The 8 elementary schools in Tainan (including 2 experimental primary schools and 6 bilingually-taught elementary schools that are referred to as the “2+6 schools”) that were the first to install bilingual education projects have officially entered an English immersion program that targets primary and secondary school students. The program is promoted by the Ministry of Education and the K-12 Education Administration; out of the 60 schools that are certified to execute the English immersion program, 9 are located in Tainan. Tainan City has been the pioneer in bilingual education, having implemented the Content and Language Integrated Learning Project (CLIL) that aims to incorporate English into other academic subjects last September. The Office of English as the Second Official Language of Tainan City Government (OEASOL) also cooperated with the Foreign Language Center of National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) and its research team on a separate project that evaluates the effects of a bilingual curriculum; their recent mid-term report was published in March.
Seeing promising results from the bilingual education currently going on in the 2+6 schools, the research team in NCKU has submitted its report to the 11th Conference of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF11). The conference is scheduled in July in King’s College London in London, United Kingdom. The chief coordinators from NCKU, Dr. Kao Shin-mei, Dr. Tsou Wen-li, and Dr. Fay Chen will be participating in the colloquium and initiating a discussion on the CLIL project in hopes of introducing the findings of bilingual education in Tainan City to scholars worldwide and garnering more attention from the global audience.
There are currently more than 3,000 participants in the bilingual lessons implemented in the 2+6 schools. Over the past 6 months, local teachers have worked with foreign instructors in teaching arts, humanities, science, music, PE, and information and technology in English. CLIL has attracted numerous teachers and principals from elementary schools outside of the city who paid visits in groups out of curiosity about CLIL.
Members of the research team from NCKU inspects the 2+6 schools approximately 3 times a month, providing constructive feedbacks and analyses. One of the coordinators of the plan, Dr. Kao Shin-mei, stated that “our team holds a positive attitude towards the results of the first semester (of the plan). We have seen significant transformation on students, who in the beginning were frightened of or dismayed by learning in English are now able to communicate in English voluntarily. Teachers have also been able to teach with the CLIL model in accordance to the needs of different schools. We suggest that more workshops be held to train teachers to further cultivate CLIL for the purpose of designing specialized classes that would work well with the existing system.”
The research team of NCKU also conducted a survey on the 2+6 schools and observed that there was an overwhelming consensus on the importance of English as a language and subject among students, who feel that teaching academic subjects in English is profoundly helpful in acquiring knowledge and using English in a more practical sense. Furthermore, the NCKU research team also investigated parents’ opinions on the issue; the results show that more than 80 percent of them are aware of the bilingual curriculum and supportive of it. Most parents indicate that bilingual education in elementary school is especially welcomed in families that otherwise could not afford sending their children to cram schools.
Dr. Tsou Wen-li is optimistic about the future of the 2+6 schools. She said, “the progress of bilingual education in Tainan is ahead of those in European countries, Japan, and Korea, where CLIL is also a trend.” She also pointed out that bilingual curriculum serves as a bridge between local students and the international community. Dr. Tsou stressed that in order to expand bilingual education on a greater scale, a series of mechanisms that offer advanced training for teachers and a more comprehensive set of materials and activities is needed. She also expressed that CLIL could potentially serve as a beacon for a more globalized education and an incubator for elites in the international market.
One of the principals of the 2+6 school, Alison Lu, argued that the CLIL curriculum should be more than “education for the talented,” adding that bilingual education should be “an equal opportunity given to all students.”
Director of OEASOL, Lee Hsien-wei, indicated that bilingual education is the basis of Tainan’s policy in promoting English as the second official language. He emphasized that elementary school students who have been exposed to bilingual lessons could twist the stereotypical impression of Tainan as a city that traditionally shies away from English in the next ten years. Mr. Lee asserted, “the city government will strive to create a better environment for bilingual education in primary and secondary schools. We hope for a consistent progress in bilingual education.”