Bilingual Program in Taiwan Public Schools

Anyone worked in the bilingual elementary schools in New Taipei City specifically?
Wondering if the above experiences were similar.
Talked to someone briefly who left a New Taipei City bilingual elementary school, said the school would shift around his schedule and he had to lesson plan for all grades. He didn’t give any further info but seems like he didn’t care for the job too much.

Top-down political problem “solving” is fantastic, huh? I went to high school in the US during the early days of No Child Left Behind it was fully the exact same in regards to completely nonsensical standards and curricula. None of my teachers went with it quietly.

Then I was getting my TESOL and MEd when Common Core was being initiated. While politicrats pitched that they consulted educators and curriculum developers, the level of consultation was the equivalent of having 1, maybe 2 in giant board meetings on occasion.

Luckily, I have enough standing in my school (a Taoyuan JHS trying to become a bilingual school) here to be able to flatly tell the director and principal “I’m too expensive for that” when they tried to convince me to be a using-English-to-‘teach’-PE in the style of some really, really bad exercise video.

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OMG this is awful for these poor children :sweat_smile:
Is there anyone who is having a good experience of this ‘bilingual program’?

Taiwanese people really care about their children’s education and they are investing a lot of money in us as FETs to do a job but our ability to really do that job is being hindered by poor planning, bad management etc.

I feel like we need to be making more noise and drawing more attention to this issue - but to whom and where and how?

What are you trying to teach? I’ve posted about this before: National Geographic’s “Our World” series is fantastic for an “all in one” resource for elementary through junior high. Before I discovered those books, I was firm in my belief that no textbook could stand alone and spent a lot of downtime trying to find resources that fit in with a specific theme. This series can stand alone, if you want it to, and does more or less follow thematic units. The vocab and grammar is reused in a way that makes sense and consistently reviews itself. The readings are amazing – a bit long, but perfectly in line with the students’ level, as long as you give them help with the handful of new words. And the audio recordings are a must, because they allow the students to hear what a real native English speaker sounds like, which the Taiwan-issued textbooks fail epically at. Get the teacher book and the teaching DVD and you really have all you need to teach excellent lessons without too much work. Just buy the student book and wkbk and you can still use those to make activities that are worthwhile and engaging. There’s also a phonics series that goes along with it, which uses words that that the students will actually encounter in the “Our World” texts, instead of words that they will never see again. (all available from Cavesbooks, last I checked. I’m just a fan of the series, not getting anything by posting this review)

As for training, I would love to see some of that for FETs. My school asks me to come to training sometimes, and I can’t stand it. It’s a total waste of everyone’s time. I have been to all-staff training where I walked out wondering what the heck I just spent 6 hours listening to. My co-teachers are all like “yeah it’s not important, don’t worry about it”. What I would give for some effective PD that actually made me into a better teacher…


Have you ever joined the FET trainings in August and January? We literally spend the ENTIRE time telling every NTNU professor and government person that shows up to those trainings about every one of the problems that has been posted about Taiwan’s English ed to Forumosa over the years. Nobody cares to listen.

It’s infuriating and actually the number one reason I have considered applying to work for Kang Chiao, if they actually really are offering NT100,000/month, because then I could at least make a lot of money while being an unappreciated and underutilized resource, instead of being paid a decent but not great salary to mostly keep my desk chair warm and sometimes get the chance to try teaching.


I’m coming to the session in August this year (I’ve been invited to talk about working with co-teachers by Kaohsiung city lol)

ha ha ha unappreciated and underutilised recourse :joy: :sweat_smile: :joy: - YES! I know the feeling!


So does the disorganization of the bilingual public elementary schools make it a stressful work place or just frustrating?
I like that elementary school students are more engaged learners but if the work environment is chaotic then maybe not worth it.
I know in New Taipei City the junior/senior high public positions are a separate program than the bilingual elementary one. I’ve heard that the bilingual elementary program has less support for teachers than the junior/senior high one.

My conspiracy theory is that declaring English to be an official language will allow it to be taught Kindergarten. They don’t have the resources (yet) to teach fluent and specialized English in public schools.

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As someone who has to deal with the aftermath of “bilingual” elementary kids (who come to my junior high), it’s frustrating.

More frustrating might be the revolving door of white men, most of whom just graduated from 5 year BA+Med programs but have never set foot in a classroom before (though we had one who’d been teaching for decades), who all are quite firm in their belief that their students are “the best” (in the bilingual elementary school). It’s hard to tell them to please try teaching them something when the teachers don’t think they’re not teaching.

But there’s no training for them, so me telling them that my lowest performing incoming students in English, year after year, come from their school isn’t going to change anything. They need someone from a country that has mastered bilingual education (Canada?? Norway???) to come in and tell them everything they are doing wrong and what can be done to fix it.

I don’t know if it’s chaotic. I had a two month stint at a cram school where, of the 6 students in my class, 4 were 4th-6th graders at the bilingual elementary school, and they had some of the worst attitudes I’ve ever dealt with (and I teach junior high now). The attitude problem was primarily “this is too easy” (but really they couldn’t do anything)

Are there bilingual junior/senior highs here?

Wow ya the system does sound pretty broken from what you described.
And no there are not bilingual junior/senior highs from what I know, sorry if I made that confusing.

I am teaching my grade 3 students about the phonics with words ending in -ug and -un.
I had trouble trying to come up with something last week. This week I came up with something. One of my co-teachers told me that as a teacher I have to come up with my own kind of activity out of the blue, and yet I don’t even have the resources that are geared specifically to that when the goal is to get the students to say -ug and -un. So from what you said you are right, the textbook that I am using for grade 3 EFL cannot stand alone because the pages with the contents are limited.
And speaking of National Geographic, I had a meeting about this with the teachers at my school, and from what you are saying, I think and I hope that they chose the National Geographic books because they are probably better than the one I am using for grade 3 EFL. In fact when I was at that meeting, the entire meeting was in Mandarin. It almost made me fall asleep, Lord have mercy.

Your co-teacher is wrong. I don’t know a respected educator outside of Taiwan who doesn’t firmly believe in always stealing everything from any source you find in order to save time and energy. It’s like my school telling me I can’t reuse my curriculum from last year because it’s not “professional”. I have a curriculum that works, I am not going to reinvent the wheel.
Now, having a few spontaneous games that you can play with no prep when there’s three minutes left of class is nice to have (think: camp games and theater games), but a teacher’s job description does not include “coming up with fun and engaging things to do on the spot when someone else tells them to”.

This is something that would come with time, from input. Phonics without input is pointless, especially when it’s in L2. You need stories and songs that focus on those specific sounds. But also, do the students know the /u/, /g/, and /n/ sounds independently? If they do, there’s really isn’t much to teach for /-ug/ vs /-un/ – you have them sound out the word “hun” and it shouldn’t sound the same as “hug” if they know /n/ and /g/. I’d recommend Bob books (check the library) and Flyleaf Publishing ( for phonics. Meaningful input wins every time. Don’t waste your time coming up with things on the spot.

I can pretty much guarantee they’re better than whatever you’re using :wink: . I wish you the best of luck!!


Regarding the phonics of -ug and -un, last semester my grade 3 students learned the sounds of all 26 letters of the alphabet. This semester they are learning phonics with the five short vowel sounds, but these phonics are mixed with consonants, with words ending in -at or -ad or -ug and -un. The textbook they are using is entitled Follow Me 2 for this semester following part 1 of the same from last semester.
I was fortunate to get through with presenting my co-teachers an activity I am doing with them this week, which is why I had no worries, anxieties, or stress at the beginning of this week, at least since last Friday afternoon.
Next week, they will be reviewing phonics with words ending in -og, and -ot, and -ug and -un altogether. I hope I don’t have to spend time this weekend working on that because my birthday is on this coming weekend.

First of all, happy birthday!

As for phonics, it seems like most programs will start off with the 26 letters and then focus on vowel + consonant. Most Taiwanese schools teach letter names and the sounds, but never teach how to put letter sounds together to form words - they just memorize the shape and spelling of the word, which is disastrous when they start having any words that start and end with the same letter. CVC words are taught to be memorized and not sounded out. Very problematic.

I find that modeling phonics instruction after the Montessori movable alphabet works really well. Vowels are blue and consonants are red. Just write the individual letters on note cards for the students to use, and/or color code your ppt with red consonants and blue vowel. It makes it clear to the students where a vowel goes (between consonants!) and teaches them to pay attention to which vowel it is. If you don’t teach them, there’s a good chance no one ever will.

This seems like an odd combo. Why not -og vs -ug, -ot vs -ut, -on vs -un? Gotta teach patterns or the students have nothing to grab on to.


How would I go about doing that for an activity?
The worst thing that could happen is of my co-teacher disapproves it.

Yes, I understand. My first job in Taiwan was teaching ESL science to jr. High kids and I loved it. They had already learned many of the concepts in Chinese so it was easy to connect. We used textbooks a few years below their age. I dealt with some who could barely speak English but we made it work. I personally would never enjoy teaching just grammar and reading as I always like to bring in outside things. That’s why I love teaching different subjects.

I guess some people want to stick with the grammar and reading though.

My understanding is that the EFL program also hires teachers to teach ESL subjects

I would start by reviewing the sounds that /o/ and /u/ make on their own (color code your ppt or flash card with vowels in blue). Then add /t/ to the end of /o/ and review “ot” (“t” in red), then change out “o” with “u” to sound out “ut”. (“u” in blue, “t” in red)

It helps if you use real words so they can make connections from the sound to actual things, so you could use “h” at the beginning to form the word “hot” (maybe with a picture of a thermometer to represent “hot”) and then hold up “u”, review the sound, and replace “o” with “u” to form “hut” (use a picture of a hut).

Then introduce “g” on it’s own, then replace “t” with “g” to get “hug”. Review “o”, replace “u” with “o” to get “hog”. Idk what you’d do with “hon” and “hun”, as neither of them are words. Maybe “n” instead of “h”? “non” as in “not” and “nun”.

If you can give them all their own manipulatives (ie, you write the letters on individual strips of paper and have them spell out the words based on the sound you make, then match the words to printed-off pictures), it will make more impact than if you just show it to them at the front of the room.
good luck!

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Please remember that ESL programs are for non-native students of English living in English speaking countries. One could make the argument that Taiwanese students at truly international schools (ie, Taipei American School) are ESL students because the entire school environment and after school activities are conducted exclusively in English, but otherwise, there is no ESL in Taiwan, because the language when you leave the classroom is still Chinese. It’s frustrating that people here use “ESL” because not using the same terminology as the rest of the TESOL world abroad only leads to further confusion. Students in these so-called “bilingual” schools might have more advanced English than their non-bilingual school peers, but they are not learning English to survive in academic and daily life (as a necessity based on their environment), which is the purpose of an ESL program. Teaching academic subjects in English to Taiwanese students who are in Taiwan is “English immersion”. Teaching academic subjects to Taiwanese students who go on a summer trip to Australia is ESL.

That being said, I can’t imagine anyone actually enjoys teaching grammar and vocabulary. The complete lack of training leads everyone to think that’s the only way that English can be taught. There’s nothing to prove them wrong, other than crap test scores for decades. The reality is that teachers are too lazy to find a way that works on their own, but schools will happily use foreigners to do a half-assed job at creating more effective English language environments, then complain and blame when their students continue to fail the GEPT.

There was a lot of complaining at this year’s January FET training because a lot of FETs were told to teach “CLIL”, but were handed a Taiwanese textbook (in Chinese) and told to teach an academic subject class with little or no support from the schools. Interestingly, now that I’ve read through the contract about five times, I can’t actually find anything stating that I am required to teach English in the contract. I guess I could teach aeriel arts if I wanted to, since the contract only goes into detail about how many classes I’m supposed to teach a lot about how I’ll be fired if neighbors complain about my conduct outside of school. Nothing at all about how I’m to teach English though. Fascinating. It does explicitly state that FETs are to have a co-teacher, unless there is express written permission from both parties that allow teaching alone.

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Isn’t 1.1 in that contract stating that you will teach English or do the other things that it lists?

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Apparently I managed to scroll right past the first page every time I read through it. Yes, actually 1.1 is exactly what I was looking for, and thought wasn’t in the contract.

OK folks, the FET contract says

“1.1 Party A hereby agrees to employ, in accordance with the provisions set out in this Contract, Party B to teach English, to perform research, to provide consulting services, and to participate in related English activities of Party A”

Chinese, since that’s what’s held up in the courts:


yEp, the FET contract says the FET’s job is to teach nothing but English. If you’re teaching anything but English, you be breaking the contract and therefore could be deported and your employer fined, etc, etc, for not following the reasons set out for your employment, etc. Unless we get into the “spirit of the law” and say that an FET teaching math classes in English is actually “participating in related English activities of Party A”. But I say that’s a stretch…