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This paper attempts to re-evaluate the social meaning of the new educational system under the Japanese rule by examining social status and activities of common school graduates during the middle period of the Japanese occupation. The educational system was upgraded after the 1920s to allow common school graduates to work immediately after graduation. However, for many Taiwanese who intended to transform their former social status from farmers this new educational system offer was not their first choice. The common school education provided the graduates different with career opportunities. At least 20% of the graduates from rural villages were able to break away from the traditional means of livelihood relying solely on labor, such as agriculture. Taiwanese people gradually realized that a diploma represented a certification of one's ability. Taiwanese children who had a desire for education would strive to enter a modem school. They saw common schools as a foundation either for acquiring the qualification for entering higher education or for exploring other non-conventional possibilities of learning in order to expand employment opportunities. Although the number of common school graduates was not high during the whole Japanese occupational period, they were proud of their education. Some of them continued to study, sometimes even went abroad, and eventually became social elites. The majority, who did not enter higher education, nonetheless became active members in society by making the best use of the knowledge they had learned in common schools or by capitalizing their diplomas. Through studying these common school graduates who did not receive higher education, we will be able to understand the social meaning of the new educational system under the Japanese occupation.
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