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Learning from Experience

2020-05-06
BY KELLY HER
 
The Youth Global Action Plan, launched by Youth Development Administration under the Ministry of Education, aims to promote social engagement and help young people expand their worldviews via international exchanges, as symbolized in a promotional image for the program. (Illustration courtesy of Youth Development Administration)
The Youth Global Action Plan, launched by Youth Development Administration under the Ministry of Education, aims to promote social engagement and help young people expand their worldviews via international exchanges, as symbolized in a promotional image for the program. (Illustration courtesy of Youth Development Administration)
 
The Youth Global Action Plan aims to promote international exchanges and social engagement among young citizens of Taiwan.
 
In early November last year Tiamuy Kadangilran of the Pinuyumayan people led a trip back to her hometown for 14 other young indigenous adults keen to experience her tribe’s culture and way of life. Despite spending her childhood in Kasavakan in southeastern Taiwan’s Taitung County, 28-year-old Kadangrilan had never deeply explored Pinuyumayan customs and traditions, so the visit proved as enlightening to her as it was for her guests.
 
During the three-day trip, the group learned about Pinuyumayan ceremonial songs and dances as well as traditional cooking, farming and wreath-weaving techniques. “Delving into local practices for the first time inspired me to reflect on my cultural identity and values,” Kadangilran said. “I believe sharing my journey with others can contribute to a broader understanding of the rich traditions of Taiwan’s indigenous peoples.”
 
Participants in a YGAP competition and members of the judging panel are all smiles during the results presentation held at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei City. (Photo courtesy of Youth Development Administration)
Participants in a YGAP competition and members of the judging panel are all smiles during the results presentation held at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei City. (Photo courtesy of Youth Development Administration)
 
A subsequent trip is set to be organized by a member from the Paiwan tribe to show the group around her hometown in the southern county of Pingtung. Both excursions are part of the Accompany You Home project launched by Kadangilran and her six teammates, who call themselves Valanyoung. The initiative followed an 11-day tour to New Zealand last year, during which the group visited a dozen institutions committed to supporting Maori art, culture, education, employment, history and rights.
 
Valanyoung’s trip to the South Pacific nation was made possible by financial support from the Ministry of Education’s Youth Development Administration (YDA) in line with the Youth Global Action Plan (YGAP) initiated in 2018. Last year, a total of 85 participants travelled to 15 countries under the plan’s auspices, paying visits to 176 organizations dedicated to a variety of causes.
 
YGAP encourages young people aged 18-35 to work together in addressing prominent social issues, YDA administrator Jean Wang (王佑菁) said. With government subsidies, small groups visit international organizations whose core missions relate to U.N. Sustainable Development Goals such as advancing gender equality, creating sustainable communities and improving education. During the process, YDA hosts training camps to assist candidates with developing an action plan to be carried out after their return from abroad.
 
“YGAP is designed to help young people expand their worldviews through international exchanges while formulating feasible solutions to social problems,” Wang said. “We want to encourage youngsters to actively participate in cultural, economic, political and social events.”
 
Valanyoung members visit New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in the South Pacific nation and participate in a cultural performance. (Photo courtesy of Su Hsin)
Valanyoung members visit New Zealand Maori Arts and Crafts Institute in the South Pacific nation and participate in a cultural performance. (Photo courtesy of Su Hsin)
 
Cultivating Minds
 
Lin Huei-Syuan (林蕙萲), a student in the Department of Education and Learning Technology at National Tsing Hua University in northern Taiwan’s Hsinchu City, is a former YGAP participant. She teamed with five schoolmates to sign up for the program last year with the goal of promoting STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics—education, aptly naming their team STEAMing.
 
Local schools generally teach each subject independently and art is often downplayed, Lin said. “We hope to equip students with the skills needed to tackle today’s complex problems by utilizing a multidisciplinary approach,” she added.
 
The members of Valanyoung share their New Zealand travel experience with Kasavakan residents at a bazaar booth. (Photo courtesy of Unwoods Adok)
The members of Valanyoung share their New Zealand travel experience with Kasavakan residents at a bazaar booth. (Photo courtesy of Unwoods Adok)
 
According to Lin, STEAM education is gaining traction as a way to help students build critical thinking skills and work through the creative process. “Ultimately our goal is to initiate changes that can enhance learning outcomes across Taiwan’s education system,” she said.
 
Seeking advice from top specialists, STEAMing travelled to Finland and the U.K., world leaders in education. They visited a total of 15 academic institutions, nongovernmental organizations (NGO) and teaching-aid suppliers during their 12-day journey.
 
“Our trip gave us a chance to communicate directly with industry experts about the benefits and challenges of developing STEAM education,” Lin said. “In addition to sharing best practices and techniques, specialists gave us advice on how to implement their recommendations in Taiwan.”
 
STEAMing visits Technology Will Save Us, a U.K.-based producer of educational toys, to gain a better understanding of STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics—teaching resources. (Photo courtesy of STEAMing)
STEAMing visits Technology Will Save Us, a U.K.-based producer of educational toys, to gain a better understanding of STEAM—science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics—teaching resources. (Photo courtesy of STEAMing)
 
Based on this guidance, the team developed an action plan focused on creating and distributing instructional materials, lesson plans and teaching aids. They then offered training courses for students and teachers at five elementary schools, organized holiday camps open to anyone interested in STEAM fields and accompanied students to international competitions. “We’ve compiled a list of helpful strategies for teachers to try in the classroom in hope that students can reap the many benefits of engaging in creative, hands-on activities,” Lin said.
 
Participating in YGAP has spurred Lin to get involved in the teaching profession. “I want to use my ideas for social good,” she said. “Education has a profound impact on children’s development and shapes their whole lives.”
 
Balancing Roles
 
YGAP has likewise afforded young adults like Sabrina Hsieh (謝璿‬) and her three schoolmates at Taipei City-based National Taiwan University (NTU) the chance to learn from international experts. Hsieh and her peers are on a mission to further gender equality, especially with regard to parenting.
 
Students at Yongjing Elementary School in central Taiwan’s Changhua County display pyramid models they created during a hands-on STEAM activity. (Photo courtesy of STEAMing)
Students at Yongjing Elementary School in central Taiwan’s Changhua County display pyramid models they created during a hands-on STEAM activity. (Photo courtesy of STEAMing)
 
“Today, we still see pregnant women and new mothers encountering unfair treatment in the workplace or even being forced out of their jobs,” Hsieh said. “Besides improving the legal framework that protects women’s rights, it’s imperative that we change men’s mindsets and raise their awareness of positive parenting.” Dubbing their group Dadable, Hsieh and her peers have launched a multipart project geared toward encouraging men’s involvement in child-rearing and bridging the parenting gender gap.
 
The NTU team travelled to Denmark and Sweden for two weeks in August 2018, visiting a number of government agencies, research institutes and trade unions dealing with gender equality and women’s issues. “We were impressed by the Nordic countries’ generous social welfare benefits, especially those pertaining to parental leave,” Hsieh said. “They provide extensive child care services and an assortment of resources for new fathers.”
 
During the trip, Hsieh and her schoolmates were particularly excited to meet with Swedish photographer Johan Bavman, who captures shots of fathers caring for their children while on extended parental leave. Bavman’s work, featured in his book “Swedish Dads” and exhibitions held in over 60 countries, highlights the close father-child bond resulting from increased time together.
 
Dadable members meet with an executive, center, at Denmark’s largest trade union—the United Federation of Workers, also known as 3F—to discuss topics related to gender equality. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Hsieh)
Dadable members meet with an executive, center, at Denmark’s largest trade union—the United Federation of Workers, also known as 3F—to discuss topics related to gender equality. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Hsieh)
 
The members of Dadable kicked off their action plan by cooperating with Bayman to hold the “Swedish Dads and Taiwanese Dads” photo exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park in Taipei last September. Ultimately showcasing a total of 50 works, the event attracted over 800 photo submissions, 2,000 visitors and considerable media coverage.
 
“The images really sparked increased public attention toward parenting issues,” Hsieh said. “We believe such exhibitions can help dismiss misconceptions about stay-at-home dads and demonstrate that male parenting is without borders.” The group is currently looking to partner with international organizations to hold additional showings.
 
Dadable also helps new fathers boost their self-confidence and parenting skills by providing consulting services and organizing interactive parent-child activities and workshops in collaboration with a local NGO. “Parenting guides are normally directed toward young mothers. We want to offer essential tips to new fathers and establish support groups so they won’t feel alone,” Hsieh said. “It’s our hope that shared parenting means women won’t have to choose between career and family in the future.”
 
Dadable’s exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park showcases a total of 50 works highlighting father-child bonding time. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Hsieh)
Dadable’s exhibition at Huashan 1914 Creative Park showcases a total of 50 works highlighting father-child bonding time. (Photo courtesy of Sabrina Hsieh)
 
Groups like Dadable would not have the chance to bring about social change without YGAP, Wang said, adding that she was impressed to see young citizens unleashing creativity and fostering community engagement. The YDA-sponsored program gives participants a unique opportunity to simultaneously further their learning and better Taiwan society, she said.
 
For Kadangilran and her team, the trip to New Zealand proved to be an illuminating experience. “We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with Maori and discover more about their culture and history firsthand. Their confidence in their identity and heritage inspired us,” she said. “We now have a renewed desire to preserve and revitalize our own cultures.” 
 
Retrieve from Taiwan Peview
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