Mon, Sep 15, 2014 - Page 3 News List

Fewer students studying English at university: poll

EMPLOYMENT WORRIES:Many departments have closed or are changing focus due to lower enrollment, due to students’ worries about their future job prospects

By Rachel Lin and Jake Chung  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

The Global Education Association in Taiwan recently conducted a survey that found that over the past eight years, universities across the nation have closed eight English departments and changed the focus of nine others, showing a declining interest among students in English.

Among the nation’s 161 universities and junior colleges, 126 had English departments, with 50,000 students last year.

The total number of students graduating from English departments nationwide exceeded 10,000 in 2012, the poll said.

The association sent the survey to the 126 schools, for which it received 74 valid responses, and it found that 31.5 percent of respondents said they face problems finding sufficient students.

National Taiwan University (NTU) English department head Tseng Li-ling (曾麗玲) said that the department, which has long been the nation’s leading university English department, has also seen a rapid decrease in students in recent years.

Although the department does not face any problems finding students, it has seen a substantial decrease in applicants — from an average of 200 to less than 100 three years ago — for its graduate institute classes, due to students’ worries about finding a job with their major after graduation, Tseng said.

Tseng also said the institute had been forced to adjust curricula, lessen the amount of time to graduate from three-and-a-half years to two-and-a-half years, and decrease the requirements for graduate papers from 80 pages to 60 pages.

Although the university is establishing an Institute for Translation, competition from other departments has decreased enrollment in departments of foreign languages, Tseng said.

Tseng said that between 60 and 70 percent of foreign-language students minor in sociology or psychology, or pursue double majors in law and foreign languages, adding that many college students from the department of foreign languages went on to study law after graduating.

Many others branch out into baking, art or writing scripts and novels, Tseng said.

Tseng also said that since 2007, universities have closed eight departments of applied English, adding that more than nine other departments in schools, including Nan Jeon University of Science and Technology, have chosen to change the names of the departments and give them different focuses.

According to the association’s poll, 80 percent of all English departments continue to teach in English, but 40 percent of students lack opportunities for internships before graduating.

Many respondents to the poll said that English departments should stop trying to foster future English teachers and secretaries for companies and instead teach students how to apply the skills they learn in their departments in the international environment.

However, Vice Minister of Education Chen Der-hua (陳德華) said that applications to graduate institutes were at an all-time low for all subjects and it was not a problem facing only English departments.

Chen said graduate institutes need to introduce more professional courses with practical applications to give their students a competitive edge in the job market, adding that if departments of foreign languages trained students to become professional translators, it would help retain students.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top