Sat, May 13, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Foreign spouses flock to classes to learn Mandarin

CENTERS OF LEARNING Classes initially targeted at Taiwanese unable to read or write have proved popular with foreign spouses keen to improve their Chinese skills

By Jean Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

The education ministry yesterday said 20,260 foreign spouses nationwide have enrolled in adult education classes to learn Mandarin since September last year, an improvement from 16,000 the year before.

Hsieh Ming-chao (謝明昭), a Department of Social Education official, said the classes were initially designed for illiterate Taiwanese, but since 1999, the number of foreign spouses in the country has been rising and the classes have become an important means of language education for them.

Listening, reading and writing in Mandarin are taught in the classes which take place two to three times a week, Hsieh said. The classes are divided into beginners, intermediate and advanced levels, she added.

The results have been positive and more foreign spouses are learning Mandarin, Hsieh said.

There are currently 1,013 adult education language classes held across the country.

Evening classes, which differ from the adult education classes, are offered at local elementary and junior high schools and teach not only Mandarin, but also math, science and social studies, she said.

Hsieh said that this provided an opportunity for foreign spouses to learn other subjects. The evening classes were designed for the elderly or drop-outs in the past, but most students in the classes are now foreign spouses, she said.

Foreign spouses are officially enrolled in school if they take these evening classes and may receive degrees at the end of their studies, Hsieh said.

Since September last year, 9,446 foreign spouses have enrolled in elementary school evening classes and 804 in junior high ones.

Roughly 23 percent of non-Chinese spouses are enrolled in either language classes or evening school classes.

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