For Njosh Only

Ethnographic Interview



1. Statement of Purpose: I will be conducting an ethnographic interview with a focus of classroom etiquette in rural Taiwan. My interviewee is an exchange student named … , from Chung, Taiwan. She is an English Major here, and is 20 years old. The interviews will be held in the Library, where I will ask several questions and log all responses in a journal.

2. Questions: Some of the questions I plan to ask the interviewee are:

· In your opinion, what is a successful educational experience?

· What do your parents consider to be a successful educational experience?

· What do your teachers consider to be a successful education?

· What type of relation do you typically have with your teacher in the classroom?

· What type of relation do you typically have with your teacher outside of the classroom?

· What sort of interaction is there between students in the classroom?

· Is it considered disrespectful to talk out of turn while in class?

· What is considered unacceptable behavior while in class (i.e. chewing gum, writing notes, texting)?

· What are the consequences for unacceptable behavior in the classroom?

· On average, how many hours of homework per day are you expected to complete at home?

3. Summary of findings

This was a very insightful interview, I found that a lot of my assumptions on Asian education proved to be true for education in Taiwan; however, I also found that it was to an extreme that I did not expect. … seems to be a very dedicated and focused student, and she portrays that in how she talked about her study habits, but generally Taiwanese education is fairly easy and students have little to no study time at home- which I found to be extremely surprising! The strangest part is that as a culture, grades are so important, but not so much actually being stretched to your limits or reaching ones’ potential.

4. Presentation of results


In my interview I found that in Taiwan your expectations are clear cut, as well as the punishments for not reaching those expectations. When asked how a successful student would be defined in Taiwan, I was surprised to find how straight forward the answer was. A successful student has straight A’s. It was the same answer, regardless of whether it were the teacher, parent, or student was defining it. When hearing this response, I thought of what I would define a successful student and right away, phrases such as “reach my potential” and “contribute to the bettering of society” came to mind. I would one day like to continue this interview with more Taiwanese students, teachers and parents of students to see if having grades really is the only and most important indicator of a successful student. I think that this culture values the results or information seen on paper (grades) more than the actual outcome of the student, which is very different from here.


I first inquired how students and teachers interact inside and outside the classroom. … told me about the power distance between the teacher and students is great, and that if a student disagrees with something the teacher says, they should not raise their hand and argue with them. If you really have an issue with what the teacher says, you should stay after class and talk with him/her- that way he/she doesn’t lose face with the rest of the class. I asked her what would happen if a student were ever to disagree and argue with a Professor in front of classmates, to which she responded that the teacher has the power of lowering the student’s grade, as well as reporting the issue to out of class-success counselor that is in charge of that specific student’s grade for participation, attendance and behavior.

She also told me that students will rarely raise their hand or answer questions in class for the same reason, as well as the fear of losing face with their peers and especially their teacher. She told me that they have a big fear of answering wrong and their teacher thinking of them as dumb and grading their papers more strictly. This is why the teacher or Professor will usually lecture while the students take notes; I believe this is the reason the international students in this class rarely participate. I think they still have these habits and attitudes and are afraid to answer or volunteer to talk- but I have noticed that both … and … are attentive and when asked questions on the material, they can give a good response.

Outside of the classroom, a student can get access to a teacher via email or office hours just like in the United States, but in grade school, the family of the student will generally even have the phone number of the teacher in case of a serious matter. There are few instances that would require that extreme however, as the students are obedient and passive because they want to make sure to get a good grade.

Work ethic

In Taiwan, the class material is difficult, but requires little out of class attention. … stated that “Americans study much harder” and that we “have a lot more homework than in Taiwan”. I asked how many hours’ worth of homework was assigned per week, and she said that the homework is beneficial but optional, so students will rarely do it. The only grades in most subjects are the tests, mid-terms and finals. A student will usually study 1-2 days before taking a normal test, and 1-2 weeks before the mid-terms and finals. In most cases, a student in Taiwan will be in after class schooling and receive extra learning there, which is my only conclusion as to why they study little outside of class.

5. Interpretation of data

With so many sub-cultures in Taiwan, it is hard to define how each students’ education affects them, but using my findings in this interview I can appropriately make a few assumptions about education in Taiwan. I think that someone seeing only the amount of hours of out of class studies might come to the conclusion that school is not of cultural importance there, but they would be very wrong. I think that the studies are completed in school, and very efficiently; which is why their grades do not suffer from not studying so much. I also can see the power distance between students and teachers a lot through this interview. The same situation occurs in the household in Taiwan- whatever mom or dad says, goes. This is also an example of the reliance on nonverbal communication because the teacher will see how you react to what he or she says. I also think that the work ethic of the Taiwanese is a core value that will generally be implemented into children from a very young age.

6. Self-reflection

My eyes have definitely been opened to a different way of education. As I interviewed … and when I heard the opinions of the Tiger-mothers, I can’t help but compare and contrast with my own culture and the education I have received. I still am conflicted of whether the strictness for getting good grades, or freedom of gaining a work ethic for yourself is the better way. In my opinion, both have their benefits, and both have their fallbacks. I think that being strict in some things such as behavior, attendance, and even getting high grades to an extent is great- so long as it is clear that grades are not the most important thing. This interview helped me learn that respect for teachers should be of high importance as well, but not avoidance. Participation and interaction with a teacher and the rest of the class teaches lifelong skills such as communication properly and learning to get outside of your comfort zones. Another thing that I find very interesting is the debate of homework. As a child, I hated homework just like everyone else, but I now am honestly grateful that I had to do it. It taught me that the bare minimum is never enough, and that if I want the best of something, I have to go the extra mile to achieve it. I don’t think school and time at home should be completely separated, I think the fundamentals of growth are best learned in the home. I honestly am grateful for this opportunity to talk with and learn about someone from a different country and completely different culture and am sure that I will be able to apply many of my findings into my life to become a successful person.

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