Before we joined DADA buxiban in Zhong Li we didn’t know what is cram school and the story behind this kind of institutions in Asia*. Learning about it was a tough experience. But well, we enjoyed some parts of this helpX. However, can you still call it helping or rather exploitation when you work 11 hours a day doing all the possible chores, teaching, cooking, cleaning and still be expecting more (more than regular paid employees, for sure)?
But let’s start with what was nice 🙂 As we always do, this time we also tried our best to be useful and make our hosts happy. Not easy! Over the month (March 2013) we were helping at this language school/day-care place. Ana by baking, cooking, checking kids’ homework and preparing English games and activities to animate young learners; Arek by cleaning the school, doing sports and outdoor activities with kids, teaching swimming classes and preparing then showing cultural presentations in English for many age groups. We both had conversational English with teenage advanced students.
It was interesting experience and let us immerse in Taiwanese way of life. I deeply enjoyed the cooking and we we both loved the delicious Taiwanese food I helped Ching, the host, prepare.
If you read our posts about volunteering you’d know we always do our best and hosts appreciate that a lot. Well, this time except for a free yummy food, accommodation and a weekend trip to hot springs we only got more and more orders and less and less time to manage everything. Our host John and Ching told us they used to have twice that many helpers but they prefer less people at school. Sadly, there are 2-3 volunteers at once but enough work for 6. We felt nearly as tired and resigned as the students. We left after a month even though we initially planned to stay 2 months (technically we did 2 months’ in terms of working hours…), but left after one to travel around Taiwan – we used Couchsurfing and met great people on the way. Some of them happened to be teachers, or ex-teachers with some experience with cram schools. We realised we are not alone – others, Taiwanese, see how archaic and wrong are such institutions. Focused on making money while killing kids’ creativity and stealing all of their time giving nothing worthy in return.
Luckily, while travelling we happened to find another project for helping – in Hualien we regained our strenghts and trust in people. Taiwan is a great place and we feel we left good friends there. If only parents understood they’re wasting their money and their kids’ time on cram schools. Let’s hope for a brighter future!