Mon, Jul 23, 2018 - Page 6 News List

[ LETTER ]

Bashing education useless

After reading G.C. Allan’s letter to the editor, I was torn between whether to agree or disagree with the author’s point of view (Letter, July 20, page 8).

Allan begins with the niceties that most people, including Taiwanese, like to hear from visitors by mentioning Taiwan as “a country full of warmth and hospitality,” but then pulls no punches when it comes to his opinion of Taiwan’s English education system and its people’s command of the language.

Having lived and worked in Taiwan for 15 years, I understand his views. I have seen my fair share of foibles when it comes to Taiwan’s public display and use of the English language.

Yes, Taiwan can do better in terms of how English materials, brochures and signage gets presented to foreigners either living in or visiting the nation. Still, is there really a need to continually bash Taiwan for its efforts? Language acquisition is an incremental process.

Allan rightfully claims education in the West and education in Taiwan have differences.

In my English essay writing class of 20 students at a university in southern Taiwan, which, when I began teaching there many years ago, had 55 students enrolled in the course, I have used materials pointing out such differences to my students.

I have also advocated in class and while presenting at conferences the need for guided self-selected silent reading with the aim of promoting free voluntary reading in Taiwan.

However, pointing out problems without making clear suggestions on how the issue could be rectified, as Allan seems to have done, sounds like sour grapes to me.

English is not Taiwan’s native or even official second language. Foreigners visiting and living in Taiwan need to remember this.

I agree that the English education system within Taiwan’s schools should continue to reform.

Rather than rely on outdated teacher-centered models, memorization of materials, overemphasis on testing and a reliance on bushibans, to fix the problem, if Taiwan’s Ministry of Education would instead focus on implementing experimentally-proven second-language acquisition concepts such as Stephen Krashen’s “comprehension hypothesis” and more recently the “conduit hypothesis,” including Beniko Mason’s “story listening,” English language proficiency in Taiwan could become even better than it already is.

Pointing out that there is room for improvement is fine, but bashing the English education system in Taiwan gets us nowhere.

Ken Smith

Wellington, New Zealand

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