TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) on Sunday (June 21) said that the government will soon launch the "2030 Bilingual Country Project" with the goal of making Taiwan a bilingual nation within 10 years.
During a seminar with high school students in Taipei on Sunday, a group of four students from Lishan High School put forth a proposal in which they called for the government to provide more opportunities, resources, and funding for international exchanges, reported CNA. In response, Tsai said that she had mentioned the goal of making Taiwan a "bilingual country" in her inauguration speech and hoped that in the future, there would no longer be a language barrier when Taiwanese interact with people from other countries.
She said that the Ministry of Education (MOE) is in the midst of working toward this goal, but she conceded that the government needs to do more and think bigger. Tsai said the answer to the students' proposal is "OK" and that she will definitely work in this direction.
Tsai pledged that she would forward this proposal to the MOE for them to study and that the ministry can also invite students to participate in the planning process to help make the solution more complete. In terms of resources and funding, Tsai said that the next stage is to implement the "2030 Bilingual Country Project" (2030雙語國家計畫).
The president said that one of the most important aspects of the project is to establish more English-speaking environments locally to provide students with more opportunities to use the language in everyday communication. Tsai emphasized that mastering English is key for increased recognition of Taiwan internationally: "The younger generation of Taiwanese need to learn how to clearly explain to the international community what kind of country Taiwan is and what kind of values and people it has."
When a student participating in the seminar online asked about Tsai's proposals to improve Taiwan's English-learning environment, given that the learning of the language in Taiwan has always been passive rather than out of interest and that the country lacks opportunities to put it to use. Tsai responded, "This is what we will be spending the next 10 years working on," and she pointed out that she had referred to this issue when touching on bilingual education in her inaugural speech.
Tsai said that after she had finished her Ph.D. coursework and handed in her thesis and was waiting for her oral exam, she assisted her British classmate in editing his thesis: "I helped him with proofreading, and corrected his English."
Tsai said that it was odd that even though her British classmate had a command of the spoken language, her grammar was better. "This is the problem with our education system," said Tsai referring to the emphasis on rote learning.
She asserted that English education should be a comprehensive and socially transformative process. Tsai said that when "it becomes necessary for us to speak English, [it] will be natural for us to speak English."
In addition to improved teaching in schools, Tsai proposed that a social environment should be created that will spur the need to speak English, making it more natural to use in everyday life. "This is the most important challenge for the 2030 Bilingual Country Project."
The president closed by saying that she hopes students will no longer be limited to listening to teachers at school but will have more diverse educational options. She suggested that students should organize their own education agenda, lead their own education, and learn what interests them, with the government providing more assistance and options to students.