Analysis | Many challenges ahead for making Taiwan bilingual

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TAIPEI (The China Post) — President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) expressed hopes on Sunday that Taiwan would become a “bilingual country” by 2030, a goal which is deemed unlikely given Taiwan’s lack of English teachers and the short timeframe for implementing reforms.

According to the president, a major setback of Taiwan’s teaching environment is the focus on English vocabulary and grammar. The goal is to bring English education into students’ daily life and allow more them to interact with the international community.

To this end, the Ministry of Education announced a new development program that emphasizes “dynamic teaching” though better English education, digital technology and individualized learning.

To understand the probability of success for Taiwan’s push for bilingualism in 10 years, however, we should look at Singapore’s educational system first.

The Singaporean government’s focus on education began in 1959 after gaining self-governing status from the British. English subsequently became a required language of study and effort was put into creating a competent pool of teachers first.

The plan to attract talented instructors and retain them was key to boosting the educational efficiency of Singapore. Good compensation drew qualified individuals and excellent professional development improved their output.

Focusing on human resources has also helped the government establish a strong foundation for curriculum planning and leadership. Without a suitable pool of teachers, Taiwan’s proposed policy will likely fail because of the lack of national and local resources.

If Taiwan wishes to replicate Singapore’s bilingual successes, it should start with investing in the quality of instructors through good incentives. The recent proposal is a step in the right direction, but the lack of supply-side development could see the policy fail.