School education and cultural transmission : a case study of one elementary school's indigenous education in Taiwan
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This ethnographic case study of an elementary school in Taiwan focuses on education in a historical and social context by examining the daily life of an indigenous elementary school composed of Atayal and Han Chinese teachers and students and by exploring Atayal and Han Chinese villagers’ educational experiences. The Atayal are one of Taiwan’s indigenous groups; Han Chinese migrated from China in the 17th century. Taiwan’s educational system used to be a tool of assimilating its people into the Japanese or Han Chinese culture. Since the lifting of martial law in 1987, more indigenous and Taiwanese cultures have been allowed to be incorporated into the formal school curricula. Under these circumstances, my sample elementary school offered schoolchildren Atayal language and dance courses; furthermore, after-school courses were provided for these children to improve their mathematics and language arts performances because most children were from low socioeconomic families and received minimal academic assistance from their parents. Data were mainly collected through observing the instruction of third, fourth, and fifth grade language arts classes and Atayal language and dance courses. Interviews were conducted with third, fourth, and fifth graders about their perceptions of Atayal culture and with Atayal and Han Chinese adult villagers about their school lives. The adult interviewees were diverse in age, occupation, socioeconomic background, and educational achievement. Several conclusions were drawn from this study. First, most Atayal adult participants’ parents valued school education, so they sent their children to town or city schools to receive a better school education. Second, older Han Chinese adult participants recalled more corporal punishment than younger ones. Third, compared to Han Chinese adult interviewees, Atayal adult interviewees reported being mistreated in school because of negative images (e.g., heavy drinking) associated with their ethnicity. Fourth, the sample Atayal children had better understanding of Atayal culture in some areas (language, dance, history, weaving, and hunting) than the sample Han Chinese children did. Finally, the sample language arts teachers used different skills to help their children improve their verbal performances.