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June 23, 2017

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For students, the ways of the past may narrow their futures

On Aug. 29, several online news outlets reported on the exam results of a special class in a high school located in Hubei province, mainland China. The class drew wide media attention because each student was given an IV bag to inject amino acids into their bodies while they were studying.

The footage of this unorthodox practice was first broadcasted in China in May, then in Taiwan and afterward around the world. Several local commentators of talk shows were excited about the report of the practice, citing it as evidence of the determination of mainland students.

The commentators warned Taiwanese students that if they cannot focus more on their studies, they would be left behind by their mainland Chinese counterparts.

The exam results of the special class, however, were not exactly ideal. Not a single student in the class was able to enter the top ranking universities in mainland China. According to the school, the practice of handing out IV bags to students will be reviewed by faculty members.

The previous criticism leveled against Taiwanese students was not the first of its kind. CommonWealth magazine published an article by renowned scientist Daisy Hung (洪蘭) in Nov. 2009, criticizing medical students of the "top university" in Taiwan for lacking enthusiasm, being late and being absent-minded during classes. Hung panned these students for being unaware of the competitive world outside, and urged them to drop out and give the chance of studying at the best university in Taiwan to those who are more willing to pay attention during classes.

The recurring criticism leveled against students in Taiwan reflects nostalgia toward the traditional Chinese scholarly virtues. Such tradition demands students show respect to their teachers, pay attention to every lecture and spend a significant amount of time studying even at the expense of sleeping.

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