Taiwan’s goal of going bilingual by 2030 unattainable: Education expert

Teacher allocation, high demand, low wages are obstacles to achieving quality English instruction throughout Taiwan

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(Ministry of Education photo)

(Ministry of Education photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Academics warn that major challenges lie ahead for Taiwan as it seeks to become a bilingual country that emphasizes English learning.

The Ministry of Education has vowed to increase the number of English teachers it recruits from 80 to 300 a year and raise spending on bilingual education to NT$2 billion (US$6.8 million) in 2021. However, its efforts are seriously inadequate given that there are 3,883 elementary, junior high, senior high, and vocational schools in Taiwan, according to Lin Tzu-bin (林子斌), a professor at National Taiwan Normal University's Department of Education.

The problem of how to allocate the limited manpower is exacerbated by the fact that schools in remote areas are already struggling to meet the local demand for teachers, Storm Media cited one Taitung County Government official as saying. The central government should address this issue by providing incentives or adopting systematic reforms, Lin stated.

The authorities have also failed to distinguish between bilingual education and English education, Lin reckoned. Instructors should be capable of switching between English and another language, such as Chinese or Malay in the case of Singapore, he added.

Many native English speakers have not acquired a second language, making communication with students more difficult. Lin believes foreign instructors should take a supportive role instead, assisting local teachers in developing curricula and correcting pronunciation.

There is also the issue of wages, as foreign teachers in Taiwan are paid significantly less than their counterparts in China, Japan, and South Korea. According to the Storm Media report, foreign teachers in Taiwan receive a monthly salary of NT$70,000 (US$2,384) on average, while those in South Korea can earn double that amount.

The program to recruit foreign teachers is currently divided into two sections: one handles elementary and junior high schools and the other focuses on senior high schools. The National Taiwan Normal University's Department of English is commissioned to process the teacher applications from primary and junior high schools, while senior high schools must apply on their own, according to the K-12 Education Administration.