24th edition: Kao shur
Kao shur, kinda rhymes with lao shur (teacher)... and they happen at the middle and end of the school term... that's right. Kao shur is an exam.
Luckily, I didn't have to take an exam myself during the past few weeks because I'm an adult and I chose to take Chinese class.
Unluckily, I spent a remarkable amount of time writing, rewriting, administering, and grading kao shur (s) for my students. And I personally graded almost all of them (about 285 out of 315).
The whole experience reminded me of a major reason why I wouldn't want to be a classroom teacher for the rest of my life. I hate giving tests. They have the potential to break kids down and make them feel like they haven't accomplished anything. They're really hard to make valid measures of a student's learning. And here, they are really really important to kids and parents.
Entire families are committed to their childrens' success, even on elementary school midterms. I was shocked to hear my students tell me about what their parents thought of their grades and the corporal punishment used in homes to respond to anything but perfect scores. I've had kids tell me they failed because they got a grade below a 90. And, honestly, that just makes me want to give all the kids A+s because they're good people and shouldn't be emotionally or physically hurt over English class. But then it would just lead to more chaos later down the line when the same student has a less constructivist teacher and ends up "failing" later on.
The importance of testing here is a real culture shock for me. The last classroom I was a part of ran on the paradigm of giving A's to everyone because students and teachers are doing the best they can. Honestly, this testing season has made me even more convinced that testing is a bunch of bunk and nothing I want to ever do again.
On a related note, here's a picture I took pretty soon after I arrived here in Taiwan. This was the front of one of the local high schools, and the red sheets you see here are the students' scores on their college entrance exams. Posted, on the sidewalk, for everyone to see. They're even lit up at night.
It's intense, and I have no idea how students survive this educational culture with any interest at all in learning.