[EDLING:983] Youth English programs need re-evaluation: experts

Francis M Hult fmhult at DOLPHIN.UPENN.EDU
Wed Sep 14 17:17:02 UTC 2005


Youth English programs need re-evaluation: experts

TOO TEST-ORIENTED: Rather than using tests to stress out the kids, the English curriculum 
for primary schools needs to stimulate childrens' interest, educators said 


Saturday, Sep 03, 2005,Page 2

Three years after Taipei City's elementary schools extended English teaching programs to 
the first grade, English education is still test-oriented, language experts said. 

Primary schools should focus English programs on enhancing children's literacy and 
stimulate their interest as preparation for more sophisticated English learning in the 
future, they said.

"Primary schools in the US encourage children to read starting in the first grade. 
Teachers would ask students to write stories in the third or fourth grade to enhance their 
descriptive skills," said David Dai (À¹ºû´­), president of the English Teacher's 

In Taiwan, Dai said, English programs in primary schools stress the importance of 
listening, and so writing and reading abilities are often ignored.

During a meeting to review English teaching programs in Taipei municipal primary schools 
since it was extended to the first grade in 2002, school principals said that they have 
been putting great efforts to improving the quality of English teaching and learning 

The briefing was presented by Huang San-ji (¶À¤T¦N), the principal of Taipei Municipal 
Wenhua Primary School, and showed that 97 percent of English teachers in the city's 
primary schools are certified, and that the English book collection at all schools 
combined reached 136,970 last year. 

About 90 percent of second graders, 89 percent fourth graders and 84 percent of sixth 
graders passed their school's English proficiency tests last year.

Language experts, however, were not impressed by the high percentage and what school 
principals described as a "great performance by students" that seems to be indicated by 
the figures. 

Instead, they questioned the necessity of evaluating children's English proficiency by 
giving tests, if the purpose of extending the English program to the first grade was 
simply to lay a foundation and stimulating the students' interest in learning English.

"Grades alone do not reveal the students' level of English proficiency. Primary school 
English programs should focus on increasing student's interest, instead of stressing them 
out with formal tests," said Lin Wen-chi (ªL¤å²N), an associate professor in the English 
Department at National Central University.

Lin suggested that teachers use creative learning tools, such as English learning programs 
on TV, radio, or interactive teaching tools on the Web as their teaching resources.

Chang Wu-chang (±iªZ©÷), an English professor at National Taiwan Normal University, 
suggested that primary schools should learn students' reading preferences before buying 
books, take the students to a library to read, and take advantage of "talking" books to 
make English reading more interesting.

"I also think that the promotion of English reading and writing should be extended to 
secondary schools, so that our efforts to build up children's reading and writing ability 
won't be in vain," he added.

While the English programs regulated by the Ministry of Education in primary schools are 
only offered to third-grade students and above, reports from the ministry showed that at 
least 17 of the nation's 25 cities and counties have begun English education for first 
graders, because the high demand for students to learn English as early as possible has 
propelled local school authorities to begin their English education programs in grade one 
or even in kindergarten.

Currently, the city's primary schools offer two English classes per week. Director of 
Taipei City Bureau of Education Wu Ching-chi (§d²M°ò) said that the aim of introducing an 
English program to first graders is to stimulate the students' interest in learning 
English, but not to add to their courseload or deprive them of a Chinese-language 

After listening to the briefing and comments, Taipei Mayor Ma Ying-jeou (°¨­^¤E) agreed 
that schools should not stress children out with tests, and suggested that schools 
encourage teachers and parents to read English books with students.

He also worried that many children who enjoyed learning English give it up later in 
secondary schools because of test-oriented English teaching. 

To better understand possible English learning and teaching discrepancies between primary 
schools and secondary schools, another education meeting will be held in six months. 

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