The Ministry of Education intends to improve the teaching of English in rural schools by strengthening their facilities and the caliber of teachers, Deputy Minister of Education Chen Yi-hsing (陳益興) said yesterday in response to criticism of a new plan to test students’ English ability.
Chen said 98 percent of English teachers in the country are professionally trained and that the ministry would work to increase that to 100 percent through the use of various subsidies.
He announced the measures to address public concern over new junior-high school graduation examinations that include English listening comprehension tests and non-multiple choice math tests.
Huang Chi-teng (黃子騰), head of the ministry’s department of elementary education, said English listening comprehension has been added to the exam because Taiwan ranked 10th from last in Test of English as a Foreign Language score rankings among Asian countries last year. The scores showed Taiwanese students need to improve their ability to understand spoken English, he said.
The new exam system is set to be introduced in 2014 in line with the introduction of the new 12-year education program. Taiwan currently has a nine-year compulsory education system.
The changes are considered unfavorable to students in rural areas because their schools tend to have access to fewer resources than those in urban regions.
Liu Shang-min (劉上民), the principal of Feng Pin Junior High School in Hualien County, said students in rural schools tend to not perform as well academically as their urban counterparts.
“If the exam questions are too difficult, rural students will have difficulty dealing with them,” he said.
Liu Jui-chi (劉瑞祺), deputy chief of the parents association of Hua Kang Junior High School, also in Hualien County, said most of the schools in the area are not equipped with English-language laboratories, which makes it hard for them to compete with urban schools.
“The government needs to make sure that gap is addressed and rural schools have access to such facilities before including English listening comprehension tests in the exams,” Liu said.
Wu Fu-pin (吳福濱), president of the National Alliance of Parents Organizations, said the idea of increasing the number of test items was “really awful,” because it would further increase the burden on students.
It goes against the purpose of extending the education system to 12 years, which is supposed to allow junior-high graduates to enroll in senior high schools without having to take an entrance exam, Wu said.