When I first went to Taiwan in 1976 it was the largest source of international students for American colleges and universities. Though it has long been eclipsed by China, India and even Canada, the numbers of Taiwan students in American institutions of higher education has risen in each of the past 4 years.
As a young English teacher those many years ago, one of my tasks was to teach college students how to fill out an application to an American school. Most things were fairly pro-forma, but when it came to the magic number represented by the high school or undergraduate division grade point average, we really got stuck. Grades in Taiwan’s schools are “points out of 100”. Grades in American ones are A,B,C,D and Fail. My students were taken aback. If everyone who finished the semester with a 90 or better got an A, how could you tell which one was better than the others? They saw great unfairness.
An activity I’ve taken up in retirement is playing in a bell choir. Though I only have 4 different bells to play, I still manage a lot of wrong notes. I think I’m slowly getting better, painfully slowly for people who have to listen to the group, especially for group members who are really good at what they do. Anyway, on November 17th the group played in church. We didn’t sound too bad! I estimate that if, from beginning to end of the piece, I had to ring a bell 120 times, I probably got it right 90 times. That’s a “C” in the American way of grading, or a 75 in Taiwan. Maybe not good enough for prime time, but I aspire to better things.
David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.