Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Graduation Taiwanese Style Saturday night, I went to the graduation ceremony at my school. This was not a new experience for me, but because two bloggers recently commented about the whole Taiwanese graduation experience on their blogs, I paid more attention to the culture differences myself. Charlotte did a great job describing exactly what a typical high school graduation is like here in Taiwan. There are a few differences between high school and college graduations, but on the whole they are quite similar. Taiwanese graduations tend to be quite informal, and there is no focus on the individual achievement of the students. Ours even included a rock concert at the end (although about 75% of the graduates had left by that point). At least at our school (but it seems like at others too) students take pictures the entire ceremony (such as the one above) and wander around at will. No other teachers were present except the "mentor teachers" (or class adviser). (I showed up because the students had asked me to--not because I was required to be there.) At one point, after some dancing and bar tending on stage, the top student of each department was called on stage to receive in honor of all students in their department a diploma. All the graduates stood and were pronounced graduated. The dean of each department then went through the crowds and moved the graduates tassels from the left to the right. This however was the first time I had seen this happen. Then some awards were given to top students in each class. Diplomas will be passed out to those who can receive them later--ie have actually passed all their classes and only took senior courses this semester. If they have to attend summer school (or even one more year) or are are still taking a junior class (which isn't completed until the first week of July) they can attend the graduation ceremony but will not get their diploma. The receiving of your diploma is a very informal thing done with no pomp and circumstance at all. (One or my former students told me that at his current school, they actually "graduated" before taking finals.) Char makes two points I whole-heartedly agree with, first, she points out that unlike our western focus on the individual, here in Taiwan the "students were graduating as a class, as a grade, as a school." It is another example of the "Big Me" (society) vs. the "Little Me" (the individual). In Taiwanese culture the Big Me always outshines the Little Me. In some ways I like that they were together as a class--that they were able to graduate with friends. I remember in high school, college, and grad school graduating next to perfect strangers since my friends were not next to me alphabetically. Char also points out that by only allowing the top students to be recognized on stage, "it doesn't do a lot to encourage the majority of the average or even mediocre students. They should...

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