Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Evaluation on Primary English Education in Taiwan: From the Perspective of Language Policy

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

An Evaluation on Primary English Education in Taiwan: From the Perspective of Language Policy

Article excerpt


There is a growing tendency in Asia for English as a foreign / second (EFL/ESL) programs to be implemented in the early years of primary schooling. Government policies supporting teaching primary school English are often framed in terms of globalization and the need to compete with other Asian neighbors. In the case of Taiwan, this notion increasingly has led government to support primary school English teaching curricula for all students and to parents spending large sums of money on private tutoring or out of school tuition. Arguments for this position are often based on the "earlier is better" ESL evidence, rather than on sound language policy settings and EFL research. As a consequence, problems and controversies have arisen related to inconsistencies that exist between the macro- and micro-level implementation forces. The purpose of this study is to explore these implementation issues and problems from a language planning and policy perspective through an examination of the language-in-education policy types required for the development of successful programs. This study concludes with some implications for the possible reforms of primary EFL education policy that aim to improve implementation in order to better serve the EFL learning needs of students in Taiwan.

Keywords: primary English education, English language policy

1. Introduction

Since the beginning of 21st century, Taiwan has been undergoing a political and economic transformation with the aim of upgrading its international competitiveness. Evidence for this can be found in the government's active participation in various international organizations like the Asia-Pacific Regional Operations Center and the World Trade Organization, which has led Taiwan to increased international interactions in the past decade. In turn, this has contributed to creating an increasing demand for English as the language of choice for international communication, given its current status as a global language or lingua franca (Crystal, 2003). Since English is seen as the language that provides access to the world (Government Information Office, 2002), its importance is indisputable if Taiwan is to be competitive in the international arena.

English is correlated with globalization and internationalization and thus English ability is regarded by Taiwanese government as an imperative for manpower development in Taiwan. The government's efforts to promote citizens' English competitiveness has fostered the belief in Taiwanese society that English is the most important medium for access to power and resources, i.e. English competitiveness has been closely linked to national economic capability in the international arena at the macro level as well as at the level of the citizens' individual instrumental success in society at the micro level. As a result, "English fever" (Krashen, 2003) has prevailed around the country, and English learning has been regarded as a "whole nation movement" (Chern, 2002). A growing number of parents have begun sending their primary school children to private language institutions in order to give them a head start in their English language learning and thus to prepare them for higher social and economic status in the future. English competitiveness is perceived by the government and by citizens as an important requirement in workforce and for individual development. As Bruthiaux (2002) indicated, the role of English in the employment market has pushed parents in all societies to demand provision for learning and to demand that government education systems respond.

2. The Development of Primary EFL Education Policy in Taiwan

Under both the top-down pressure of globalization and the bottom-up pressure of the public's expectations, the Ministry of Education launched a reformulation of English language-in-education policy in 2001, moving English instruction from the secondary school level to the primary level. In addition, the implementation of the new primary English education policy has also reflected the desire to reform the system by the new government -- i. …

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