The Ministry of Education is planning to increase English class hours at elementary, junior and senior-high schools, and establish more than 160 bilingual classes across Taiwan as part of an effort to make English an official language, the K-12 Education Administration said last week.
Since briefing the Executive Yuan on the policy, the administration has been working on concrete short and long-term plans to promote bilingual education, administration Acting Director-General Hsu Li-chuan (許麗娟) said.
While rules restricting English teaching at kindergartens are to be relaxed, as instructed by Premier William Lai (賴清德), the number of English class hours at elementary, junior and senior-high schools is to be increased and bilingual classes would be launched at more schools, she said.
English classes currently begin in third grade in elementary schools. Third and fourth-graders have one English class per week, fifth and sixth-graders have two classes per week and junior-high students have three per week.
To promote English as a second official language, the administration plans to increase the frequency of classes for elementary-school students to three per week, she said.
To help children develop basic English listening and speaking proficiency, the English textbook would be revised and instruction would be supplemented with English-language novels and illustrated storybooks, she said.
The administration plans to gradually introduce all-English teaching at elementary, junior and senior-high schools by allowing schools to establish bilingual classes, she said.
Under current regulations, elementary, junior and senior-high schools cannot teach bilingual classes — with the exception of a limited number of experimental schools, she said.
However, the regulations are expected to be relaxed, and the administration plans to launch at least 168 bilingual classes and designate 24 bilingual schools, she said, adding that in the initial stage, the government would provide subsidies to 720 schools offering all-English classes on world history, world geography, mathematics and science.
The nation has more than 17,000 Taiwanese English teachers and 700 foreign English teachers. To implement the plan, 5,000 more Taiwanese English teachers and 4,600 more foreign English teachers would be needed. The government is planning to offer subsidies to more than 1,000 Taiwanese English teachers so that they can study abroad.
Learning a foreign language requires “consistent and long-term” study, so increasing the frequency of English classes and promoting an all-English environment are necessary, said Chen Chao-ming (陳超明), a professor at Shih Chien University’s Department of Applied Foreign Languages.
Students who only take English classes once per week very easily forget what they have learned in school, he added.
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