The Globalization of English: Its Impact on English Language Education in the Tertiary Education Sector in Taiwan

| November 28, 2007
The Globalization of English: Its Impact on English Language Education in the Tertiary Education Sector in Taiwan

English language teaching in Taiwan; the globalization of English; attitudes, perspectives and competencies of English language teachers in Taiwan; English proficiency testing; backgrounds and perspectives of students of English in Taiwan.

University of Waikato
The overall agenda for the research reported here grew out of semi-structured interviews with senior educational managers from a tertiary educational institution in Taiwan. These managers raised a number of issues, including the changing profile of tertiary students, the changing nature of English curricula, the increasing need for English teaching staff to be adaptable, highly qualified and research-active, and the growing pressure on institutions to introduce English language proficiency benchmarking. Each of these issues can be related to the impact of globalization and, in particular, the impact of the globalization of English, on the education sector. Following a critical review of selected literature on the impact of globalization on the teaching and learning of English, each of these issues, as it affects the tertiary education sector in Taiwan, was explored.

Analysis of the Taiwanese national curriculum guidelines for schools, strongly influenced by academics in the tertiary education sector, revealed a number of problems relating to a lack of proficiency benchmarking and a lack of coherence, consistency and transparency in some areas. These problems may be associated with the initial phase of transition from a grammar-based curriculum to a more communicatively-oriented, outcomes-centered one. Problems of a similar type were indicated in responses to questions relating to curriculum matters included in a questionnaire distributed to a sample of teachers of English in the tertiary sector. Among other things revealed by questionnaire responses was the fact that many survey participants had received no training in English teaching.

The results of a C-test (one that was initially used in a major European study) taken by a sample of entry-level and exit-level Bachelors degree students indicated a wide variation in proficiency, with individual scores differing by as much as 64 percentage points in the case of exit-level students. Furthermore, there was a difference of almost 10 percentage points between the mean scores of students from two different institutions who had majored in English. These results indicate some of the difficulties that Taiwan faces in attempting to establish graduation proficiency benchmarking.

C-test participants completed a background questionnaire, the responses indicating a generally positive attitude towards English-speaking people, a general willingness to use English in situations where there was the option of not doing so, and a strong tendency towards instrumental motivation. Although one of the factors that appeared to have a positive impact on C-test performance was time spent in an English-speaking country, fewer than 18% of respondents had done so.
Although there appears to be considerable anxiety and uncertainty associated with the teaching of English at tertiary level in Taiwan, and some genuine cause for concern, there are also many positive indicators of future success. Teachers and educational managers are aware of the problems they currently face and appear determined to resolve them. Taiwanese academics are increasingly involved in language-related research and increasingly prepared to interrogate their own practices, and Taiwan, unlike some other countries in Asia, is moving towards graduation proficiency benchmarking.


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