Overseas Trips
31st May 2015

Geography Taiwan Overseas Learning Journey, Taiwan

In the early morning of 31 May 2015, 26 Year 3 and 4 students, together with 3 Geography teachers, Ms Ng Mui Leng, Mdm Nur Aisha and Mr Jason Chan, embarked on a 6-day-5-night overseas immersion programme to Taiwan. The main objectives behind the organisation of this programme were to:

  • provide opportunities for students to immerse and learn more about the cultural, social, economic and physical aspects of Taiwan;
  • compare and appreciate the similarities and differences in these aspects between Taiwan and Singapore through school immersion and interaction with local students.
  • foster social-emotional learning and introduce alternative perspectives for students through experiential learning.
  • provide fieldwork and research opportunities on Geography topics taught in Year 3 and Year 4 e.g. Plate Tectonics, Urban Sustainability, etc.

Taiwan, with its rich physical and cultural heritage, is an excellent location that allows students to see and experience things that they would not be able to back at home in Singapore. One good example is the study on earthquakes which students usually learn from pictures and videos. After viewing the damper structure in Taipei 101 and touring the preserved remains of the collapsed school building at Taichung’s 921 Earthquake Museum, students had not only gained a better understanding of the causes, impacts and hazard management behind earthquakes, but had also evoked a sense of empathy for the victims and those affected.

Other than touring the 921 Earthquake Museum, the group also visited the National Museum of Natural Science to learn more about the history behind Taiwan’s aboriginal tribes, and URS 127 Design Gallery and URS 329 Rice and Shine where they learnt about Taipei’s government and grassroots efforts in urban heritage conservation. And what else can be more representative of Taiwan than its numerous night markets? The students had a wonderful experience of using their five senses to see, smell, taste, listen and touch different things at two night markets – Shilin Night Market in Taipei and Fengjia Night Market in Taichung.

To put into practice what they had learnt and to uphold the spirit of experiential learning, students had to conduct interview surveys on three separate occasions, as well as to conduct comparative environmental perception surveys at two different locations. Interview surveys were conducted on the Taiwanese locals to find out more about how they felt about about tourism and urban liveability issue in Taiwan. In groups of 4 or 5, students had to design suitable survey questions and approach the locals on their own to obtain their response. Below are the inquiry questions which the groups had to address at various locations:

Location Inquiry Question
Shilin Night Market, Taipei Is Shilin becoming more touristy?
Fengjia Night Market, Taichung What makes Taichung a liveable city?
Ximending, Taipei Why do tourists choose to visit Taiwan?

Environmental perception surveys were conducted at Taipei’s oldest district of Wan Hua, as well as at the administrative district of Xin Yi. The purpose was for students to make the comparisons between the two districts’ environmental quality and liveability.

The group visited two different schools, each for a short exchange programme. Da Ren Girls’ High School in Taipei is our school’s partner school and their students had also visited Dunman High School previously on several occasions. During the campus tour, their students put in much effort in explaining the meaning behind the various artistic features in the school architecture. Our students also participated in the Maths, English, Chinese and PE lessons and had the opportunity to interact with the local students. Chiao Tai High School in Taichung is one of the largest schools in Taiwan and has many different sections. Other than the mainstream academic classes, the school also comprise of vocational classes such as culinary skills, graphic design and media communications. Our students had the opportunity to visit a culinary class and even tasted the omelette prepared by the students! The school visits allowed students to learn more about school life in Taiwan and it was an invaluable experience that one would not have easily been able to have, if not for this overseas school immersion programme.

Reflection by Wayne Ng Jia Wei (15Y4I):

Overall, the overseas learning journey was a highly enriching one. Besides the supplementation of knowledge and facts to bolster our current cache of information on geography, I have also learnt various skills from the trip. It was a breath-taking experience to see the extent of earthquake devastation for myself as it was marginally different from watching a documentary on television, an epiphany changing my view of earthquakes. Seeing is believing, and the sights are thought provoking in the sense that they make us ponder about Singapore’s situation – if an earthquake was to happen, would we be prepared and resilient or face destitution? Interviewing the residents of Taichung has also been an eye-opener. They have shown steadfast resilience despite facing a major earthquake and feel it is not the end of the road if mishaps occur, instead we should rebuild and endeavour to achieve a better future.

In urban geography, we had mostly learnt about the aspect of liveability and urban planning. In tandem with our field study results in the night markets, it reinforced that we had learnt in class that urban liveability can largely be attributed to an array of factors, namely decent transport, decent weather, affordable and quality housing, accessibility and a good living environment. The trip to the urban regeneration stations (URS) was also quite enriching as we were able to see the local government’s efforts to improve Wan Hua district which has been experiencing a period of decline with old shop houses lining the streets. Although the Singapore government has also put in effort into preserving streets to retain our heritage, locals may not be as involved in these urban regeneration projects as compared to in Taipei. This has further reinforced concepts on the importance of culture as it allows locals to get to know their roots better and retain a sense of identity for themselves and the community. As for the skills learnt, it was mainly on the front of “public relations” skills. We had several field studies to conduct, hence giving us several opportunities to work on interviewing and crafting of questions. Better identifying suitable candidates based on appearance was one improvement over time, besides employing other means to curry favour with potential respondents which often turned out to be the owners of shops we purchased from.

One of the things that left a deep impression on me was the responsiveness and proclivity of Taiwanese students in class when the teacher asks questions. This greatly contrasts with students in Singapore, especially in our school where students are usually less exuberantly “high” in class and much more prompting by teachers is usually required for the class to begin responding actively. On one of the days, the Taiwanese teacher even commented that the class was quieter than usual, when it was much more active than what we would normally see back in Singapore, thus the contrast between the two behaviours displayed by both countries’ students left a deep impression on me.

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