Taiwanese students protest against universities setting English thresholds based on outside tests

Students of National Chengchi University and other schools have been protesting against universities in Taiwan setting English proficiency requirements as a threshold for graduation based on outside tests.

Extramural English test results as a threshold for graduation are being challenged in Taiwan. (By Wikimedia Commons)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News)—Students of National Chengchi University and other schools have been protesting against universities in Taiwan setting English proficiency requirements as a threshold for graduation based on outside tests, prompting the country’s legislature to ask the Ministry of Education to come up with a comprehensive strategy to address the issue.

Many universities in Taiwan require their students to achieve certain English proficiency standards in order to graduate. For example, some schools require students to achieve certain scores on GEPT (General English Proficiency Test), TOEFL, or TOEIC. Such requirements have recently drawn protests from students, who criticized schools for shifting the responsibility of English education to outside agencies, such as cram schools and test centers. Some Chengchi University students have even initiated an administrative lawsuit against the policy.      

During a hearing at the legislature’s Education and Culture Committee, KMT Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said that setting English proficiency requirements for graduation should be based on the purpose of upgrading students’ English ability, but now almost all schools require students to take certain extramural English tests as a proof of their English proficiency level. The wide-spreading practice has also drawn criticism from many scholars, he added.        

Nicole Lee (李彥儀), director of the education ministry's Department of Higher Education, said that the department has issued a document to every school, forbidding all schools to use a single test as a graduation threshold and requiring them to come up with a comprehensive curriculum plan for improving students’ English proficiency and teaching them according to their ability levels.

However, Ko didn’t think the ministry should approach the issue with a unified measure, but should come up with a “strategic solution” instead.

In the end, the committee required the ministry to produce a report that addresses the issue.