Sunday, 23 December 2012

Saturday Schooling in Taipei

Last Saturday was a school day, making the week feel long. The extra day was in order to have a day 'in the bank' to bridge the gap between Sunday and New Year's Day next week, giving a four day weekend. It seems most schools did this, and schools generally seem to have more flexibility about swapping days around in this way. I think it's a great idea. My son's school made the experience less onerous by having a school fete in the afternoon.

As I wrote in my first post about schools, city public schools are typically very large, with even elementary schools having enrolments in the thousands. As British schooling is quite different in this regard, with even large primaries only having a few hundred students, this was quite surprising to me. School buildings were also surprising, as in the UK primary schools tend to be only one or two stories high, while in Taipei they're tall, thin buildings, often modelled around quadrangles.  The lower grades occupy the lowest floors, to save little legs I imagine.

My son's school building is huge. Some parts of it are seven stories high, and although there's an elevator, it only holds a few people, so much good exercise is had going up and down stairs. Here's just one section:

It's sited next to a hilly area, part of which it owns. This makes for some fabulous science and nature lessons in the hills.

The children aren't allowed up there by themselves, which would have been a huge disappointment to me as a child. But there are several play areas, enough for each grade to have their own special place, so it isn't too bad.

Main sports field and dais.

Here's another play area in the inner part of the school. You can see the steps leading up into the forest at the back.

The best thing about the school's location is that the air is very clean and fresh, especially as it's situated on the very outskirts of Taipei.

Despite the school's physical size, enrolment is on the small side even compared to British schools. In my son's entire grade there's only one class of sixteen students. The entire school has fewer than two hundred children rattling around in the large school buildings. The result is that the school community really does feel like a large family.

At the school fete on Saturday afternoon the children were given vouchers to buy various gifts the parents had donated. The vouchers were in exchange for the $NT35 (about 80p) we had been asked to give in during the week.

The pink vouchers are on the left. In my son's other hand is a green lottery ticket. The children had to get each square stamped when they completed one of the activities on offer in the afternoon, then all the stamped tickets were put in a box and prize winners drawn.

As I've usually found on these occasions, the games and activities involved skills of balance, accuracy and concentration, rather than speed or strength.

For example, in this game the children had to lift a bottle upright with the aid of a ring on the end of a length of string. Yes, those are beer bottles!

Sliding an infant formula tin to the end of the table, but not off it, is the object here.

I was confused as to what was happening in this game at first, but my son later explained that the players took turns to give the command to jump, and whoever landed on the same line as the caller was out.

All in all, Saturday schooling isn't so bad!

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