Liu and Yang (2016) discuss the article “Between class ability grouping, cram schooling and student academic achievement in Taiwan”. This is relevant since ability grouping and attending cram schools are extremely prevalent in Taiwan. The data Liu and Yang (2016) use were collected in G1 “Taiwan Education Panel Survey (TEPS)”, gathering data from students from senior high schools, vocational high schools, rural areas, urban areas, towns and villages, and parents to do the survey. Liu and Yang (2016) investigate school attributes as a prerequisite for students attending cram schools, what the relationship is between class ability grouping and regional characteristics and how they can both affect academic achievement. Overall, from Liu and Yang’s (2016) results, it can be shown that public school students invest more money and time on cram schooling than private school students. Also, a higher proportion of students from urban areas attend cram schools than those who are from rural areas. Between class ability grouping has been controversial recently. According to Huang, “the general definition of between-class ability grouping is using different methods to group students, form a homogeneous class environment, and bring students with similar characteristics to study together” (Huang cited in Liu & Yang, 2016, p. 336). Supporters state that gathering the same level students in a class may raise students’ performance in academic subjects. On the other hand, others argue that every individual should be treated equally and have the same opportunity to acquire knowledge from teachers. In addition, teachers with the opportunity to teach a “similar ability” class are more ambitious and willing to provide more teaching materials or even stay late to solve students’ questions. But, in a “mixed ability” class, students vary from each other so the teacher has to spend additional time to explain to those who do not understand the task and G2 thus do not give more extracurricular materials. Most of the information that is given in the article was convincing and detailed, but I think the authors should give further details of the survey they conducted.
Liu and Yang’s (2016) article mentions that students tend to be assigned to good classes through influence peddling rather than exam marks. From personal experience, I agree with this statement. There is a parents’ association in Taiwan, and to be a part of it a certain amount of money has to be donated. Once in this association, parents are able to have a conference with the principle and others in charge of the student selection process. Due to a desire for money for additional purposes, schools yield to parents and assign their children to desired classes and with a more senior teacher. Overall, most of the information given in the article is accurate but there is one point I disagree with. According to Liu and Yang (2016), “most students who do not participate in cram schooling have given up studying” (p. 340). From my experience in high school in Taiwan, there are many students who do not go to cram schools but achieve better results in exams than those who attend cram schools. In general, the authors give a clear definition of some specialized terms, for instance “between class ability grouping”. It presents a clear view about the importance of cram schools in Taiwan.
The need for cram schooling has increased in the past few years. Liu (2006) mentions two reasons that could explain the increasing phenomenon of cram schooling in Taiwan. First, students attend cram schools seeking additional resources because they are worried that public school cannot provide sufficient learning materials for students to enhance their academic performance. To support this reason, Chou and Yuan (2011) also mention in their article that although the public education system in Taiwan is well established, public schools cannot always meet the students’ needs to optimize academic performance, due to problems such as a lack of teaching skills and bad teaching attitudes.
Second, Liu (2012) states that demographic composition also plays an important role in the decision to attend cram schooling. I personally approve of this reason. G3 With people having fewer children than they used to, families concentrate resources on fewer children and provide them with richer educational resources such as attendance at cram schools. Nevertheless, cram schooling differs from school to school. Students in academic-oriented schools are more likely to attend cram schools than students in vocational schools. However, G4 some private academic schools restrict their pupils ability to attend cram schools because of the mandatory after-school tutoring lessons provided by the schools themselves. G5
Finally, there is a positive relation between class ability grouping and cram schooling to academic achievement. According to Liu (2012), “adding cram schooling per hour, the general analytical score increases 0.063 (0.067 – 0.004) and the math score increases 0.067 (0.071 – 0.004). And both of them are statistically significant” (p. 49).
The conclusions appear to be that the relation between cram schooling, class ability grouping and academic achievement are closely linked and inseparable. Since students take cram schools more seriously than their original schools, the government should further investigate the reasons behind this to see if improvements can be made.