English is one of the major subjects that students in Taiwan often go to cram schools for. While public schools do have English classes, they’ve failed. Despite the growing anxiety of Taiwan becoming less competitive against other countries, there seems to be no political will to solve the crisis.
Many students, who are able to get high grades on tests, are incapable of having an actual English conversation nor write an essay on their own. Lessons are designed for students to be able to answer grammar questions and fill vocabulary into sentences rather than practical usage.
Problems with English education
Treating English like a math problem is the major flaw in Taiwan’s English education. Students are taught to look at a sentence by breaking them down into pieces based on parts of speech. Overemphasizing grammar and neglecting content causes students to misuse vocabulary and leads to a lack of ability to comprehend meaning.
Unlike math, which is filled with equations for people to solve, English is a tool for people to communicate and learn information. Being able to state an opinion and have an actual conversation should be the goal of our English education.
Looking at private English schools’ teaching styles, they try to provide an English speaking environment; this is what transforms students into fluent English speakers. With English being our second language, English learners already lack the opportunity to be in an English-speaking environment. Moreover, students don’t get many opportunities to practice speaking during classes, except for reading short paragraph dialogues.
With lessons lacking in “practical use”, it’s little wonder why the speaking incapability crisis has only worsened.
How to improve English education in Taiwan
The amount of reading, writing, and speaking needs to increase to solve the problem. However, we not only need to increase the amount but also its difficulty. Students learn more vocabulary through a novel compared to a five paragraph text; learning to write an essay provides the opportunity to learn critical thinking, an ability that Taiwanese education has never taught.
Very little will ever be learned if students are told to just sit and listen, the traditional teaching method doesn’t benefit students in the long run, regardless of how much time they’ve spent in English classes. Simply look at those of us who have been in a Chinese speaking environment since we were kids; few of us would describe ourselves as eloquent.
Therefore, with its undeniable importance and the need for actual practices, Taiwan needs to change its’ English teaching method and give students the skills to interact with foreigners alone and therefore compete with other nations.