Responding to suggestions from municipal schools that Taipei City should establish public bilingual schools to improve students' English, Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (
"Getting kids to learn English earlier doesn't guarantee that their English will be better," Ma said on Thursday when attending a municipal school principals' meeting at Lung Men High School.
The Taipei City Department of Education extended the city's English education in primary schools to the first grade four years ago, with students offered two English classes per week.
While acknowledging the importance of English education, Ma insisted that learning a second language for children at an early age might not necessarily prove as effective as allowing the children to wait until their analytical abilities have improved, and said he was opposed to the city setting up bilingual schools.
"I am more concerned with our children's Mandarin education," he added.
Echoing Ma's concerns about starting English education too early, Taipei City's Department of Labor yesterday warned that parents should be cautious about sending children to bilingual kindergartens, as many of the foreign teachers were hired illegally.
As more private kindergartens tried to boost business by offering English classes, the department said parents should put the qualifications of foreign teachers into the spotlight.
According to department spokesman Tsai Shu-chen (蔡淑真), the Children and Juveniles Welfare Law (兒童及少年福利法) states that kindergartens should not hire unlicensed foreigners, and that schools can be fined between NT$150,000 and NT$750,000 if they are found to have violated the law.
Many of the foreign teachers in kindergartens do not apply for work visas to the central government, and the kindergartens do not review the teachers' educational backgrounds.
"To protect the learning environment for their children, parents should say no to kindergartens that hire foreign teachers illegally," she said, warning that kindergartens should not hire foreigners without work visas.