The Ministry of Education recently announced that elementary school students in some areas must pass general proficiency tests in Chinese, English and mathematics in order to graduate, starting in the 2005 academic year. Sixth-graders who do not do so will be required to take supplementary courses to bring them up to the standards required for graduation.
This new policy will probably become a cause for concern for parents who expect their children to develop healthily and to experience the pleasure of learning.
Stephen Krashen, a professor of linguistics at the University of Southern California, has argued that teaching is unduly oriented toward the taking of tests. For a vocabulary test, teachers and parents urge students simply to memorize vocabulary and spelling. For a grammar test, teachers teach just grammar and the students study nothing but grammar.
Research, however, shows that reading for pleasure is the most effective way to develop vocabulary and grammar skills. Besides, the cognitive ability of children is generally insufficiently developed for rigorous instruction on the finer points of grammar. Rather, children should naturally take in grammar through human interaction and by reading for their own pleasure.
The proficiency test imposed on elementary school students will encourage teaching methods that count chickens before they are hatched. We can expect more and more mid-term, monthly and term exams for elementary English education. The exams will require students to memorize new vocabulary and sentence structures instantly.
But studies in Taiwan have long shown that difficulties memorizing vocabulary and problems understanding grammar are the biggest obstacles facing elementary English education. These are also the main reasons why some students lose interest in learning English.
In fact, the development of language skills occurs over a long period of time as part of a gradual, cumulative process. If a word is important, it will appear frequently. There is no need to get anxious if children cannot memorize it immediately. As long as they are interested and confident, they will get the hang of it sooner or later.
At present, many cram schools, teachers, and parents require children to memorize vocabulary and spelling. The new English proficiency test will further encourage belief in the misguided notion that the faster children learn the better they learn.
Wu also points out something particular in our culture: people get nervous and go all out for high grades if there is a test.
If proficiency tests for graduating elementary school students are to come into effect, one possible consequence is that the students will "go all out for the tests." One common problem shared by both elementary and junior high schools is that the level of proficiency varies greatly from one student to another. The tests will only review the problems experienced by the students.
I believe the time and money that the tests will cost would be better spent on raising the teaching skills of the teachers. How to teach classes of varying levels of proficiency, for example, is a constant professional challenge faced by English teachers. We should focus on new approaches to course planning and on how to innovate in English-language education.
Wu Ching-shyue is an associate professor in the Department of Applied Foreign Languages at Chaoyang University of Technology.
Translated by Grace Shaw
At the end of last month, Paraguayan Ambassador to Taiwan Marcial Bobadilla Guillen told a group of Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislators that his president had decided to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan, despite pressure from the Chinese government and local businesses who would like to see a switch to Beijing. This followed the Paraguayan Senate earlier this year voting against a proposal to establish ties with China in exchange for medical supplies. This constituted a double rebuke of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) diplomatic agenda in a six-month span from Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in South America. Last year, Tuvalu rejected an
South China Sea exercises in July by two United States Navy nuclear-powered aircraft carriers reminds that Taiwan’s history since mid-1950, and as a free nation, is intertwined with that of the aircraft carrier. Eventually Taiwan will host aircraft carriers, either those built under its democratic government or those imposed on its territory by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). By September 1944, a lack of sufficient carrier airpower and land-based airpower persuaded US Army and Navy leaders to forgo an invasion to wrest Taiwan from Japanese control, thereby sparing Taiwanese considerable wartime destruction. But two
As Taiwan is engulfed in worries about Chinese infiltration, news reports have revealed that power inverters made by China’s Huawei Technologies Co are used in the solar panels on the top of the Legislative Yuan’s Zhenjiang House (鎮江會館) on Zhenjiang Street in Taipei. However, what is even more worrying is that Taiwan’s new national electronic identification card (eID) has been subcontracted to the French security firm and eID maker Idemia, which has not only cooperated with the Chinese Public Security Bureau to manufacture eIDs in China, but also makes the new identification cards being issued in Hong Kong. There might be more
All lives eventually come to an end. Over the years, my friendship with former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had its ups and downs. Lee’s passing was a heavy blow and has left me deeply saddened. We experienced a lot together and the memories have come flooding back. Lee was born several months earlier than me. During World War II, he was studying at Kyoto Imperial University, but halfway through his studies, he was forced to change his name and enter military service. I was studying at Tokyo Imperial University, but went into hiding to avoid military service, and I was later