Wed, Aug 22, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Taiwan behind in English proficiency, paper reports

LOW SCORESTaiwan's English-learning environment faces five main obstacles to effective English learning, including proper facilities and standardized teaching materials

STAFF WRITER

Taiwan is performing badly on the International English Language Testing System (IELTS), a recent report said.

In a report which listed the 20 countries that had the most people taking the language-proficiency test, Taiwan was only 17th, after Japan (12) and South Korea (14), and worse than Vietnam (13) and Pakistan (15), the Chinese-language United Evening News reported yesterday.

IELTS was developed by the University of Cambridge and is used to assess the English ability of students. About 700,000 people take the test every year.

The results are accepted in many countries, including England, Australia, New Zealand and some European countries, and more than 100 colleges in the US accept IELTS in addition to the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).

The IELTS is offered in two formats: Academic, for those hoping to enroll in a foreign university, and General Training, for prospective immigrants. Listening, speaking, reading and writing are all tested, the highest score in each subject being nine. The average score on these four subjects makes up the IELTS score.

Last year, Taiwan had a test average of 5.62, with an average of 5.81 points on the reading section, 5.66 for speaking, 5.52 for listening, and only 5.23 points for writing, the report said.

The United Evening News cited research by the British Council in the story as saying that Taiwan's English-learning environment faces five main obstacles to effective English learning: first, it has no standardized teaching materials; second, there is no communication or guidance to improve students' weak points; third, teaching design is restricting; fourth, teachers and material are not in accordance with international standards and fifth, a lack of sufficient learning facilities.

The report also quoted statistics from 104 Job Bank, an online recruitment service, that showed almost half of the jobs in Taiwan require a basic command of English. But although the demand for English in the workplace has gone up, the English level of Taiwanese is not improving, it said.

An employee with the British Council was quoted as saying that in an ideal situation, the students' level is first tested, and then they are taught according to their level.

Taiwan has implemented a General English Proficiency Test (GEPT), but this test does not fit into the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

It is hard for students to learn English well when teaching methods are lacking, the staff member was reported as saying.

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