Premier outlines plan to create English trend

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Fri, Dec 07, 2018 - Page 3

Premier William Lai (賴清德) yesterday said his goal to transform Taiwan into a Mandarin-English bilingual nation by 2030 would focus on creating a trend to learn English rather than just on the provision of English-learning resources, adding that the eight strategies put forward by the National Development Council on Monday would be chiefly driven by demand rather than supply.

Lai gave the instructions during a meeting at the Executive Yuan in Taipei, Cabinet spokeswoman Kolas Yotaka told a news conference afterward.

The eight strategies are: making all official government Web sites bilingual, making official documents pertaining to foreigners bilingual, providing bilingual frontline services in public settings, making the government’s public data available in English, making laws and regulations pertaining to foreigners bilingual, promoting bilingual services in cultural and educational settings, honing civil servants’ command of English, and making professional and technical licensure exams available in English.

Lai was quoted as saying that the blueprint created by the council is distinct from previous bilingual policies in that it is designed to improve the nation’s overall competitiveness rather than individuals’ ability to pass exams.

The blueprint is intended to create a trend of English learning not only for students, but the entire nation, he was quoted as saying.

Since the blueprint is primarily focused on building a bilingual environment in the education system, the Ministry of Education should ease relevant regulations and propose amendments to the Legislative Yuan within three months, the premier was quoted as saying.

In addition, all Cabinet-level agencies should improve the English proficiency of their staff, and all ministers and deputy ministers should be able to communicate well enough in English to convey important messages to the international media in real time, he was quoted as saying.

The council would not set aside a dedicated budget for the bilingual policy, which is to be implemented by agencies using readily available English-learning resources and the budgets they have been given, he was quoted as saying.

“We hope to drive supply with demand and maximize the benefits with minimum costs in the pursuit of making Taiwan a bilingual nation by 2030,” Lai was quoted as saying.

The premier also asked local governments to provide assistance to the central government in realizing this goal, Kolas said.

Taiwan is often perceived by foreigners as having a good English-learning environment, but lacking a good command of English, which is why it is absolutely necessary to improve English proficiency, council Minister Chen Mei-ling (陳美伶) said.

As education would be key to realizing the goal, certain education regulations would need to be relaxed, she said.

So far, measures proposed by Cabinet-level agencies include launching all-English TV channels; encouraging public broadcasting companies to produce English-language programs; promoting bilingual tourism; making government procurement documents bilingual; providing English abstracts of rulings and prosecution letters for major legal cases involving foreign individuals or companies; creating an investment-friendly English environment at science and industrial parks; improving the English proficiency of ordinary workers and military personnel, as well as at medical facilities; and increasing the weighting of English proficiency in the qualification exams for recruiting diplomats, she said.