The so-called Bermuda triangle stretches over an area connecting Miami, Puerto Rico and the Bermuda islands; an unusual number of accidents supposedly happened there some time ago, with ships and planes mysteriously disappearing without leaving any trace. In Taiwan we have another version of an eerie triangle, this time it is education which is disappearing without leaving any trace. The difference is that this disappearance is not a mystery; and it does not happen in an area. It is man-made, and it is a concept of education doomed to vanish in the cultural haze of Confucianism. Here we have the three sides of the fatal triangle Made in Taiwan: permanent exams, cram schools, and the local learning/teaching culture. They are intertwined, and their combination when applied makes a perfect cocktail to deny modern education; more on it a few paragraphs later. First: What is the problem? Students in this region arguably study more hours than in the rest of the world: they pass more exams; they spend more time in class rooms; they ‘consume’ more textbooks; they memorize more and better; they (comparatively) spend more money for education; and they organize their social lives around their schools. After graduation, however, the situation is often as follows: Students are still not passionate about the field they have studied; they have no idea what’s going on in the world; they have no opinions on important social matters; they are incapable of reading and understanding books on their own; they have no interests that go beyond prescribed school subjects; and they are docile and obedient. Of course those features are generalizations; I know quite a few students in Taiwan who do not fit in this description. But such features are identifiable to outside observers. This is especially worrying, because they are not only vital for academic advancement, but also for modern citizens with respect to both, individual autonomy and an urge to further the on-going democratization process of our life-world – there is a perceptible deficit of both of them in Taiwan. One may wonder why such an obvious educational nuisance still hasn’t been replaced with what makes more sense. It is not that those locals who are professionally involved in education are not aware that there’s a basic problem. Many of them really want changes, and changes permanently happen in relevant institutions. The problem is, however, that most of these changes go into the wrong direction: An increased bureaucracy, for instance, that we have experienced in the past few years, burdening teachers and students alike, is such a useless measure with rather opposite effects. It is the Confucian culture (the way it is practiced here) with some of its main ingredients being the main culprit of the present educational malaise: It is backwards-looking, hostile to openness and transparency, non-inspirational, rural in spirit, anti-individualistic, and authoritatively hierarchical. The Confucian culture aims at the reproduction of its core values, regardless of what’s going on ‘outside’ its sphere of influence. It is still prevailing in Taiwan, often unchallenged even by its copious victims, i.e. those who are on the ‘wrong’ side of the hierarchies it reproduces. The fundamental assumptions of the local culture should be critically scrutinized in public debates, and education should be on the forefront of such a mission possible – which, however, won’t happen any time soon. Typically, in a speech on the occasion of Confucius Day in 2011, Taiwan’s president Ma said of Confucianism that “the ancient wisdom contained in the classics can still inspire us in the 21st century”, and that we should keep the “wisdom that has been tried and tested over thousands of years” – as if our mindset and our problems haven’t changed during that period of time! Here we have it, the mindset that belongs to the time when rice farming was the dominant occupation. Unfortunately, it is still daily nurtured in today’s education. One of the most noticeable characteristics of Confucianism is the containment of the individual, favoring instead different forms of communities (families, clans, states, etc.) in which individuals have their ‘proper’ place. Education is the cultural training that prepares individuals to uncritically accept their ‘proper’ place as allocated by those who have the power to do so. Naturally, the younger generation has to ‘fit’ into existing communities or traditions, where the elderly or higher-ranking representatives - ‘experts’ in reproducing their culture - always have their undisputed say. This inflexible social paradigm explains why hierarchies are needed, with ‘harmony’ as the ideological weapon used by those in the upper ranks to cement hierarchies which benefit them. At this point we return to the aforementioned educational Bermuda triangle à la Taiwan (exams; cram schools; culture). They reflect the general ideals of Confucian culture: Permanent exams help control the students, permanently conveying power to those who examine and, at the same time, suppressing independent thinking which might question their controlling practices. Hierarchies, therefore, must be fostered in order to contain individuality on behalf of harmony that secures hierarchies. Cram schools focus on exams, not on education. But they are educational in the sense that they foster a way of learning in which independent thinking is counterproductive. Teachers, therefore, have an interest that their students attend cram schools, thereby indirectly boosting their status and, subsequently, existing hierarchies. Confucian culture focuses on its reproduction, thereby fostering an education which culturally hampers independent thinking and, at the same time, supports practices which foster hierarchies that in turn guarantee its reproduction. This is of course a simplified model of what is going on in education in Taiwan. There are many more aspects involved, e.g. teachers’ habits to quell independent thinking, because their students might find out that they are quite ignorant in what they teach (alas, I have met many ignorant professors – just go to conferences and ask critical questions related to their presentations). It should have become clear that the whole present educational system here is trapped in a vicious circle, creating those ever-recurring turbulences which are responsible for the disappearance of what should be considered the most important elements of good education: To help develop an autonomous personality with a critical mind that makes it increasingly difficult for people who are corrupt, incompetent and stupid to obtain social and occupational positions for which they are simply not fit. Let’s hope that most Confucian educational ideals find their Bermuda triangle.