Dr. Li Tien Wang's Christian grammar school in Taiwan has a six-story slide that takes students from the classroom to the basketball court. But it doesn't have a full staff of Christian teachers who understand how to integrate their faith with their classroom instruction.
Anxious to discover how Christian teachers in America live out their faith on campus, Wang traveled to the U.S. with his son, Andrew, to do a little learning of his own. Andrew turned down scholarships at two secular universities to attend Wheaton College, a Christian school in Wheaton, Ill. When Andrew started attending classes last month, so did his dad.
Since arriving at Wheaton, Wang has participated in a weeklong faculty wilderness trip, observed the faculty development day, experienced both the parents' and students' side of new student orientation and sat in on several classes. During the last few weeks he has collected ideas to bring back to his fellow educators in Taiwan, he said.
Born in Taiwan in 1960, Wang left his homeland to pursue a master's degree at Saint Joseph's University in Pennsylvania and a doctorate degree at Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. But eleven years ago, he returned to his homeland to see what he could do to improve its higher education, he said.
Wang serves as the director of the International College and the Chair of the Applied Computing Program at Ming Chuan University, where he teaches. Ming Chuan is the only college in Asia to have received American accreditation. Wang also serves as the vice chair of the Board of Trustees for the Taipei Kuei Shan School, a grammar and middle school founded by his mother, Hsiong Hui-Ying.
This school is the only one of its kind in Taiwan, offering a unique education rooted in biblical principles, Wang said. Though the prevailing practice in Taiwan is idol worship, Taipei Kuei Shan School is a national school under government authority. Because it seeks to be academically excellent, it receives greater freedom in preaching the Gospel, Wang said.
Despite the school's dedication to its mission, teachers are hard to find, said Andrew, who grew up with the school, although he did not attend it himself: "It's based on Christian standards and they try to hire as many Christian teachers as they can find. But that's not always necessarily possible because Taiwan is only about 3 percent Christian, so it's hard to find good faculty who are also Christian."
And the Christian teachers the school does hire don't understand how to live out their faith on campus, Wang said: "The trouble is that among the Christian teachers we are having a hard time encouraging them to exercise themselves as a testimony to Christ among colleagues and among students."
Wang hopes to use what he's learned at Wheaton to strengthen the Christian teachers at Taipei Kuei Shan. After that, he would like to carry the school's model into China.
"We are a very tiny school of only 500 students, but we have a big heart for China," he said.
Wang sees Wheaton as the perfect breeding ground for professors to receive the training they need to be both academically and spiritually strong, he said.
Dr. Peter Walhout, chair of Wheaton's Chemistry Department, roomed with Wang during the faculty wilderness trip. The Taiwanese professor's presence on campus has been an encouragement, he said.
"To be reminded by Dr. Wang that this sort of Christian institution dedicated to academic excellence is truly rare, and something sought after by so many Christian educators and students around the world, is a real blessing for me: it boosts my morale and further motivates me to do the best job I can in my work with students and colleagues," he said in an email.
While Wheaton does host visiting professors on a regular basis, they don't typically come to observe the school for the specific purpose of developing higher Christian education in their homelands, Walhout said.
Wang will return to Asia on Sept. 17, but he hopes that his collaboration with Wheaton will continue, he said.
"Seeing is believing," he said. "It was not until I sat in a couple of the classes with different teachers that I understood how Christian formation could be carried out on a day-to-day basis. You will realize that this Christian formation is not an idea; it is applicable - it can be carried out."