Tue, Jul 16, 2019 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Teaching courses in English

The article “Universities ordered to improve English offerings” (July 13, page 3) points out some of the problems in improving the teaching of English at universities, but does not consider things as they stand.

The plight of universities in Taiwan teaching courses in English will probably neither be solved either by a mandate from the government nor by throwing money at it. The problems are cultural and institutional, and those aspects need to be considered if the problems are to be solved.

In most universities the senior faculty are not well-versed in English. That leads to a situation in which courses to be taught in English are relegated to junior faculty, typically new employees who obtained their advanced degrees abroad.

That has two consequences: The first is that the courses are being taught by vulnerable young people, the second is that the courses taught in English are usually introductory courses. Both of these have serious consequences.

Vulnerability is a serious issue because students are smart enough to know that most universities rely heavily of “teaching evaluations” by students in their decisions to renew contracts and promote faculty. So students simply tell the junior faculty that if they insist on using English instead of Chinese in the classroom they will give the teacher very poor evaluations and the teacher will have to look for another job.

No matter what the teacher decides to do, problems will follow. If the teacher accedes to the demand, the contract is much more likely to be renewed, but the “English” will remain in title only. The institution might not even know that its nature has changed.

If, on the other hand, the teacher persists in using English, the results might not be much better. In the first place, the students will slow down the learning rate and important parts of the syllabus will be abandoned. This means that the professors who handle intermediate and advanced courses have no guarantee that key requisites will have been complied with and, what might be worse, the students might know the English terminology, but not the Chinese terminology for handling the more demanding work.

Certainly, a great deal of planning is needed. Part of that is to reduce the weight that teaching evaluations play in decisions about rehiring and promotion.

We must also find a way in which courses taught in English present at least the basic words in Chinese and vice versa, so that no matter at what level the English and Chinese courses are scheduled there will be continuity in teaching.

Moreover, we need to find a way to make junior and senior faculty more flexible in the courses they are willing to handle, and to ensure that the promotion of senior faculty gives due weight to the improvement of language skills in both Chinese and English.

Emilio Venezian

New Taipei City

Exposing predatory teachers

The Humanistic Education Foundation exposed an educational scandal involving a Tainan elementary-school teacher surnamed Chang (張), who goes by the nickname “Big Red Hat,” who [allegedly] sexually abused a total of 36 elementary-school students over a period of 20 years.

After the allegations were confirmed last month, the Tainan Bureau of Education immediately dismissed the teacher and said that it would never re-employ him.

This story has been viewed 1962 times.

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