Western perceptions of Asian educational culture

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Last week we had safeguarding & child protection training delivered by an international expert in the field. In discussing the different forms of child abuse – physical, mental, emotional & neglect – he gave an example of a child who turns up to school sleepy in the morning because he was at cram school until late the night before. His suggestion was that such action is tantamount to child abuse, because they were being overworked and not given enough time to sleep and relax. In his explanation of this case study, he described it as neglect – that the child should have time with his family, to relax, to play, and to sleep.

In Taiwan, however, parents view the provision of experiences and opportunities for learning and development as an expression of love – and so do the children.

This breakdown of the average day of one of my students when she was 11 is fairly representative, and it’s a very different childhood from anything most western students would experience. It’s also something this extremely able, well-adjusted University of Washington student feels extremely grateful for, looking back.

In talking to me about her childhood, she got emotional while thinking about how hard her dad worked to pay for all of these activities. To her, each one was an expression of his love. The idea that this could qualify as neglect is entirely ridiculous to her. Such judgments must be made with extreme caution given the number of cultural differences between Taiwanese society and the home nations of teachers employed here.

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