The Ministry of Education's (MOE) program to recruit certified foreign-language teachers failed to attract enough qualified applicants to teach English in public elementary and secondary schools.
To solve this teacher shortage, the ministry is considering accepting uncertified foreign teachers to teach English in Taiwan, according to Education Minister Tu Cheng-sheng (杜正勝).
"Our goal to have at least one foreign English teacher in each of the 3,300 elementary and secondary schools has met with some difficulties. We are discussing the possibility of recruiting foreigners with education degrees, but who do not have teaching certificates, to serve as assistant English teachers," Tu said.
Tu made the remarks yesterday during a two-day visit to Matsu to examine the local education system. At a meeting with local education officials and school representatives, elementary school presidents expressed their concern that schools in the area were suffering from a shortage of certified foreign English teachers, despite their active participation in the ministry's teaching program.
Responding to the comments, Tu said that the foreign teacher shortage is a problem shared by almost every elementary and secondary school in Taiwan. As public elementary schools must expand their English-language courses from the fifth grade to the third grade starting this fall, the insufficient number of foreign English teachers could become a serious problem for elementary schools.
"Currently, we have only 22 foreign English teachers recruited through the program, even though we signed service contracts with countries including the UK, Canada and Australia," Tu said. "The ministry is coming up with possible solutions, including recruiting uncertified foreign teachers to assist certified English teachers."
The program for improving the quality of English-language teaching through recruitment of native speakers in elementary and junior high schools was introduced in 2003. Currently, the ministry has signed contracts with Australia, the Canadian Trade Office and the British Council to aid in recruiting teachers.
According to the program's guidelines, prospective language teachers must be under 45, come from an English-speaking country and speak English as their mother tongue. They must also have obtained Teaching English as a Second Language certification (TESL) and possess a four-year degree from an accredited university.
With the a salary ranging from NT$60,000 to NT$90,000 (US$1,800 to US$2,700) a month -- about double the wage of Taiwanese English teachers -- the program costs the government about NT$510 million a year. The teaching contracts last from one to three years.
The program was designed to hire 1,000 certified foreign teachers each year, with the plan to send teachers to remote areas a priority.