In order to keep up with the trend of globalization, the Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan had to outline some proposals for educational reform, including several proposals for the area of English language instruction. Educational reform in the country started in 1997 and is still an ongoing project at present. According to the Nine-Year Integrated Curriculum Guidelines, the MOE initiated a new curriculum based on the Education Reform Action Plan for elementary and junior high schools in Taiwan in 1997 (MOE, Taiwan 2004). For years, English language instruction in Taiwan had been designed to begin in the first year of junior high school. However, with the Nine-Year Integrated Curriculum, English language instruction was advanced to fifth and sixth grade in 2001 and to third and fourth grade in 2005 (MOE, Taiwan 2004; MOE Taiwan 2006). The second change in educational reform was the opening of textbooks for elementary and junior high schools to non-governmental publication. Previously, all textbooks were designed and published by the National Institute for Compilation and Translation. At present, textbook policy in Taiwan has shifted from a unified editorial system to an open examination and appraisal system (Huang 2005).
The MOE of Taiwan (2004) has announced the newest curriculum guidelines for elementary and junior high school. In the English Language Study Area, English learning has been divided into two stages--elementary school and junior high school. The elementary school stage starts at third grade and ends at sixth grade. The junior high school stage, extending from the elementary school stage, starts at seventh grade and ends at ninth grade. There are three curriculum goals for elementary and junior high school students. The first one is to foster students' basic communication abilities and enable them to use the target language in real situations. The communication abilities include listening, speaking, reading, writing and integrated skills. The Nine-Year Integrated Curriculum Guidelines put much emphasis on listening and speaking in the first stage of the curriculum, i.e. the elementary school stage. In the junior high school stage, the balance of the development on the four skills is stressed. However, most of the time, the four skills would not be used in isolation, so the English Ability Indictor (the EAI) also takes the integration ability into account. The second goal of the EAI is to cultivate stu dents' interests and methods in learning English, so they can learn spontaneously and effectively. The last one is to enhance students' recognition of domestic and foreign culture so they can appreciate and respect the differences among cultures. The EAI lists what we expect students to achieve in the two stages of curriculum.
Though all the English textbooks on the market have been carefully reviewed and approved by the MOE, this study proposes to see how they fulfill the requirements of the curriculum guidelines and to offer some insights to school administrators and teachers when they have to choose English textbooks for their students. To these ends, the first purpose of this study is to examine the suitability of the design of language skills training in junior high school English textbooks approved by the MOE. The second goal is to find out if the textbook design fits students' needs. The third one is to identify the strong and weak qualities of textbook design. Thus, this research will answer the following questions:
(1) Are the contents designed for training the four language skills presented appropriately in the current junior high school textbooks?
(2) Does the material design meet students' general needs in terms of how to learn and what to learn?
(3) Does the material design meet Taiwanese students' specific needs from the users' point of view?
1.2. Significance of the study
The result of this study hopefully could offer some suggestions to benefit the English language teachers and educators in Taiwan when choosing textbooks. …