Just watching the facebook live broadcast of the Hong Kong protests, Yeah I would want to too.
I’ve been getting a lot of questions from friends, acquaintances, or just followers on the blog about how to relocate the family to Taiwan. To be honest, for me it’s not a question of relocation, it’s more like homecoming. I’m Taiwanese so I didn’t have to worry about getting a work visa or resident visa; I have residency, we have an apartment, I know my way around the city, and have a good network of support as well – I have a guy, or know a guy who knows a guy for every odd type of job there is. So the only big decision was choosing the right school for the kids.
My eldest was in an international school in HK, my second in the local kindy and the youngest not in school yet. I think a lot of friends just assumed that I would try to put the kids in the bilingual school or apply for Taipei American School. The decision was really simple – without a doubt, I was going to put them in local school in Taiwan. Maybe because I also went to primary school when I was young and appreciated the solid foundation that it gave me in Chinese reading and writing. I also believe that you can not be truly bilingual and bi-cultural, unless you have been schooled in a non-English environment. Why would I waste the perfect opportunity for them to be fully immersed in Mandarin, to speak, read and live like a native? I have also been hearing a lot of good things about the new, experimental teaching that some schools are doing. So the decision was made to put them in the local stream, but which one?
In Taiwan, the public school that your kids attend depends entirely on your residential address. There’s no application or interviews to get into a good public school. You just have to make sure that you’re registered in an address within the school district. What if you don’t like the school in your district? A lot of people borrow addresses from their friends and family if they happen to reside in an address in the district of the preferred school. Some people even rent out their address for school enrollment.
Of course, there are private, bilingual schools available. I didn’t look too much into it but enrollment is usually quite full and you need to get on the waitlist. I lived in HK for 10 years, I know all about waitlists, so no Thank you. Below is a list of private schools in Taiwan that I found. A few other schools that are good options like Lih-Ren, the private school on An He, or Tsai Hsing in Wen Shan district are not on the list. Do a search for them if you’re interested to found out more. Generally speaking, the private schools in Taiwan is about 15-20% cheaper than HK, except TAS. TAS is on par if not more expensive. Of course in addition to tuition there are the other added on cost. Standard of living is much cheaper here, making private school education more affordable overall.
The primary school in our district happens to be one of the happy local schools in Taipei. Is there such a thing? Happy local school? Yeah well, for one, these kids don’t wear uniform, they have less homework than the others and also this school position itself as a bilingual school. When I called up for the first time, I was impressed to hear the telephone recording in both English and Chinese. Was it perfect English? Well, it’s the effort that counts. What I also liked about the school was how it encouraged the kids to learn through play, enjoy learning, embrace failure, and didn’t over-emphasized results and scoring.
My daughter’s a first grader. She’s in school half day, except for Tuesdays. She’s learning ㄅㄆㄇㄈ and simple addition in math. She has English classes twice a week and also PE is taught in English. Max, the 4th grader, has English class 3 times a week but he mostly just hangs out and read by himself during English class. Although Max’s Chinese is behind his grade, he’s slowly building his vocabulary and his Chinese writing has definitely improved dramatically. But the improvement I’m most excited about is math.
Whereas his old school taught math the new unconventional way with grouping, call me old fashion but I would just like for him to know the multiplication table and learn the divide the old fashion way. Even though now he’s being taught math completely in Chinese, the teacher would read it to him verbally if he doesn’t understand and explain to him the concept and help with problem. The teachers at the after school program would sit with him sometimes up to 2 hours explaining, teaching and watching him practice. He’s getting better and becoming more confident in math.
Lastly, navigating the network of the parents. Oh the line groups!!!. I’ve been warned that there will be endless line groups to join. You can not survive or make friends in Taiwan without LINE. So with two kids in school, after school program, and their extra-curriculum activities, I have about 8 line groups in my phone. Everyday, flashing with unread messages, telling me that there are things that I haven’t done or handed in yet. It is truly exhausting. To be honest, since I work full time, I haven’t made that many friends with the mommies at school. The school does get the parents quiet involved. I was “strongly encouraged” to volunteer to read or share once a semester, which I did. Another time, I asked the teacher if I can bring a cake and pizza in for the whole class to celebrate Max’s birthday. It’s not often kids do that here, but she made an exception for Max because he’s new.
Overall, the kids are adjusting quite well to their new school. They are in school much longer. Right after school, they are picked up by the after school program – which deserves another blog post – and do all their homework there. The teachers drop them off at home at 7pm. I wasn’t too worried about my first grader because she doesn’t have anything to compared to. I was pleasantly surprised to see Max adjusting quite well in his new school. He’s definitely more resilient and adaptable to change than I had expected. The flip side of their new Mandarin skills is hearing the kids fight and bicker in Mandarin. To which me and the husband said, “We’ll take it!”