About 90 percent of high-school students who take foreign language courses usually pass the language proficiency test, the Ministry of Education said yesterday as it publicized the results for foreign language programs at secondary schools.
Last year, there were more than 89,000 high-school students studying foreign languages, triple the number in 2000 when the foreign language program was initiated, ministry officials said.
According to Chang San-lii (張善禮), director of Fu Jen Catholic University’s secondary school foreign language education center, students feel trapped and pressured by entrance exams. While they are good at taking tests, they often do not have the skills required for the workforce, lack a global perspective and don’t become chief executives.
Students should learn the logic of different languages in order to gain a better understanding of different countries, he said.
For example, Vietnam is an important emerging market in Southeast Asia, but while Taiwanese investments are pouring into the country, there are fewer than 10 Taiwanese studying in Vietnam, he said.
By comparison, there are more than 100 South Koreans studying in Vietnam because their government recognizes Vietnam’s market potential, Chang said. An influx of Vietnamese immigrants to Taiwan is also driving the language’s growing popularity and the need for Vietnamese proficiency tests, according to a Lipao Daily report in February.
Most students tend to choose Japanese as a second language because of their affinity for Japanese soap operas, but over the years many students have been choosing Latin American and Southeast Asian languages for reasons of practicality and employment potential, according to a United Daily News report.
Ministry officials said new programs for the study of Southeast Asian languages have been launched in five schools.
However, according to Chang, schools in rural and remote areas find it difficult to recruit foreign language teachers.
The ministry is trying to solve this problem by offering subsidies for teachers’ transportation and hourly rates in the hope that by next year high-school students in places such as Taitung will also be able to learn a second language.