Scholars from Taiwan and abroad convened at National Cheng Kung University this weekend for the 2017 Content and Language Integrated Learning (CLIL) for Primary Education conference. The conference was held to discuss the burgeoning bilingual programs in Taipei, New Taipei City, Hsinchu, Taichung, Kaohsiung and Tainan. Event organizers hoped the conference would inform both policymakers and practitioners about current theories and best practices in the field of CLIL, an approach to bilingual education that has shown great success in Europe and is currently being adapted for use in Taiwanese schools.
Professors from prominent universities in Austria, Spain and Hong Kong presented keynote addresses tailor-made to help Tainan creatively approach implementation of CLIL, which favors the use of English to deliver non-language subjects like art, PE and science. Educational leaders from five of the six special municipalities spoke as well, sharing the process of establishing bilingual programs in public schools within each of their cities.
Lee Hsien-wei, Deputy Secretary-general of Tainan City and Director of the Office of English as the Second Official Language opened the conference by reminding attendees why Tainan schools are choosing to adopt bilingual education practices. “Our kids can do very well on TOEICs and TOEFLs, but listening and speaking skills are low.” By using CLIL techniques in public schools, he hopes to increase spoken English proficiencies among Tainan’s students.
Alison Lu, principal of Simen Experimental Elementary School was among the presenters. Lu outlined the process Simen has used to adopt CLIL practices, highlighting the necessity of local teachers to work with native English speaking teachers in every step of the educational process, from lesson planning and materials development to lesson delivery and student evaluation. Indeed, Simen teachers produced bilingual exams for grades 3-6 science midterms without “creat(ing) anxiety for either students or parents.” According to experts, cooperation among teachers plays a pivotal role in building a successful bilingual program.
“Your teachers work more effectively together than teachers in Spain,” said Ana Llinares, a professor from the Autonomous University of Madrid who studies English, bilingual and CLIL education. Elisbet Pladevall-Ballester, another academic from Spain echoed her colleague’s sentiment: “I am impressed by the progress Tainan has made in such a short time. Your teachers are so enthusiastic and dedicated.”
Both professors presented their research and its applications alongside Diane Pecorari, Head of the Department of English at City University of Hong Kong and Erwin Gierlinger, a professor of EFL Teaching at the University College of Education in Linz, Austria. With the goal of informing successful pedagogical practices, the two-day symposium also featured speeches from more than two dozen Taiwanese teachers and professors who are adapting European CLIL models to better fit a local context.