As I was saying in my last post (here), my mission or intention was to somehow get into the education system at the university level in Taiwan and create change for the better from within. I did not really have a long term plan as to how I was going to do this; however, I did figure I would have a lot more autonomy at the university level than at other levels that I had been teaching. Of course, a big part of my decision also had to do with money, having a more stable salary and a feeling that it was time once again for me to get out of my comfort zone home.
In my first year at the university, I did a lot of teaching English and attempting to explain issues that, I later realized most students did not have a basis or reference to understand. Then, in the second half of that year, an opportunity came along to design a new course for the university, which we would use to compete with against other Taiwan universities for funding from the Ministry of Education. I took this opportunity very seriously, spending a lot of time researching and writing with the intent of inputting words into our proposal that were specifically targeted at winning the competition and getting funding so as to legitimize the topics that I cared to teach. I inputted a lot of broad international topics so that, once we won, I would have the freedom to choose which topics were most relevant. We ended up getting second place in Taiwan, which was cool because it indicated to me that people high up in the ministry of education were considering the necessity for a change in the focus of education. Luckily, the topics that we had inputted – the environment, war, terrorism, democracy, money, culture, etc., are broad enough to have given me as much leeway as I wanted to uncover and explore with all of my classes, consisting of almost four-hundred students, issues that I considered relevant, yet too often ignored.
Thus, beginning in my second year at AU, I readjusted my focus of “English” teaching and learning away from acquiring information and skills relevant to achieving better standardized test scores, to that of acquiring knowledge and information relevant to taking responsibility for humanity and our planet as a whole. The biggest challenge for me has been 1) to get students to care about what’s going on outside of their worlds and 2) to get them to realize that, through our words and deeds we have the opportunity and/or responsibility to create change for the better. I introduced issues such as democracy, inequality, money and false-flag terrorism and instructed students on how to use some of the technology to enable them to collaboratively assess issues, develop solutions and promote their solutions to the rest of humanity.
Towards the end of my second year, I had been wondering how much of a difference my input has had in our university and the educations system as a whole. As for Asia University, I could se, through other students’ presentations that, geopolitical topics were now starting to be addressed, not always the way I wanted them to be though, lol. Then just a few weeks ago, I was encouraged to join a group of teachers visiting one of Taiwan’s national universities to view their end of the year presentations. To my surprise, every one of the their topics was of the topics were of the topics that I had deliberately inserted/inputted into our original proposal for the Global Citizenship and Cultural Literacy course that we as a group had designed. I guess that, because we took second place in the contest, other universities (or at least this one) figured that this is the direction that the Ministry of Education wants to go. For me, this is an indication, as in feedback that, the effort I have been putting into changing the system from within has been having an effect, much more so than I had imagined.
Now, I am on vacation and intend to refocus my attention back onto me, my personal process. However, I am also formulating plans (such as democratic learning, letting students decide what to study) for next semester and I will probably get to this topic in the couple of months and included it in another post. Finally, I would like to say that, English teaching no longer has to be done with the focus only on learning to speak the language. We as instructors have the ability, a responsibility to expand the learning process to that of acquiring relevant information and knowledge so to best assist all of us to understand ourselves as the creators creating the created.