Mon, Sep 09, 2019 - Page 6

English education in Taiwan

It’s deplorable. It’s beyond belief that Taiwan aims to ever become bilingual — under current English educational practices. It’s a mime act. It’s for show.

Foreign teachers are brought into classrooms to give the appearance of infusing English into the classroom — but what impact do they have as they deliver the most naive and banal language education?

I cannot speak more lowly of English Villages and the expenditures they incur, and how little an effect a one-day visit to these centers has on Taiwanese students.

Simulated airline cabins, cruise ship cabins and souvenir shops are constructed on the premises of elementary schools. Children are bused in for a day of making waffles and repeating scripts — one at at time, to the foreign teacher/amusement park guide, while the other 29 wait their turn to spout the same script. Then they eat waffles. Then they go home.

It is a mind-boggling waste of time and resources, which must have been dreamed up by a bureaucrat who is not an educator. How can you waste money this way? English education is not a day at Disneyland.

The remainder of the year amounts to a visit or two a week from the foreign teacher and their trusty Taiwanese coteacher sidekick — a marriage made in heaven or hell — and again, a monstrous waste of human resources.

The solution to English education in Taiwan is not this song and dance act where children go home feeling happy and amused by the non-serious ambition of English language acquisition.

Foreign teachers need to be recruited from the education departments of respectable institutions in North America in March, when soon-to-be graduates are thinking wherein lies their next adventure. Taiwan would offer them a chance to immerse themselves in Taiwanese culture and languages (Mandarin and Taiwanese) and experience lessons and excursions that are integrated into their year with us.

They should be given the chance to design a curriculum and make an impact in the classroom by giving them time to use their talent, and to grow and develop a database of lessons and video/audio content. The tech industry should be getting involved pro bono the way Googlers can be seconded to nonprofit organizations.

To move Taiwan into the 21st century, one must begin with how education is delivered. An earlier article in Taiwanese print declares Taiwanese experimental education to be far from stellar. I would agree.

Find the best in the world. Give them reasons to come to Taiwan. Take care of this talent. Allow them to impact Taiwanese society. Get the bureaucrats and naysayers out of the way, and let the new be tried. Experiment and exceed limitations set by the small-minded. What is the ideal? How far are we from that?

My ideal is when students all over the world are not told from early on that the most important thing is to compete against your fellow youth, then obtain a spot at a university of renown and then proceed to a company of same reputation.

My ideal is a world wherein students do not think of graduation. They are thinking of solutions to problems. My ideal is a world of learners crisscrossing the planet and living in WeLearn centers that double as incubators. WeWork and WeLive exist as corporate entities.

I propose that being young should be the only membership required, and kids can learn, travel, live and work with kids from all around the world.

They should be mentored — at an arm’s length — in the only task we should all pursue: how to make ourselves better.

Artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality — come on board. The old must fall away. Tests, examinations and grades should fall by the wayside.

What will you contribute to society, young one? How will you make your life matter? I would fund this educational vision to the moon and back.

Tony Maa