National Taiwan Normal University provost Liu Mei-hui, back second right, and others attend a conference in Taipei yesterday.Photo: Rachel Lin, Taipei Times

By Rachel Lin and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer

Taiwanese junior-high school students rank second worldwide regarding civic consciousness and demonstrate a high level of civic engagement on social media, but their engagement in substantive action remains low, a researcher said yesterday.

“In general, civic literacy among eighth-graders around the world is increasing,” National Taiwan Normal University provost Liu Mei-hui (刘美慧) said, citing the International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS).

The study ranked eighth-grade students from 24 countries, including 4,436 students from 150 schools in Taiwan.

Taiwanese students ranked second in the study, following those from Denmark, but spent much fewer hours participating in off-campus activities compared with the international average, she said.

Liu was speaking at a conference, titled “Talent cultivation in a changing society,” held by the Professor Huang Kun-huei Education Foundation in Taipei over the weekend.

Taiwanese eighth-graders also expressed a high degree of acknowledgment of racial and gender equality, Liu said.

Instructors in Taiwan who teach civics tend to prioritize lecturing and note-taking, and put little emphasis on participatory action, she said.

“Less emphasis is placed on student-centered practice, which is less conducive to cultivating participatory behavior, teamwork and problem-solving skills,” she said.

“Civic literacy education should not be limited to in-class curricula. It should also integrate family and community,” she added.

To encourage students to participate more, educators need to change their approach to teaching and discussing civics, Academia Sinica researcher Chang Mao-kui said.

University students are often more focused on their careers than on civic participation, but schools should foster subjectivity in students and encourage them to become informed citizens, Huafan University lresident Lin Tsung-yi said.

Understanding and experiencing democracy should be a key focus of civics for young people, Australian researcher Kerry Kennedy told the conference via videolink.

To raise responsible citizens who support democratic values ​​and goals, civics programs should promote students' understanding of the socio-political system they live in, and ensure that they have direct democratic experiences in school life, she said.

National Taiwan University professor Yeh Ping-cheng said students should be trained to use digital tools so that they can be based in Taiwan while working for companies around the world.

However, parents in Taiwan often serve as a barrier to the development of such skills, as they tend to associate electronics with video games, which they see as a hindrance to productivity, he said.

“Parents should let their children embrace electronics and see them as a tool for their development,” he said.

News source: TAIPEI TIMES