Bilingual education book released for public schools

  • By Rachel Lin and William Hetherington / Staff reporter, with staff writer

There is now a handbook for Mandarin-English bilingual education at Taiwan’s public schools, outlining everything from theory to practice, the book’s designers said yesterday.

Shih Chien University professor Chen Chao-ming (陳超明) and English-language researcher Ma Ko-chen (馬可珍), who made the handbook, said that bilingualism does not mean Taiwanese children would lose their own language or culture, nor do they need to be as fluent in English as in they are in national languages.

Chen was formerly a dean in the School of Foreign Languages at National Chengchi University and is a lecturer at the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology.

The two researchers said that the handbook is Taiwan’s first complete manual for the theory and practice of bilingual education, covering teaching methods from elementary school to university.

“The aim is not for English to replace Mandarin in schools. Instead, what people should be thinking about is: ‘How can we get everyone to use English naturally, in addition to using the national languages?’” Chen said.

Aiming for a bilingual nation is a forward-looking idea, but would require everyone’s involvement, he said.

“We can start with our children. Giving them a bilingual education will open more doors for them,” he said.

Chengzhi Education Foundation president Fang Hsin-chou (方新舟) said that Chen has invested a great deal of effort over the past decade to promote bilingual education, and has gained the support of the local governments in Taitung, Pingtung, Yunlin, Miaoli and Hsinchu counties, as well as in Kaohsiung and Taoyuan.

“He has guided more than 100 elementary and secondary schools in developing English-language programs and achieved good results,” Fang said.

Chen’s work includes experience with rural schools, and involves teaching English speaking and writing skills.

There is evidence that bilingualism improves overall cognitive ability and helps prevent the onset of dementia, Fang said, citing a report by the New York Times.

“Bilingualism is going to make Taiwanese more internationally competitive,” he said.

“However, about 30 percent of Taiwanese junior-high school students graduate with fifth-grade-level English ability, so there are still challenges ahead,” he added.

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