What is “Bilingual Teaching” in Taiwan?

In my last post, I discussed the definition of EMI in Taiwan. Now I will look at another term–bilingual teaching.

The Bilingual 2030 policy defines different approaches to higher education, which uses EMI, and senior high school and below, which should implement bilingual teaching.

But what does bilingual teaching actually mean?

At least for senior high school, the Ministry of Education (MOE) K-12 Education Administration has defined bilingual teaching as follows (SOURCE: 教育部國民及學前教育署補助擴增高級中等學校雙語實驗班計畫):

「雙語教學」係指,單一節課之教學語言,以英語為主、國語為輔;其中以英語教學之時間,至少達該節課程時間 50%以上。

[“Bilingual teaching” means that the main instructional language of a class is English, with Mandarin acting as a supporting language. During a class, English should be used at least 50% of the time.]

From this definition, it seems the MOE has decided on a convergent model of bilingual education (García, 2009).

Convergent models develop bilinguals to use a target language in a specific domain (e.g., science) without attending to the development of the local language in that domain. If sustained over time, the result is usually that the bilingual can communicate in that particular domain in the target language well, but being able to use the local language in that domain is far from guaranteed. (Use of the local languages in other domains may be fine though.)

Qatar has several case studies reporting that Arabic–English bilinguals graduating from English convergent programs struggle to use Arabic in their professional lives (e.g., Yyelland & Paine, 2009).

Is this what Taiwan wants–bilinguals who can exclusively use English in some subject domains?

Of course, it is not my place to answer, but there may be valid arguments for either position. For example, Taiwan may be perfectly satisfied with using English in the domain of technology, but perhaps exclusive English use in music or health would be more contentious.

My concern at the moment is that the outcomes of a convergent model have not been adequately considered. I think a multiplicity model, where both languages are developed in a domain simultaneously, would make the most sense as a general policy, but it may also be more difficult to implement in practice.

Nonetheless, from all the calls for more clarity on what bilingual teaching is, the MOE has delivered. Whether or not these definitions are the best path forward for Taiwan is now the debate.

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