What is “EMI” in Taiwan?

As Ernesto Macaro laid out in his 2018 book titled English Medium Instruction, the acronym EMI has taken on different meanings around the world.

EMI has been said to stand for, among other things,

  • English-medium instruction
  • English as the medium of instruction
  • English as a medium of instruction

In terms of English language use, the first two would seem to indicate English as the exclusive language of instruction.

The third, on the other hand, would indicate that English is only one language, among others, used for instructional purposes (cf. learning purposes).

The Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan has designated EMI as “English as a medium of instruction” in their policy documents (Source: BEST: The Program on Bilingual Education for Students in College), but perhaps in name only.

Why do I say that? Let’s take a look at how the MOE defines EMI:

EMI課程的定義 詳參考資料
[Definition of EMI Instruction]

EMI係指在英語非母語的教育機構( non-English speaking institutions)提供的學習課程,其內容的傳遞、師生互動、學習及學術支持教材、學習成果展示與評量 100%使用英語。相關原則說明如下:
[EMI refers to courses of study offered at non-English speaking institutions where 100% English is used in the delivery of content, teacher-student interaction, learning and academic support materials, and presentation and assessment of learning outcomes. The relevant principles are described as follows:]

一、著重於語言學習而非專業學科內容之英文課程不應列為 EMI課程,惟 ESL、EAP (English for Academic Purpose)或 ESP (English for Specific Purposes)課程 之重要性應予以重視,且英文教師係推動 EMI課程之重要支撐。換言之,大學推動 EMI相關計畫時,應重視英文課程及英文教學 。
[English courses that focus on language learning rather than professional subject content should not be listed as EMI courses, but the importance of ESL, EAP (English for Academic Purposes) or ESP (English for Specific Purposes) courses should be emphasized, and English teachers It is an important support for promoting EMI courses. In other words, universities should pay attention to English courses and English teaching when promoting EMI-related programs.]

二、對於 EMI課程,內容的傳遞、學生和教師之間的互動、學習材料以及學習成果的展示和評估(如口頭陳述、作業或測試)都應 100%使用英語。
[For EMI courses, delivery of content, interaction between students and teachers, learning materials, and presentation and assessment of learning outcomes (such as oral presentations, assignments or tests) should be in 100% English.]

三、在特定情況下學生間之互動可使用中文,例如於分組討論時得短暫使用中文以利創意發想與腦力激盪。但學生仍需以英文提出其討論成果,且當學生的英文能力有所提升或選擇更多 EMI課程時,應鼓勵學生在課堂討論時更常使用英文。
[Chinese can be used in the interaction between students under certain circumstances. For example, in group discussions, Chinese may be used for a short period of time to facilitate creative thinking and brainstorming. However, students are still required to present the results of their discussion in English and should be encouraged to use English more often in class discussions when their English proficiency improves or when more EMI courses are chosen.]

四、同時,學生應該用英語介紹他們的討論結果, 學生在課 堂使用其他語言的方式與情況應予限定,學生在分組時之互動可使用其他語言,以利彼此間的理解與創意發想。但教師仍應確保至少 70%班級溝通是以英文進行 。
[Further, students should introduce the result of their discussion in English. Students should be limited in how and when they use other languages in the classroom. Students may use other languages when interacting in groups to facilitate mutual understanding and creative thinking. However, teachers should still ensure that at least 70% of class communication is in English.]

五、高品質的 EMI課程應鼓勵學生儘可能地以英文進行口說與書寫。
[High-quality EMI courses should encourage students to speak and write in English as much as possible.]

SOURCE: 大專校院學生雙語化學習計畫普及提升學校 (p. 4)
NOTE: Translations my own

As can be seen, the MOE’s definition does not allow for the use of any languages other than English for instructional purposes. It leaves some room for students to use Mandarin (#3) or other languages (#4) for discussion (i.e., limited learning purposes), but it strictly prohibits other languages for instruction.

The purpose of this post is not to outline the merits and shortcomings of this definition. I simply want to make the point that EMI in Taiwan is, in fact, NOT English as a medium of instruction, as per the MOE’s definition. English-medium instruction or English as the medium of instruction better characterizes the policy’s intent.