Hakka Experimental Primary School: Jidong Elementary School

Located in Meinong District, Kaohsiung City, Jidong Elementary School (吉東國小) is the first experimental school devoted to teaching Hakka culture in Taiwan. The school administration of Jidong Elementary School believes that Hakka culture is a very important feature of the Meinong area, so they want to incorporate the teaching of Hakka culture as one of the most important parts of the school curriculum. Compared with academic performance, the school believes that it's more important for children to become real Hakka people in Meinong, not only able to speak Hakka, but also possessing an understanding and appreciation for local Meinong culture.

(All images: Hakka TV)

In addition to setting Hakka as the medium of instruction, Jidong Elementary School also emphasizes Meinong’s local culture in its curriculum. From the local reclamation history, to Meinong's development history, traditional crafts, etc., these are all taught to children. What's also surprising is that even though Meinong, whose Hakka population accounts for more than 90% of the total population, it still relies on the school education system to continue passing on Hakka culture and language to young generations.

The principal of Jidong Elementary School, Liu Jia-hong (劉家宏), is a Hakka who does not speak the Hakka language. This gives him a sense of mission for the "Revitalization of Hakka". However, setting up Taiwan's first Hakka experimental school is no small challenge. Not only do the teachers have to receive additional training, they also have the pressure of having to design teaching plans and prepare lessons, but in this process, teachers have greatly improved their professional abilities.
The principal of Jidong Elementary School, Liu Jia-hong

Liu Jia-hong, principal of Jidong Elementary School, said: "In teaching students at such an experimental school, the teachers probably need to have three abilities. The first is to understand the local area, the second is to be able to transform local elements into a curriculum for teaching, and the third is teaching ability. In fact, we have started such courses a few years ago."

To break the framework of the traditional education system and transform the school into an experimental school, parents also must be persuaded. Jidong Elementary School keeps emphasizing to them that not only will the basic subject competency courses not be excluded, but local recognition and cultural literacy will be integrated into the curriculum planning, so that the children will be deeply rooted in the Meinong culture.
Student reading Hakka textbook

Hsiao Mei-zhu (蕭美珠), a teacher of Jidong Elementary School, said: "Generally the subjects to be studied in elementary schools are Mandarin, mathematics, nature, and society. In particular, the curriculum for Mandarin and mathematics have basically remained unchanged at Jidong Elementary School. There was already a so-called ‘maker base’ at our school, it integrated science and technology education, and the society course often integrated with Hakka culture and local life.”
Hsiao Mei-zhu, a teacher of Jidong Elementary School

As the sixth campus maker base in Kaohsiung City, Jidong Elementary School has fairly complete hardware equipment. In order to comply with the syllabus and regulations of the Hakka experimental school, the science and technology curriculum is also designed in a way that integrates into Meinong's daily life. It is hoped that science and technology education can become a close part of daily life in the Hakka settlement.
The science and technology curriculum in the elementary school

Jidong Elementary School relied on the diversified curriculum foundation that it had built before, and transformed itself into a Hakka culture experimental school. It has reversed the traditional learning environment of emphasis on academic subjects while neglecting practical use, and instead focuses on teaching the different characteristics of Hakka culture.