Wed, Dec 12, 2018 - Page 8 News List

Care needed in planning to add more languages

By Chang Huey-por 張惠博

Taiwan has transformed itself from a society with unitary values into one with a diversity of values. Policy decisionmaking and implementation is not a Manichaean choice or even a multiple-choice matter: Those in charge must have sufficient vision, creativity and skill to succeed.

The Executive Yuan announced a blueprint for making Taiwan a Chinese-English bilingual nation by 2030.

This has raised several questions: Where are the necessary teachers? How will the required educational environment be built? And — as many have pointed out — why only English?

Many academics and experts have recommended that the government should allow students to select Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian, English, Japanese, Korean, Tagalog or some other foreign language if officials truly want to raise the foreign-language skills of Taiwanese.

In other words, cultural diversity and language ability is what should be promoted, not just English.

Promoting cultural diversity would foster support for the policy and reduce opposition to its implementation, while the English-language portion could be increased to meet student needs.

From an educational, cultural and methodology perspective, there is not sufficient justification for only stressing two languages, or only a second language.

In uniformly applying educational reform to the whole nation, individual differences have not been considered. In the primary and secondary schools nationwide, there are great differences in teacher availability and social and cultural environments, just as there are between students, parents and schools.

Language education reform requires the right human resources, expenditures and environmental conditions — it is neither possible nor necessary to apply the same rules to all schools.

Bilingual education has been practiced in many elementary and junior-high schools — public and private — for many years. The schools have used this as an argument for attracting students and parents are pleased that their children are able to pass various English-language tests.

The experience of these schools in implementing bilingual education could serve as a reference when introducing multi-language education. To meet the 2030 target, it is necessary to start now.

Local governments could start pilot programs and encourage schools to submit applications based on their respective circumstances and students’ needs. Successful programs could be universally implemented.

Programs should not be implemented throughout the nation at the same time, as that could lead to a shortage of teachers, or to deteriorating quality, because all teacher positions would have to be filled at the same time.

Additionally, staggering the implementation would leave positions open to future graduates who might want to take up a teaching career.

There is the need for reform in many areas of society, but before enacting reforms, the nation must answer some questions: Why is the reform necessary? How should it be carried out? What will society look like after the reform? When and where should the reform be implemented?

Thoughtful responses would lead to more successful reforms. Pursuing reform for its own sake is not helpful, and is not what the public wants.

Chang Huey-por is a former president of National Changhua University of Education.

Translated by Perry Svensson

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