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The Alliance Cultural Foundation’s 10th Year Reflection: Rural Education

As the gap between the urban and rural increase, with lack of resources, it becomes growingly challenging for the rural to change for the better. ACF Chair Stanley Yen’s initial vision to establish a school was in hopes to develop talent and potential through quality education for the financially underprivileged youths in Taiwan’s remote Hualien-Taitung (Huatung) region to change the future of the region and its villages.

​2011, Fo Guang Shan’s Master Hsin Yun entrusted Chair Yen with the Junyi School of Innovation, a then elementary and middle school. In the first year, ACF established the Scholarship Program for seventh grade and above students, who are financially underprivileged, from the Huatung region to study at Junyi based on merit. To this day, Junyi continues to reserve one-third of its secondary school allotment for Scholarship Program students in hopes that through quality education, these youths can one-day be the leaders for Huatung’s economic sustainability. To date, ACF is connected with 50 elementary schools across the region; the Scholarship Program has supported 150 students. With Huatung’s rich indigenous culture, encompassing several indigenous tribes, Junyi’s student body is naturally multiracial. Junyi prides itself in its diversity and hopes to nurture respect, harmony and love among individuals of all backgrounds.

​In 2015, Junyi’s senior high school was established, with its first graduates in 2018. Subsequently, the Junyi Innovative Study Abroad Program was created to support students in need of financial-aid, merit-based, to pursue study overseas in a two-year community college program or at the United World College to improve on English ability, expand horizons and future direction.

In face of the Global Education Reform Movement and the rapid change in technology, Chair Yen believes education reform in Taiwan should:

  1. Replace the one-size-fits-all learning mentality with personalized learning to truly discover talents and develop youths to the best of their potentials.

  2. Enforce bilingualism (Chinese, English) or trilingualism (Chinese, English, programming language) because language is a tool to communicate with the world.

  3. Nurture good character, life competencies, work ethic and skills.

  4. Emphasize on collaboration, communication, critical thinking, and creativity. 

To nurture good character is to develop self-directed, disciplined, responsible, compassionate, communicating, team working, independent and critical thinking individuals. To nurture life competencies by exposing youths to the arts, sports, and nature, is to not only foster fulfilled and confident individuals, but to provide them a valuable tool to self-meditate and adapt to the constant changing environment. Through a variety of programs at Junyi, Chair Yen’s vision for education is being realized.

The Education Vision of Junyi School of Innovation

1. Nurture talent, life skills, confidence, and self-discovery

Junyi’s 7th to 12th grade Outdoor Education program best demonstrates its value of connecting youths with the environment. The program explores local environmental issues, and challenges students in the outdoors encouraging self-discovery and breakthroughs through the process. The program also aims to not only develop courage, teamwork, persistence, and problem solving, but also life skills. For students that excel in practical over theoretical learning, the program is a prime opportunity for teachers to discover their talents in an environment they learn best in.

One teacher reflects, “When challenged to dive three meters deep to carry a rock to the surface at the Flowing Lake, students from Orchid Island’s Yami tribe were able to retrieve the rock with ease. When mountain climbing and camping, students from the Bunun tribe felt particularly at home. Through Junyi’s diverse programs, every student has the opportunity to be recognized of their strengths and talents, which helps nurture confidence and reflects in their improvement in other subjects”.

When students connect with the mountain and ocean, they learn to coexist with nature. They learn to appreciate more the environment they live in and become mindful of protecting it by reducing waste and recycling.

2. Nurture bilingualism, internationalism and critical thinking

Whether it is to connect with people from overseas or to become an English-friendly region encouraging more international visitors to Huatung, English is a tool to communicate with the world.

2017, Junyi’s English class shifted to an English only space for learning and communicating. Besides teaching with an English only curriculum, it incorporates online resources as part of the learning process. Junyi also creates opportunities for students to practice English from guiding overseas guests on campus tours to virtual exchanges with overseas students, volunteering at Ironman Taiwan events and taking extracurricular courses led by the Junyi international faculty. Through its efforts, Junyi hopes to not only nurture English but also to develop their internationalism and to have higher critical thinking ability.

2019, Junyi was granted the International Experimental School status which was remarkably meaningful for rural education.

3. Nurture respect and compassion

Junyi’s Combined Studies program teaches students to first understand locally, then to pay attention internationally. As part of the program, Junyi’s 10th graders visit indigenous villages to learn village culture and knowledge; 11th graders are brought to engage with migrant workers and immigrants through song, food, language and culture learning.

Through the Combined Studies program, Junyi hopes the takeaway is not a skill, but rather a different perspective and attitude – one that will shine a positive light in face of discrimination.

4. Cross-curricular learning

Junyi’s senior high school spotlights three innovative subjects – International Hospitality, Modern Arts and Sustainable Architecture. Students learn through practice which nurtures their problem-solving and self-learning ability. Each of the three subjects teaches with real-life scenarios and aims to inspire the care for humanity, nature, the arts and sciences.

Junyi invites professionals to work with teachers to create the curriculum while incorporating different subjects into each program. Students are also guided to discuss current news, to understand different perspectives, and to think and learn using each perspective.

5. Nurture problem-solving ability

From 2020 onwards, Junyi students who are entering the 12th grade will be required to take on summer internships as part of the graduation requirement. Students are required to intern at organizations related to its three innovative subjects – International Hospitality, Modern Arts, or Sustainable Architecture. Past students have interned at ACF, hotels and bed and breakfasts.

The required internships aim to nurture problem solving skills through experience of real-life situations in the workforce, it aims to nurture an understanding of what is required in the workforce, as well as discovery of their own unique talents and abilities.

6. Nurture discipline and self-learning

Boarding schools in Taiwan enforce strict rules. At Junyi, the boarding life rather hopes to offer students safety, and to nurture self-discipline and self-learning ability. The boarding staff take on the parenting role, filling the gap particularly for students who do not have a role model at home. On weekends, they cook, bake, self-learn and are involved in social work. In nurturing these practical and inner abilities, Junyi’s boarding life is an important element for changing the futures of the rural.

Junyi School of Innovation Website|Facebook


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