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Taiwan’s Bilingual 2030 English learning policy a 'marathon, not a sprint’ – taiwannews.com.tw

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Bilingual 2030 aims to boost Taiwan’s international competitiveness by intensifying English education, but the policy's implementation continues to face controversy
Sep. 1, 2023 10:05
Documentary: "Bilingual 2030 After Ribbon Cutting: Taiwan’s English Ambition."(Taiwan News thumbnail)
TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Taiwan’s Bilingual 2030 policy (2030雙語政策) aims to boost Taiwan’s international competitiveness by intensifying English education, but it has been controversial and questions loom over its effect on Taiwan’s future.
Launched in 2019, the Bilingual 2030 policy is guided by two visions, namely, “helping Taiwan’s workforce connect with the world” and “attracting international enterprises to Taiwan." The goal is to enable Taiwan's "industries to connect to global markets and create high-quality jobs,” per the National Development Council.
The policy targets the English proficiency of Taiwanese students, particularly at the high school and college levels. It shifts from treating English as a subject to using it to teach subjects beyond English.
Watch the Taiwan News documentary about Bilingual 2030 on YouTube:

Chiang Chieh (江潔), a teacher at Taipei Municipal Tianmu Junior High School, pointed to the common fallacy — especially among parents — of "the more English, the better." In a classroom situation, however, teachers have noted that students do not actually understand lessons in English but merely follow the actions of their classmates.
Keith Graham, an assistant professor in the School of Teacher Education at National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU), said that if the goal is for citizens to use English, the policy makes sense, since it builds upon itself, with flexibility in the earlier grades, while increasing English exposure as students get older. “But it’s subtractive,” he added, “You are taking away Mandarin. Is that what we want?”
Peter Whittle, a member of the Bilingual Terminology Review Committee of the National Academy for Educational Research, said the way English has been taught in Taiwan has been “deeply flawed.” He said its “exam-oriented” structure, pushing students to memorize vocabulary and grammar rules, which they then regurgitate to pass exams, is “no way to learn a foreign language, in a way that you are able to use it in real life.”
Liao Hsien-hao (廖咸浩), Dean, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities and Social Sciences, National Taiwan University (NTU), added that the method of teaching English needs to be improved, rather than increase the number of hours, and it does not need to inundate all subjects. Moreover, it is natural for one to become proficient in one's own language in order to excel in specific fields and be competitive.
Chou Te-liang (周德良), a professor in the Department of Chinese Literature at Tamkang University (TKU), also questioned the logic behind using English to teach subjects, such as Chinese literature. “It’s as if you came to the U.K. to study Shakespeare, only to be taught in Chinese … I find it hard to accept," he said.
Lin Tzu-bin (林子斌), a professor in the Department of Education at NTNU, noted that in the past three decades of educational reform, there is not a single policy with as strong an impact as Bilingual 2030. However, the policy is being rolled out too fast, especially at the local authority level, he said, describing former Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je’s (柯文哲) notion that every school in Taipei City should become bilingual by 2026 as “insane.”
Vanessa Chih (遲正嫺), a teacher at New Taipei Municipal Er Chong Junior High School, added that it takes years to observe educational outcomes, and asked, “Why do we have to see the result immediately?” Instead of setting targets like “90% mandatory use of English in class,” "we have to assess where students are in their proficiency” and meet them where they are, she said.
Military matters
Outside the classroom, the plan seeks to strengthen English proficiency among military service people, laborers, financial industry personnel, medical staff and social workers. The proportion of English-language subjects in civil service exams for positions in international affairs will also be increased.
From a national defense perspective, some think the policy will amplify Taiwan's military capabilities, such as Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), Director, Division of Defense Strategy and Resources, Institute for National Defense and Security Research. He believes the policy will allow Taiwanese troops to better communicate with their English-speaking military allies, while it will also be a tool for a soldier's professional development after they leave the service.
Peter Whittle added that although the national language of Mandarin Chinese should be prioritized, because of the importance of Taiwan’s relationship with the world, English, the “language of international communication,” must take second priority.
Her One-soon (何萬順), chair professor of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature at Tunghai University (THU), said that because of the nature of compulsory education, students are not given a choice about the lessons taught in schools. He offered a new angle to the Bilingual 2030 policy debate by asking, “In 2030 or 2040, how much of one’s English proficiency can be replaced by AI … would it be a waste of investment then?”
Syaru Shirley Lin (林夏如), Founder/ Chair, Center for Asia Pacific Resilience and Innovation (CAPRI), called Taiwan’s goal of creating an international society “admirable” but pointed out, “We are not Hong Kong or Singapore. We don’t have an anglophone culture.” Instead, Taiwan’s society is more like South Korea or Japan, “so we need to compare ourselves with the same benchmark,” she said.
Keith Graham also noted that Singaporeans of Chinese descent are decreasingly using Chinese in the home. He asked, “Is that a bad thing? I don’t know … You would have to ask them.”
Abner Chao, Founder/ CEO of AmazingTalker, believes the policy and direction of Bilingual 2030 are correct, but there are more important issues that can increase Taiwan’s competitiveness. For example, “To create a brand, to research and develop, all these tasks do not require one to learn English … the key is fostering a culture that empowers people to innovate,” he asserted.
Frankey Fang (方柏仁), Founder/ CEO of FUNDAY, said the solution could not be easier: “Open the border and let the foreigners in.” With more opportunities for Taiwanese to interact with foreigners, whether as coworkers or friends, “our English proficiency will increase,” he claimed, and “you would not need to spend so much money on looking for teachers.”
However, Shirley Lin pointed out, “The way you think is more important than the way you speak.” “It’s important to think internationally, to be able to think from other people’s perspective, and that takes people to learn Vietnamese, Thai, go abroad, and bring people in. It may not have to be in English but … English, of course, benefited me the most.”
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Taiwan News, Staff Writer
Taiwan News, Staff Writer

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