1999 / 4月
Rod Peng, New Zealand /tr. by David Mayer
When the Asian Pacific League for Freedom and Democracy met in Auckland, New Zealand, I got along wonderfully for two days with John Ni, who was there in his capacity as Director-General of the Medium and Small Business Administration. We had something in common-we'd both been basking in the reflected glow of our daughters' success. He is the father of Li Ming-jou, while I am the father of Irine Peng.
Irine is the English name of our eldest daughter, Peng Chiao-chih. Irine received the highest score in a nationwide series of tests for scholarships, and she also earned the top score among females in the national bursary examinations. Her success reflected well upon the Chinese community in New Zealand, and for a while many of our friends stopped calling me by my own name, referring to me instead as "Irine Peng's father." I felt great pride, you can be sure. I was in demand for speeches and social functions, and was quite a celebrity for a while.
When I recall why we came to New Zealand in the first place, it feels good to realize that our family has achieved what I was hoping for. Since there are many others in Taiwan who are preparing to emigrate, or have already done so, perhaps our experience will be of interest to some readers.
According to a study published by the University of Auckland in 1993, over 60% of those who emigrate from Taiwan do so in search of a better education for their children. I myself received degrees in physics from Taiwan's Tsinghua University and electronic engineering from National Taiwan University. Speaking strictly in terms of academic success, I did very well, but I actually feel like I failed miserably. The competition to get into the best schools at every level of my schooling not only quashed my creativity, it just about completely drained me of any enthusiasm for scholarship.
When I look at people who have been through the Taiwanese educational system, I see that we all share a common shortcoming: we lack the ability to lead, the magnanimity to submit to the leadership of others, and the strength of character required for cooperation and compromise. To put it in terms of that new buzzword, EQ (emotional quotient), it seems to me that education in Taiwan has deprived us of the chance to mature emotionally at a key stage of our development.
Growing up in Taiwanese society, it is very difficult to develop good character. Our family moved to New Zealand in 1992. Before that, I had spent the previous three years studying at the University of Maryland in the United States. While I was in Maryland, the rest of the family stayed in Taiwan. Irine was in her first year of junior high school at the time. I wrote letters home often, and every Christmas and summer vacation either I would go back to Taiwan or they would go to the States. In letters and in person, I tried to instill in my children a proper outlook on life.
Irine was doing very well in school, and was always at or near the top of her entire class. I felt that she should not be stingy with her knowledge but should share it with her classmates. For one thing, she would be helping others and making friends at the same time. For another, to teach is to learn; when you give instruction to others, you come to realize that you can't explain anything that you don't understand thoroughly yourself. By helping others, you also develop your ability to express yourself.
Irine, however, was totally opposed to my opinions. Although it didn't make any difference to me whether she scored 95 or 100 on a test, for Irine and her junior high classmates, one's class ranking depended on test results. Each tenth of a percent could make a difference. If I kept at her too persistently she would sometimes snap back at me, saying that I was asking my own daughter to help other people get ahead of her at school. She said there was not another father as stupid as me! Whoever heard of a father looking out for other people's kids?!
During her three years of junior high I tried repeatedly to change her way of thinking, but the influence of her environment was too powerful for even a father to counteract. The situation remained unchanged until July 1992 when, two days after she finished her senior high school entrance examinations, I took her to New Zealand. Once again I put my reasons to her, and this time she saw things my way. She was ahead of her classmates in math and could help them out in exchange for help with English. She was thus able to adjust quickly to school in New Zealand.
The real source of satisfaction for me, however, is not the fact that she has come out on top in tests, but that since coming to New Zealand she has also become interested in sports. She now plays tennis on weekends and jogs three or four kilometers a day. Because students in New Zealand do not have such a heavy homework load, she has also rekindled her former interest in music. Before entering medical school she played piano for three years and practiced the violin for four. She now has an appreciation for music and has mastered the basic techniques of playing musical instruments.
In July 1995, Irine won a bronze medal for New Zealand at a chemistry olympiad held in Beijing. The Chinese community was very happy for her, and felt that her feat symbolized the contribution of their community to New Zealand society. Because she could speak Chinese she was able to make friends with a lot of outstanding young people in Beijing and broaden her world view considerably. Although the participants from Taiwan and mainland China won many gold and silver medals in the competition, they did not mix easily with participants from other countries and therefore missed a golden opportunity to share ideas and make new friends.
I have always felt that there is more to life than acquiring knowledge. Education is only a process, and a means to an end. What we should be seeking is happiness. The problem is that happiness is not totally subjective. If happiness is to last, one must satisfy certain objective conditions. I believe that to live a happy life, you have to meet the following three conditions: Firstly, you must engage yourself in something that you enjoy. Secondly, you must engage yourself in something that you are able to do well. Thirdly, you must engage yourself in something that is useful to society.
The first two conditions go together. You can't have one without the other. If you meet the third condition, then you will receive material compensation for your efforts and enjoy the respect and admiration of others. After all, few of us can live apart from human contact, wanting and needing nothing from anyone.
The excitement over Irine's academic performance will be dying down soon, so I thought I would take advantage of her remaining glory days to share a few thoughts with the readers of Sinorama. I would be very happy if they struck a responsive chord with someone.
Children should be well-rounded. Parents hope their kids not only get high grades, but also show good character development.