I grew up in Taiwan where people value higher education diplomas and getting good jobs. This is an ideology that long exits in the society, “Receiving higher education is the only way to get a great job, earn money, and have a successful life.” People who do not have a higher education diploma are seen as failure in life. Doctors, engineers, and lawyers are viewed as the best jobs. Teachers, architects, and accountants are good jobs. People have their thoughts and opinions for other jobs. I attended a very homogenous middle and high school where all of my classmates and schoolmates pursued similar dreams: getting a BA degree, then a master degree, and then maybe a PhD degree or entering a job market. I was lucky (in this sense and this kind of social ideology) that I did well when I was in school and was able to finish undergraduate school and receive a master degree. However, I still remember friends’ and families’ comments when they heard that I received a master degree from TC and teach in a preschool and have taught in a bilingual school in the United States: “You have a master and teach in a preschool? What a waste!” “You should come back to Taiwan, take the teacher application exam, and find a teaching job in a middle school.” My parents are very liberal parents in that they respect and support any decisions I make, however after hearing all these comments from friends and families too, my mom said to me a couple times, “you should consider to come back and teach older students. People do not value early childhood education here. Also, if you choose to teach Chinese, it is not any better than your old classmates. Many of your college friends have been teaching in middle school for several years. That’s a life-long secure job, you know.” Being educated from such society, I have grown into a person who promotes the ideology as well, though I have thrived at teaching in a preschool for several years.
After taking this class, what impacted me the most is how different ideologies affect students’ learning in school. In Taiwan, the value of receiving higher education and getting great jobs has a great impact on students from all levels. I also realize that if people did not acknowledge the values of a society, educational changes would not happen. I looked into all the educational reforms and new educational policies that politicians and policy makers have made due to complaints from teachers, parents, and society in Taiwan. They got rid of standardized textbooks, added more sessions of music and art classes to promote creativity in the curriculum, replaced single college entrance exam with multiple entrance pathways to college, etc. Parents send their children to more art, music, and sports after-school programs, encourage them to pursue their dreams, and participate in more community services. However, the ultimate goal of educational reforms and new educational policies is still the same: equip students to get good test scores, enter colleges, and get good jobs. On one hand, parents and teachers encourage children to try new things, be creative, and pursue their dreams; on the other hand, they still want them to get good grades, find good jobs, and earn a good living. I do believe that acknowledging the values of a society is the first step of making educational changes, even for advocating for a socially just education, but values of a society must change on order to achieve true educational change. Unfortunately, not many people understand or realize it.
Personally, I do not agree with using standardized tests to assess students’ learning, pushing all students to follow the same educational track, and making everyone get a bachelor or master degree, but I cannot tell my students to not care about all these. I feel that since we live in a neoliberal and competing society, there is no way for me to circumvent what society views as important but I disagree with. I want to promote a socially just education and prepare students for their future, but I am not sure how. This makes me think about what educational equity means to me.
For me, educational equity means that all students will have the opportunity to receive educational resources that meet their needs and interests. Furthermore, students have equal opportunity to succeed in their lives. To achieve educational equity, I would make sure that children are happy, being respected, receive resources and support that meet their needs and interests, and find the balance between pursuing their dreams and fitting into the society. “Fitting into the society” might not sound appealing to many people, but I want my students to be able to earn a living, that is to survive in the society.