TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- The Ministry of Education (MOE) last week announced plans to both increase the number of hours of English taught starting in third grade, raise the number of bilingual classes to over 160, generating a requirement for an estimated 4,600 more foreign English teachers, reported Liberty Times.
In response to Premier William Lai's (賴清德) announcement in August of plans to make English a second official language in Taiwan next year, MOE Acting Director-General Hsu Li-chuan (許麗娟) said that the ministry is working with the Executive Yuan on formulating clear short, medium, and long-term programs, and the implementation plans to raise English proficiency throughout the national education system. In addition to relaxing the restrictions on teaching English in kindergarten, Hsu stated that the MOE is planning on amending the law and curriculum to expand the number of hours of English taught from elementary school through high school, and raising the number of bilingual classes.
Currently, English is not taught until third grade, with only one class on the subject offered per week in third and fourth grade. In fifth and sixth grade, two English classes are taught per week. Not until middle school are three classes provided in the language on a weekly basis. Hsu said that in order to promote English as a second official language, more emphasis will be placed on developing basic listening and speaking ability in English at early ages and increasing the density of courses provided on the language.
Hsu said that the MOE is proposing the revision of elementary school syllabuses to increase the number of English classes taught per week to three, starting in elementary school and continuing on into high school. English reading comprehension would be promoted in elementary school through use of early morning reading, as well as the reading of picture books and novels in classes.
In addition, more classes in elementary and middle school are to be taught completely in English, while bilingual classes and bilingual schools are to be increased. Hsu said that it is currently possible to run bilingual schools before high school under existing law.
Presently, only a few experimental schools can apply to hold bilingual classes. Therefore, the MOE proposes loosening the restrictions on teaching methods, and plans to start 168 bilingual classes and designate 24 bilingual schools.
The MOE will also promote bilingual and all-English teaching materials by subsidizing 720 schools which offer bilingual teaching and bilingual materials on subjects such as geography, history, math, and science.
There are currently more than 17,000 Taiwanese English teachers, and estimates are that the new policies will require an additional 5,000 teachers. In addition to the existing 700 foreign teachers in K-12 schools, an estimated 4,600 additional foreign English and subject teachers will be needed.
To boost the number of qualified Taiwanese English teachers, the government is planning on subsidizing more than 1,000 to further their studies overseas.