Students graduating from Taipei’s elementary schools have below-standard levels of English-language ability, National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) said on Monday.
Even though English has been a standard subject in all of the city’s elementary schools since 1998, many graduating students received failing marks on tests administered by the university, some even scoring below the fourth-grade level, it said.
A quarter of the examinees failed the vocabulary test, 54 percent failed in grammar, 21 percent flunked the audio portion and 29 percent did not pass the reading comprehension test, it said.
The results are particularly concerning, since Taipei has a seven-year head start on English-language curricula at the elementary-school level compared with the rest of the nation, the university said.
The city’s schools initially offered English classes starting from third grade, but in 2002, began English lessons in the first grade, it said.
Students in grades one and two have English classes twice a week, while those in higher grades have them three times a week, it added.
NTNU Research Center for Psychological and Educational Testing director Sung Yao-ting (宋曜廷) said that 10,048 students were tested using a system developed by the center.
Only 4.6 percent of the examinees achieved results consistent with expectations for a graduate, Sung said, adding that 7.4 percent of the students could not use the verb “be” properly, which should be mastered by the fourth grade.
A common mistake was improper verb placement in questions, for example answering “It is Friday today?” instead of “Is it Friday today?” he said.
At the university level, many students cannot write passages in English or translate between English and Chinese, he said, adding that many of these students received poor test results in English-language courses in elementary school.
The problem must be solved by increasing English-language curricula in elementary schools, as it is the only way to ensure equal opportunities for students from financially weaker families that cannot afford to pay for tutors or cram school, he said.
Elementary-school teachers must also pay attention to students’ progress and communicate with them, he said.
While the quantity of English-language curricula stipulated in the 12-year national education plan is to remain the same, the quality should be improved, Ministry of Education K-12 Education Administration Division Director-General Chiu Chien-kuo (邱乾國) said.
Schools should introduce activities that use English more actively and implement more testing methods in addition to written exams, he said.
One student, surnamed Yang (楊), said they were unable to speak to foreigners, despite consistently testing well.
Schools do not provide sufficient opportunities to speak, and instead emphasize grammar and vocabulary in textbooks, Yang said.
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