilot activity continued alongside.

The Ministry of Education had already established a ‘Sunshine Summer Camp’ in 1980, run by the Special Education Center at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU). It offered junior high school students from Taipei and its surrounding area a two week programme comprising university-based study, group counselling, problem-solving, leadership training, sports and recreational activities. Additional camps supported by various universities and colleges also developed during this period.

In 1983 the Ministry introduced a separate national talent search programme for exceptionally gifted pupils in maths, physics and chemistry. This enabled school age students to be admitted early to university without taking entrance examinations. Participants were selected following a week-long science camp at NTNU.

In the first round in 1983, 34 students from 9th Grade and 12 from 12th Grade were selected. By 1988, this had increased to 467 9th Grade and 211 12th Grade students. Almost 1,000 candidates attended the initial camps.

Also in 1983 the Ministry introduced measures to allow elementary school pupils to complete the curriculum a year early by skipping or telescoping grades. In the first year 40 pupils entered junior high schools early.

Support for those talented in music, fine arts, dance and sports had been expanded progressively since 1973, with continuing involvement from private schools. During that year, one Taipei elementary school and two in Taichung began to run separate classes for musically talented learners.

By 1980, funded music provision began to be extended to a few public senior high schools and, from the following year, similar provision was developed in fine arts, dance, and sports. Ministry sources add that students could for the first time obtain exemption from entrance examinations.

Special education centres were formed at two National Teachers Colleges and at NTNU (the latter in 1974) to promote and support the emerging national gifted programme. These were subsequently extended to eight provincial normal colleges. Such centres supported interaction between researchers and teachers.

In 1973 the Ministry also began to publish a Gifted Education Monograph (elsewhere called the Research Bulletin of Gifted Education). In 1981 NTNU launched its own periodical ‘Gifted Education Quarterly’.

In 1981, Lin and Wu highlighted some of the outstanding issues then facing Taiwanese gifted education. These included:

  • Improving knowledge and understanding of gifted education and developing positive attitudes towards gifted learners. There is concern that too much pressure is placed upon them.
  • Introducing a broader concept of giftedness, extending a predominantly intellectual focus to embrace leadership, creative and psychomotor skills.
  • Developing a system-wide approach to gifted education covering all sectors and addressing obstacles associated with inflexible examinations and grading systems.
  • Improving professional development for specialist teachers who typically attend course of 4-12 weeks’ duration. Teacher selection, course content and subsequent networking all need attention. Improved coverage in initial teacher education may also be needed.

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Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive

Spirited Away courtesy of Direct Positive

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Expansion following the 1984 Special Education Law

 

The Shape of the System

Wu is again responsible for much of the available analysis during this period.

On at least two occasions – in1992 and 2000 respectively – he utilises a framework first articulated by his compatriot Wang in a 1992 paper ‘A survey on related problems and teaching strategies in gifted education program in Taiwan’.

The breaks down the ‘operational system’ into three levels:

  • Supervisory level, including policy, legislation and guidance, responsible ‘administrative organisations and research;
  • Implementation level, including identification, placement, supply of teachers, curriculum, pedagogy and teaching materials;
  • Resource level, covering parental and community involvement and the contribution of the private sector.

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Framework for analysis of Taiwan's gifted education Capture

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I have adopted a similar framework for this analysis, adding material from other sources and highlighting changes of emphasis and detail between them. Wu and others devote significantly more attention to the first two of these categories, providing relatively little material about the ‘Resource level’.

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Supervisory

Chapter 2 of the 1984 Special Education Law (SEL) was devoted to gifted education, setting out definitions, identification procedures, placement arrangements, curriculum design, support, teacher development and allocation of resources.

It formally divided Taiwan’s gifted learners into three distinct categories:

  • those with general abilities (the intellectually gifted)
  • those with scholastic aptitude in particular academic disciplines (maths, science, language etc) and
  • those with special talents (music, fine arts, drama, dance and sport)

Under the terms of the legislation, the first category above is called ‘gifted’ while the second and third are called ‘talented’.

The SEL added more flexibility to the 1983 acceleration reforms, enabling highly gifted learners to skip more than one grade at each level of the education system (primary, junior high, senior high and university).

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Implementation

In his 1992 paper (pp 415-424) Wu has relatively little to say about the supervisory level, but describes the different elements of the implementation level thus:

  • Identification: intellectually gifted learners are screened at school level through teacher observation, evidence of achievement and the outcomes of group intelligence tests. Those falling within the top 10% take several more group and individual tests (including the Stanford-Binet, WISC-R, Raven’s Matrices and Torrance Test of Creative Thinking). These are administered at the students’ schools but under the supervision of ‘the university guidance institute’. Although described as a ‘multi-assessment procedure’ it is clear that possession of an IQ measure above 130 is the basic selection criterion.

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Identification process Capture

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For those with artistic or musical talent, selection generally involves auditions and aptitude tests, though there seems an expectation that successful candidates will also possess ‘a higher than average IQ’.

  • Programme design: although overarching curricular goals are set by central government, gifted programmes are locally determined by schools with support from colleges and universities. Refinements are introduced in the light of monitoring meetings involving both teachers and experts. Examples of issues addressed include the design of follow-up and evaluation studies and the content of summer enrichment activities. There is strong emphasis on enrichment and use of ‘creative teaching methods’ such as peer-tutoring, debates, experiments and games. Students undertake their own research projects drawing on independent study. Teachers are facilitators and guides. Affective development is not neglected – Wu uses as an example arrangements whereby gifted learners provide peer tutoring to low achieving peers.

‘Consequently, gifted children develop not only a gifted mind but, more importantly, a tender and loving heart.’

Opportunities for acceleration have increased, including provision for students in school to take university science courses at weekends under the National Science Council’s College Pre-Enrolling Project.

  • Teacher development: Certification as a teacher of gifted education depends on completion of 20 hours of professional development. This may be accumulated through weekend, summer and week-long term-time courses. The Ministry of Education pays for Government staff and academics to access training and conferences abroad. It also sends teams to review practice in other countries.
  • Resources: Schools receive government funding to reduce the pupil-teacher ratio in gifted classes and to develop teaching materials, upgrade classrooms and buy necessary equipment. They utilise trips to local libraries, museums and broadcasters. Nevertheless, many need to raise additional funds from commercial sources or through the parents’ association. This can mean that different schools have different levels of support, and that some gifted programmes are better resourced than other parts of a school. There is an increasing supply of books and materials from city or county-level education authorities and commercial publishers.

It is perhaps also worth mentioning that Taiwan’s involvement with the international Olympiad movement dates from this era. From 1992 they participated in the 33rd International Maths Olympiad (IMO) and in the International Chemistry Olympiad (ICO). From 1994 they also took part in the International Physics Olympiad (IPO).

Selection for the science Olympiads was based on a national talent search undertaken by NTNU with Ministry of Education sponsorship. Candidates took part in a 9-day science camp and finalists attended a ‘semi-intensive’ training camp for one month before the competition.

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Resource

In his 1992 treatment, Wu notes that several holiday programmes have been developed in the private sector:

‘For instances, the Chinese Youth Summer Camp, Audio-visual Library, Learning Camp, Computer Camp, Recreation Camp, and Chorus and Orchestra Clubs were among the programmes sponsored by these organizations in the past.’

Parental involvement seems to be confined principally to financial donations and voluntary activity.

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Problems and Issues

In a 1989 paper ‘Cultivating Genius’ Wu sets out some of the issues being experienced midway through this period.

  • By 1989, the separate self-contained gifted class have become significantly more common than the ‘resource class’ approach, though the Ministry has recently concentrated on increasing the number of resource classes. Research has identified strengths and weaknesses in each model. Though parents tend to favour separate classes, these are more costly and some schools have insufficient funding to offer them. Evaluation suggests that the separate classes improve both academic achievement and creative thinking, but some experts believe that students ‘do not learn to adjust socially or interact smoothly with mainstream pupils’. On the other hand, pupils in resource classes ‘are often regarded as “unusual specimens” both by the teachers and by their peers’.
  • Continuity has become an issue since many learners in elementary-level special classes have no progression route into similar classes at junior high school. This can cause ‘a difficult readjustment’. Though a new junior and senior high school programme has been introduced, it has not yet been fully implemented.
  • Parents remain fixated on the senior high school entrance examinations, the results of which determine which school students can attend. These exams are:

‘highly structured affairs that reward diligent study of prescribed texts and prodigious feats of memorisation…Parents therefore do not want their gifted children to risk failure by taking class work not specifically designed to pass this key examination—better to follow the complex structured curriculum than be too creative and study materials “useless” for the exams!’

This attitude also inhibits teachers from using creative teaching methods.

  • The 20 credit hours required for certification of gifted education teachers is too little. Teachers are challenged by the speed with which their students ‘consume’ material they have prepared and ‘have every right to complain of overwork’. Because they must also show that special classes are worth the investment made by the school, many ‘push their pupils to struggle for first place in every academic contest possible’. The Government has taken steps to increase the supply of qualified staff, since class sizes of 30 are proving too big.

Although there are positive signs of progress – research is focused on improving teacher education and assessment of student attitudes; curriculum reforms are seeking to balance the requirements of the senior high school entrance exam against more interesting content – experts are pressing the Government to adopt a more robust long-term gifted education policy.

By 1992, Wu’s list of issues is slightly different, including:

  • A need to expand the programme to train those with different talents that contribute to society;
  • Developing progression routes to senior high schools that do not depend on the entrance examinations;
  • The evaluation of the wide variety of accelerative models that have emerged;
  • An expectation that expansion of the resource room model, rather than the special class model, will continue because it ‘has been supported by some educators and most administrators’;
  • A need to introduce more robust and systematic evaluations of gifted programmes;
  • A continuing need to secure an integrated approach across elementary, junior and senior high schools, and also the integration of pre-school programmes, learning from examples in the private sector.
  • Support for twice-exceptional students and
  • Giving top priority to ‘providing the gifted students with a conducive, ecological environment. Just as a sprout needs nutrients to grow, ecological resources are called for in order for the gifted to have their potential fully developed’.

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The Size and Growth of the Programme

Tables 1 and 2 below show the rate of growth of Taiwan’s gifted education programme during this period. They are compiled from various different sources but all the figures agree (except the one marked *). However, as we have seen, there are at least three different versions of the earliest figures for 1981!

Table 1 shows that, whereas gifted students outnumbered their talented peers in 1981 and the proportions were broadly equal in 1984, the number of talented students grew more rapidly and subsequently became significantly larger.

It is also evident that, while increases in numbers were substantial in the 1980s and early 1990s, there had been a significant slowing of expansion by 1997.

1981 1984 1987 1991 1997
Gifted 3475 4490 6356 9846 10090
(+29%) (+42%) (+55%) (+2%)
Talented 2366 4347 7404 16167 22479
(+84%) (+70%) (+118%) (+39%)
Total 5841 8837 13760 26013 32569*
(+51%) (+56%) (+89%) (+25%)

Table 1: Numbers of Gifted and Talented Students 1981-1997

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Table 2 shows that the number of gifted/talented students increased most rapidly in senior high schools over this period but, by 1997, elementary schools were enjoying a relatively faster rate of expansion.

1987 1991 1997
Elementary Schools 144 171
Classes 460
Students 7061 11860 15070
(+40%) (+27%)
Junior High Schools 117 142
Classes 344
Students 4999 10266 11334
(+105%) (+10%)
Senior High Schools 46 90
Classes 120
Students 1700 3887 6182
(+129%) (+59%)
Total Schools 175 307 403
Classes 506 924 1223
Students 13760 26013 32586*
(+89%) (+25%)

Table 2: Numbers of Gifted/Talented Schools, Classes and Students by Sector, 1987-1997

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Other data snippets:

  • By 1987, Taiwan’s overall student population was around 3.6m, of which 3% were assumed to be gifted/talented, but only 13% of the latter were supported by gifted and talented programmes; by 1991, around 0.6% the total student population was supported in gifted and talented programmes.
  • In 1991 the balance between male and female participants in gifted programmes was 57% female and 43% male; by 1997, the differential had increased to 18% (59% female and 41% male).
  • From 1995 to 2000, the rate of increase in gifted students fell to around  3% per year, mainly because, according to Wu:

‘In the wake of recent increased demands for educational reform in Taiwan, public attention has placed much more emphasis on the special educational needs of children with disabilities than on the gifted/talented. Gifted education seems to have been left out and it is not even mentioned in the “Final Report of Educational Reform” (Executive Yuan, R.O.C., 1996). On the other hand, “education for the disabled” has been highlighted and very well funded.

This marks the end of Part One. In Part Two we shall explore the development of Taiwanese gifted education since the turn of the Twenty-First Century.

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GP

February 2013

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