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  • Writer's pictureStacey Chiew

It's Business As Usual For Schools In Taiwan

"Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." - Albert Einstein

While Malaysian schools were closed for more than six months since the year 2020, children in Taiwan continue to go to school despite pandemic lockdowns worldwide. The Covid-19 pandemic played out quite differently in Taiwan. The country has less than a thousand cases and a few deaths without a national lockdown; in the meantime, schools in more than 160 countries have prohibited face to face learning.

What did the schools in Taiwan do right? With schools closed for only two weeks for the Chinese New Year break in February 2020, children resumed their face to face learning after the holiday except all of them are required to wear masks and practiced good hygiene to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Situated in Taipei, Fuhe Junior High School (福和國民中學) is one of the largest schools in New Taipei city district. With 2216 students, the school is working toward integrating high-quality; effective internationally recognized education content to diversify its curriculum.

Tiffany Pan works at Fuhe Junior High as an English teacher for 12 years. She shared her experience of teaching, managing, and disciplining 26 kids in a classroom during the most challenging times of her teaching career.

How did her school manage to sail through the pandemic without any of the students contracted the disease? Tiffany shared her experience.

School as usual for students in Taiwan despite the pandemic.

When Covid-19 invaded Taiwan, how did your school prepare students to face the pandemic?

Education is a serious matter in Taiwan. Our school started to implement protective measures against Covid-19 in February 2020. We trained our students to follow the new protective measures quickly so that they can take proactive steps to help keep the school free from Covid-19 infection. We helped them cope with the changes resulting from the disease.

To ensure the school routines run smoothly, we divided our school administrative staff and teachers into 2 groups. They take turn monitoring students at the entrance every morning: Spraying alcohol to disinfect students’ hands, monitoring their temperature and ensuring all of them wears a surgical mask. We also installed automated disinfectant dispensers around the school and automatic temperature measurement systems to monitor and keep track of the students' body temperature. In the classrooms, homeroom teachers take and record students’ temperature twice a day to ensure they are in good health. As for the school staff, we need to record our temperature too. If a student experience a fever, he or she will be sent to the school clinic. With everyone’s cooperation, the school can function normally in a new way.

Are there any changes or adjustment being made to the class schedules and subjects taught?

Yes, change is necessary. We have 200 teachers, it is important for all of us to follow the health and safety guidelines set by our government. Staff meetings were cancelled due to safety measures. Teachers are encouraged to discuss issues that concern them via emails. If face to face meetings are unavoidable, teaching staff must adhere to social distancing as an added security measure. School activities related to group gatherings are either cancelled or postponed. For example, we cancelled the year eight annual singing competition and outdoor camping last year.

What are the challenges faced by teachers during the covid-19 pandemic?

Teachers are confronted with the need to adopt and adapt to online teaching to support students’ learning, in case our government decided to impose a lockdown. To foster digital competences in teachers, our government has provided various training sessions to teachers to prepare them for a new model of knowledge transfer using different online educational tools. We strongly believe students must continue to learn despite the pandemic. Teachers are also encouraged to find ways to design and deliver quality online lessons to ensure teaching and learning continue to take place smoothly. Although traditional method of face-to-face teaching is still practiced in my school, the integration of technology into teaching and learning is a must. It is important to get students familiar with the new approach of learning in case there is a lockdown. Plan and prepare before it is too late!

From left: Tiffany Pan, Principal范筱蓉, Dean黃淑君

Why do you think the Taiwanese government is so successful in controlling Covid-19 without a full lockdown?

Taiwan was hit very hard by SARS outbreak many years ago. The painful memories still linger with us, especially the health workers, doctors and nurses. Even today, some health workers are still experiencing long term health side effect from SARS. We don’t want the same thing happens to our country twice. There is a saying: Precaution is better than cure. When our government first heard of the unknown pneumonia cases in Wuhan, rapid actions were taken to ensure its citizens' safety by implementing new policies for travelers.

Overall, life is very much normal except we need to wear masks each time we go out or take public transportation. We understand that it is important to take care of our own safety and the safety of others. Even today, everyone practices good social hygiene despite COVID 19 cases are low in Taiwan. To sum up, it takes a whole village to make all this possible: People’s awareness, attitudes and how our government responds to the crisis.

What are the steps that your school will implement in the future to help make the school a covid-19 free environment?

We will continue to practice what we have been doing since February last year because it is effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Here in Taiwan, people use face masks proactively without needing a special reminder from the government. No doubt good hygiene practices help keep the virus at bay. We learned a lesson from SARS; we will never forget the lesson learned.

Published in Dreamic Educational Magazine 2021.

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