Non-official English-language materials are being used in most of Taipei City’s public elementary schools, a Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Taipei City councilor said yesterday.
Councilor Hsu Chia-ching (徐佳青) said 90 percent of the city’s 141 public elementary schools used non-official English textbooks from domestic or foreign publishers.
The councilor said Taipei City’s English education policy was to blame for inconsistency in levels of learning and huge price differentials in elementary schools.
Taipei is the nation’s only city allowing public elementary schools to choose English-learning materials as early as first grade.
Hsu urged the city government to enhance its textbook evaluation mechanism and assure the quality of English-learning materials.
“Some parents complained to me that the English textbooks are too difficult for their children to digest, and those materials are also very expensive. This is against the goal of English education in elementary school as an entry-level English education,” she told a press conference at the Taipei City Council.
Hsu said that half of the schools used English textbooks from foreign publishers, which had higher levels of English and greater costs than domestic English textbooks.
Showing several English textbooks from different publishing houses, Hsu said an English textbook with a practice booklet from an international publisher cost NT$600, while similar English learning material published by a local publisher is about NT$160.
Even for schools that purchased the same English textbooks, the price for a two-book set can vary among schools from NT$380 to NT$600, she said.
“English education in elementary schools should be basic education that everyone can afford. We don’t want parents to send their children to cram schools to catch up on the school’s materials, while those who cannot afford cram schools give up English,” she said.
Department chief secretary Ho Ya-chuan (何雅娟) said the department offers full textbook subsidies for students from low-income families, and provides free after-school English courses to students who are falling behind.
Taipei City’s Textbook Curriculum Evaluation Committee deputy director Chen Rong-fu (陳榮富) said the committee will collect information on English textbook prices and negotiate an average price on different versions of the books for elementary schools.
The committee will also evaluate the content of English textbooks and advise schools to choose textbooks according to their suggestions.