Bilingual Program in Taiwan Public Schools

Is this happening in other cities or is this just a Kaohsiung thing?

I would just like to see if other people are having similar experiences with the mismanagement and total lack of research or evidence based planning behind this whole scheme.

The extent of my guidance has been a pile of Chinese language math text books and the instruction to ‘teach this in English’… Like my kids can all say “2 + 2 = 4” and they can say ‘x is bigger than y’ but unless they go to a buxiban, they can’t do their alphabet or sound out basic phonics :crazy_face:

A delegation from the bureau of education arrived at our school and I tried to explain to them that, based on what I’ve read of bilingual education (since I was told that I am now a bilingual teacher and not an English teacher) the kids need a solid year or two of basic English before we try to teach them things like math in English… I got lots of nods and smiles but no one was really engaging…

Don’t get the wrong idea, for me personally this is a walk in the park, my work load is a joke and the pay is unreal and I get afternoon naps. Professionally I worry I’m getting sloppy so I won’t stay in this system more than another year or so.

Anyway please share stories of the bilingual program if you’re on it :slight_smile:

I would love to reply with my usual rants about bilingual ed in this country, but I think we’ve said most of what I would say here:

The tldr version goes something like: haha yeah right. A bunch of morons who have no right to have anything to do with education at all decided what their version of bilingual ed would look like and stopped short of consulting anyone who might know anything about the subject.


So I’m guessing you’re also on the bilingual program also? :sweat_smile:

I’d like to hear is anyone else like me, having signed a contract that states you’re an English Teacher only to have arrived to find that suddenly you’re teaching Math in English to children with no English level?

Does this constitute a breach of contract on behalf of the employer and the agency who found us the jobs?

I teach at a public junior high where one of the feeder schools is a “bilingual” elementary. The kids who come from there, on average, have the lowest English proficiency out of all the incoming students. It’s kind of sad because they think they’re better than everyone else because that’s what they’ve been told.

If you’re an FET hired by the MOE, they’re def asking you to break contract. You’re not allowed to teach anything but English as a Foreign Language. Doesn’t seem like most schools care though. There’s also this obsession with CLIL, which I think is their way around you being anything but an FET.

It’s all in the perception: If you’re using math to teach them English, it’s OK, but if you’re teaching them math by using English, it isn’t.

I pitched a fit when my school suggested I teach anything but English. I told them my job is to teach English and I’m neither qualified nor does my visa allow me to do anything but. They changed their tune real fast when I told them I’m not going to play their “semi-illegal actually illegal” games


I teach in junior high but I will be leaving my current school in July as local government told the school that they need a foreign teacher who can teach different subjects, not only English. My school did not ask me about it, they just decided to leave the program as they were sure they would not be able to find a teacher with required skills. I am going to another bilingual junior high school where I will be teaching only English.

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I posted a thread about bilingual education
previously, based on whether or not it’s working.
I was talking with the advisor from the MOE
who was at my school last week. You know what
she told me? I was wrong. The goal of the bilingual
education program is not to make Taiwan a bilingual
country with English and Mandarin. Mandarin is, has
been and will always be the official language of Taiwan.
So if the purpose is not to make Taiwan a bilingual country
by 2030, then what’s the purpose?
I have decided to renew my contract for the 2020-21 school year,
and what I will expect is that my students in the bilingual program
will be taking a basic English proficiency exam. If the majority of
them do not score above the average, then the school where I am
will no longer be supported by the government as a bilingual
education school.

My question is, did my school assign me to do something illegal?
I am only teaching EFL to only grade 3 students at my school, but
I am teaching (or rather co-teaching) 3 other subjects by using English
while my co-teachers do the translation for certain details, and I engage
the students into their activities. So I am doing something illegal or

@Taiwan202077, I’m about 99% certain they would be replacing you with someone with exactly the same title and contract as you. They’re breaking the law, best you get out anyway.

The FET program is currently for bringing in foreign teachers from native English speaking countries to teach English. The contracts from MOE for foreign teachers say you are a “Foreign English Teacher". It doesn’t matter if you’re licensed to teach history or math or music or whatever in your home country, you are hired to be an English teacher. Your job is to teach English. If they have you teaching any other subjects, they are breaking contract and the law.

The reality is this means there isn’t a single “bilingual school” in this country that is following the law if they have foreign teachers. CLIL is the sort of a grey area, because they claim the students are “learning the subject through English”. If you’re doing this as supplementary class, where you teach the kids to set off a rocket using English (and there is no translation to Chinese), then you’re still an English teacher. If they handed you a Chinese math textbook and said “teach them math in English and someone will translate”, not only are you not an English teacher any more, you’re teaching them in a way that goes against everything bilingual ed, cuz that’s just not how bilingual education works.

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Do you not want to teach other subjects?
Personally I enjoy teaching English through subjects much more.

As an English teacher of 23 years, I thoroughly enjoy teaching ESL through songs, poems and films.

From the above posts it sounds like the schools in Taiwan can assign duties such as guard patrol, toilet cleaning, public relations, etc to any teacher of any subject.

Is the rule of law truly respected in Taiwan?

I think it comes down to what the job posting and contract have versus what the school expects you to do. If you signed up to teach math in English to a bunch of kids who can’t read the word “I” and think fluency in English numbers is being able to say “onetwotreefohfiesixsenehnineten” really fast, then enjoy yourself.

The problem is the FET program seeks EFL teachers, not EAL math teachers. Then the government doesn’t give a rat’s a** what FETs with 20 years experience and masters in TESOL have to say about why the program doesn’t work.

Well that means the Taiwanese government isn’t up to date/in line with the 21st century.

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The idea of teaching English through other subjects is very exciting, however when given a class of 1st graders who can’t read the alphabet the whole concept is silly. The point is that the children are supposed to be using English to learn math, but they currently can’t use English :sweat_smile: :joy: :rofl: and there is absolutely no plan in place to get them using English.

What research I’ve done on bilingual education since I became a ‘bilingual teacher’ let me to see that these kids need a solid year or two of English before jumping in to my teaching them 34 + 12 = 36

Do you mean 46?


The thing about effective bilingual education is that you can’t give up on them and start translating out of fear that they don’t understand. And “more English classes first” isn’t necessarily the way to go.

You need to use a heck of a lot of TPR and to accept the fact that the kids are going to give you blank stares for the first month or two. But, under no circumstances, should anyone be translating anything in a bilingual classroom. Either the class is in English or the class is in Chinese. If you’re doing dual immersion, the English teacher says something in English and the Chinese teacher says something else in Chinese. Nothing is ever, ever, ever, ever, ever translated. You demonstrate, you act it out, you point to pictures, you move on and know that the students will eventually understand what you mean. But you NEVER translate.

Once they start to understand English, they still won’t be able to speak it, but they’re listening and processing what is being said. You need uberloads of input before you can produce output; that’s language learning 101.

The way Taiwan has approached this is set up with the intention of failure: Put two teachers, one a native English speaker and one a native Chinese speaker in the room and have them teach. No training about different methods of bilingual instruction. Just throw them in the room and have them teach in two different languages. The Chinese-speaking teacher is unable to hold back and watch the kids suffer through not understanding what the English teacher is saying and immediately starts to translate every single thing. The English-speaking teacher may or may not understand just how much their language needs to be super simplified, and is probably using words and sentence structures that are too hard even for native speaking 1st graders to understand. It’s a problem of training (there is none), not the teacher themself. The students quickly learn that the Chinese-speaking teacher will translate everything the English speaker says, and then they never have to think about what any of the English words mean. They might passively realize what some simple words mean, but they rely on the Chinese translation to really understand what is being said instead of thinking about what it might mean (a very necessary skill to develop when learning anything new). There’s also a good chance the Chinese-speaking teacher uses English as well, but uses grammar and pronunciations are are far from that of a native speaker, further confusing the students.

Meanwhile, the entire crew of people in charge of Taiwan’s bilingual ed haven’t bothered understanding that this is an excellent way to delay students’ ability to learn to struggle through, and therefore effectively learn English by using their own god-given brain. So they don’t learn English if they’re not in cram schools and getting private tutoring. And everyone says “start with the non-academic subjects so that they don’t fall behind”. Or “make sure they know the basics before you start trying to teach them academic things”. And the “bilingual” schools continue to be full of kiddos who can’t speak English, but admin who won’t shut up about how much more advanced their students are.

I’ve posted this before: an effective bilingual program starts out in kindergarten or first grade with 90% -10% target language class time to native language class time. Then goes to 80-20 (1st or 2nd grade), 70-30 (2nd or 3rd grade), 60-40 (3rd or 4th grade), and finally stays at 50-50 for the remainder of the bilingual schooling years. That’s class time in academic subjects. The problem is that the Taiwanese government is afraid of it working if they approach it that way, not to mention the fact that they would actually have to train their teachers to use methods that work, instead of continuing to use methods that are proven to not work. So they continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect different results.


We’re doing this in Taitung too, though schools differ. Some schools have the FETs shadowing the PE teacher, some schools have the FETs shadowing the English teacher, other schools give the FET his/her own class, anoint them with holy water, and wish them the best.

Part of my job is to teach social studies in English. Nobody really checks that hard to see if I adhere to any kind of curriculum. I don’t complain, they don’t bother me. Everybody’s happy.

And yes, afternoon naps are awesome.


I think it depends what your contract says. According to my contract I am supposed to teach English, there is nothing mentioned about teaching other subjects in English. I cannot imagine teaching anything else in English where students L2 knowledge is very poor. That would not make any sense to me!

OP I am worried about this just as much as you are.
I am teaching (or rather co-teaching) grade 3 EFL at
my school and 3 other subjects in the grade 2 and
grade 4 levels. My work load is heavy enough because I
have to make power points for a lot of my classes, mostly
and mainly my EFL classes. I also worry about getting sloppy
myself, particularly with my grade 3 EFL. My co-teachers
for grade 3 EFL are telling me that I need to come up with
a specific activity for a specific target objective. And to come
up with certain activities is just too difficult because I don’t
have enough of these resources, and when I search on the web,
I can’t find anything. I have not even received any in-service
training (unlike 10 years ago when I was here teaching only
EFL). I told the co-ordinator from the recruiting agent that
I will renew my contract with the same school, but I am
beginning to question if that is the right decision for me because
I am afraid that next year, planning for my EFL classes may get
more difficult. And it will take up more time on my down time
I need for myself. But if the school gives their final decision and
say that I should be cut lose, let it happen. Yes, I am glad I got
co-teachers who are reasonable and co-operative, but for the EFL
part…let me tell you it’s not as efficient as my experience I had
in South Korea where I had more resources at my fingertips for
teaching activities and games for my students.
So if I don’t stay on with the same school next year then I
don’t care.