Shu-Mei (Suemay) Chang is a Professor in the Department of Education at National Kaohsiung Normal University (NKNU), Taiwan, R.O.C. She completed her master theses “The development of death concepts of children and its implications on death education” in 1989, which made her one of the pioneers in death education and life education in Taiwan. Since then, she has devoted herself to teaching and research on these areas.
She serves as a consultant member of the Ministry of Education (MOE) and the Education Bureau of Kaohsiung City Government in establishing national life education curriculum. She plays a special role in drawing up the plans and strategies of promoting life education (2010-2017) for the MOE and making it one of the important education policies on a nationwide level. She has received two important national contribution awards from the MOE in recognition of her efforts and achievements in the advocacy and promotion of life education.
Ever since 1988, Prof. Chang has authored or co-authored to publish/present more than 200 journal/conference papers and book chapters. Her two books, Death Studies and Death Education, and Life Education: Theory, Research, and Practice (both in Chinese) are important references in life-and-death studies and life education in Taiwan. She has also translated several books on holistic education, spirituality education, and grief counseling. She founded the first graduate institute of life education in Taiwan at NKNU. In addition, she took part in founding some professional organizations for life education in Taiwan and has been elected as their board member. Prof. Chang is a life member of the Association for Death Education and Counseling (ADEC) and the INPM. In recent years, she has been enthusiastic in introducing Dr. Paul T. P. Wong’s Meaning-Centered Counseling & Therapy and Meaning Management Theory, and has led her Taiwanese colleagues and students to participate in many of INPM’s Meaning Conferences.
Dr. Chang will be receiving the INPM’S Lifetime Achievement Award for her leadership and research in life and death education in Asia at the Saturday Awards Banquet.
Dr. Chang will be giving an invited talk for the 9th Biennial International Meaning Conference, July 28-31, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.
Invited Talk Title
The Development and Implementation of Life Education in Taiwan: A Meaning-Centered Positive Education
Scheduled for the Paper Session on Positive Education 2.0 (Sunday, July 31, 4:15 PM – 5:30 PM)
Life education has been an important educational movement in Taiwan since 1997. After two decades of effort, promoting life education in schools, families, and the greater society is now an essential educational policy in Taiwan. Compared to death education, or education about death, loss, and bereavement, life education in Taiwan stresses individuals seeking and constructing their unique life meaning and value in spite of suffering and death.
Questions such as “For what purpose should one live one’s life?” “How should one live?” and “What is the best way to actualize oneself and fulfill one’s life?” are some of the main themes for exploration and reflection in our curriculum. Life education covers three core areas: ultimate concerns and the best practices; ethical thinking and reflection; and personality integration and spiritual development. In sum, the purpose of life education is to encourage students to discover their unique meaning/value of life in order to achieve a state of communal connectedness, personal fulfillment and flourishing, and social responsibility to others, the society, nature, and the universe.
This talk will give an overview of the background, definition, objectives, curriculum, and practices of life education in Taiwan. Additionally, the speaker will introduce some exemplary universities and schools recognized and funded by the government in Taiwan for their distinguished features on implementing life education. These examples demonstrate Taiwan’s unique approach to life education—cherishing traditional cultural values, holistic perspectives, service-learning, and incorporating positive psychology research on meaning, gratitude, resilience to transcend adversity, and character education.
In contrast to the western approach of positive psychology, which focuses on individual happiness and success, life education in Taiwan takes the Asian/Chinese approach of positive education, which focuses on how to be a responsible citizen and a good and wise person as a way to meaningful living and human flourishing. This approach is consistent with Wong’s (2011) PP2.0 based on the Yin-Yang dialectical principle of Taoism.
- To learn the developmental context and the distinct nature of life education in Taiwan.
- To distinguish the difference between life education and death education.
- To gain a preliminary understanding of the overall status of life education in Taiwan, and the implication from exemplary school-based life education throughout various educational stages.
- To gain insight on the relationship between life education in Taiwan and the positive psychology 2.0.