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Sample Research Proposal on The Curriculum and Design Courses for English Teachers in Taiwan


            The ability to speak the English language has become more and more important. The need to learn this ability appears to be significantly related to the changes in business operations and job opportunities. Due to the growing competition in both factors, operators as well as employers had become more demanding in choosing the people who will work for them. Aside from their intellectual and physical capabilities, the ability to speak other languages, especially English had become a part of the requirements.


Considering that most businesses operate in various countries and that job opportunities abroad had grown in number, the ability to speak the universal language is not really a requirement but a necessity. In particular, individual who can speak English have more access to various opportunities and can generally adapt in different work situations. In turn, these make them feel less inferior to others who can speak the language fluently. This then poses as a challenge especially to nations who do not consider English as their first language.


            The skill to speak any foreign language is mainly dependent on the abilities of the teacher. The capability of the teacher should then be shaped by an effective curriculum and course design as well as the use of the right learning materials. Without the proper development of capable English teachers, students will not develop the confidence to speak what they have learned or they might learn incorrect English-speaking skills. In this review, the role of the curriculum and course design in shaping English teachers will be considered. In particular, the efficacy of the curriculum used in Taiwan for teaching English will be evaluated.


The Taiwanese Curriculum for English Teachers

            Learning multiple languages has been a recent trend among the Taiwanese. For the past years, learning English has been a common activity in the country. Adults and even young children follow this social trend. In turn, both preschool and kindergarten teachers are expected to give English-related activities to help the children learn the language. Preparatory programs for English teachers have grown and developed as well; relevant training for pre-service and in-service teaching has been incorporated in such programs. With this kind of training, workshops that share English teaching courses or strategies for improving the pre-service and in-service teachers' English language skills are included (Ho 2005).


The people in Taiwan have realized the growing importance of learning other languages like English in order to adapt to business and employment demands. In addition, Taiwan is determined to stay ahead of its Asian neighbors and that being proficient with the English language will greatly contribute to the achievement of this goal. The country's local administration has in fact realized the role of the English language, especially in strengthening Taiwan's political and economic position.


For this reason, it has been mandated that English instruction among Taiwanese students should start at third grade instead of seventh grade. Furthermore, professors from the United States had visited the country in order to provide English-language training to about 350 elementary teachers, principals and academic directors within six metropolitan regions in the country (Business Wire 1999). In addition to training, the efficacy of the teachers to teach the English language should be based on the curriculum and preparatory programs that they had taken.


            The curriculum for the English teachers serves as their main training framework, which would allow them to teach non-English speakers effectively. The quality of the curriculum then serves as the main component for shaping effective English teachers. The skills used by the teachers in teaching the English language to the students are then the products of the curriculum they had taken. In general, the Taiwanese curriculum for teaching the English language is concentrated on the use of various English-teaching materials. Moreover, the curriculum in Taiwan aims to train local English teachers by using both local and English languages.


There had been a number of literatures stressing the significance of this curriculum aspect. According to Cummins (1991), students who are learning through their first language provides several advantages. Krashen (1996) noted that two-way bilingual education helps in the development of basic and advanced literacy in both first and second languages. This means that bilingual education enable students to acquire significant content knowledge, which in turn helps them to comprehend other English words that they will encounter.


Hakuta (1985) stated that two-way bilingual education enhance the social and cognitive development of the students. In most schools, the native language of the students is often perceived as a problem that needs to be resolved. Lambert (1984) pointed out that two-way bilingual education programs can be used as an additive to bilingual environments, which in turn can benefit the students. In this way, the native languages and culture of the students are highly valued.


The use of the native language in teaching English to students is also an important aspect of the Taiwanese curriculum as it allows the establishment of cultural stability. According Tharp (1994), the cultural compatibility within the students' learning styles and the educators' teaching style should be established. With bilingual education and the two-way approach, students are able to increase their overall language competence by means of enhancing and conserving their language resources. The integration of native and non-native English speakers helps in promoting the significance of learning English as well as other foreign languages.


In addition to using English-learning materials and two way bilingual approaches, the training and curriculum in Taiwan has also gone through several developments. According to Wang (2002), the developments in the preparatory programs for Taiwanese English teachers include the changes in the entrance examinations as well as the redefinition of the curriculum's goal, which is now centered on communicative competence. These changes had been done mainly due to the island wide implementation of English education in elementary schools in 2001.


The Developments and Deficiencies

            There had been limited reports on the efficacy of the curriculum for English teachers applied in the Taiwanese setting; however, evaluating the effectiveness of the curriculum can be assessed by analyzing various methods an teaching approaches used by the Taiwanese teachers during and after their preparatory programs.  For instance, it has been cited that the use of English-learning materials has been part of the preparatory program of the English teachers in the country; in one study (Ho 2005), Taiwanese college students who are to teach English for early childhood students had been subjected to a research process. The main objective of this research was to investigate on how this process is done and identify the perception of the students to the addition of this technique in their course.


            The participants of this study were composes of undergraduate college students undergoing an early childhood teacher education program in Southern Taiwan. These students would be early childhood teachers after accomplishing all their coursework and a full year student teaching experience. The students were mostly at their 30s-50s. Several of them had experiences of teaching young children and all of them were at their sophomore year of their English Reading Course. The course mainly requires the students to browse and read material or articles about early childhood education that are published in English.


Reading materials for the course may be derived from magazines, journals or other classic educational works done by professional educational organizations. By means of reading these materials, the students are expected to improve their English language skills and their knowledge about the field (Ho 2005). Judging from the design of this course, it is clear that the use of English story and picture books is truly different from the conventional requirements.


            In the research process, the primary data were comprised of teaching journal entries, observation notes, students' self-reported surveys like self evaluations and responses as well as instructor-led assessments. The secondary data on the other hand, is made up of class materials, students' writing samples and informal interviews. These data were gathered throughout the duration of the research. The outcome of the research was divided into three stages. On the first stage, the students applied the conventional course approach where they were asked to read and study documents from the website of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). The second stage involved the use of English picture books as the instructional material. Finally, the last stage involved the application of what they had learned from the second stage by conducting a drama presentation (Ho 2005).


            The results of the study showed that students encountered extreme difficulty in understanding the documents found in the website; this is mainly because of their limited English experiences and skills. A lot of time had been wasted on looking up almost every single word from the article in the dictionary; this process somehow helped them to understand the meaning of the sentences in the articles. On the contrary, the second stage of the research process did not even left students frustrated. In fact, the responses of the students showed that they found the approach interesting and enjoyable. They were able to understand the content of the books and felt that they will be able to succeed in the course with this kind of learning approach. Most importantly, the students noted that the stories from the picture books were made for children; using these materials in their professional practice will then be useful for their future early childhood students.


Lastly, the self-report surveys and the evaluations of the students indicated that they had enjoyed using their learning form the picture book stage through drama presentation; having been able to produce something out of their learning was considered a major achievement by the students. This activity in the course helped them become more confident in reading English texts aloud and attending their English classes. The students also noted that they had observed significant developments in their English-speaking abilities (Ho 2005).


            Based from this study outcome, the course design for English reading in Taiwan is patterned after straightforward English learning where professional English reading materials are preferred. While this may help prepare future English teachers, the results of the study showed that it is very difficult for them to learn with this design. Not only does the difficulty of the materials affect their learning capabilities, but it also affects their motivation to learn. This study then emphasizes that although the Taiwanese curriculum may use the most sophisticated English-learning materials to train the teachers, using materials that are based on the students' capability result to better learning outcomes. This curriculum concept has actually been supported by several literatures. For instance, Rosenblatt (1982) noted that in both reading and learning to read, it is important that the interests of the students are taken into consideration.


            There had been researches which had stated that valuing and honoring the experiences of the students will help in optimizing their learning outcomes. In the research of Moss and Hendershot (2002) for example, the researchers found that involving the students in the decision-making involved in their curriculum made them more willing to learn. In another research (Maloney 2003), rather than use professional materials, well-written non-fiction and fiction texts were used in teaching college students. These materials addressed the life experiences of the students, which in turn improve their academic literacy. Furthermore, students were found to be more involved in the learning process. Huerta-Macias (2003) also noted that by means of developing a culturally responsive classroom for adult English language learners where the experiences of the students are valued, the characteristics of quality instruction is achieved.


            Even from past researches the Taiwanese curriculum for English teachers had been criticized, mainly on the lack of sufficient application exercises. Sedlak (1976) noted for instance that the communication competence in Taiwan is mainly supported by listening, speaking, writing and reading. However, in reality, the curriculum for English teaching is only concentrated on reading and grammar-translation analysis. There is then an apparent lack of activity in the curriculum where the holistic learning of the English language is applied. It has been explained that in language learning, there should be substantial opportunity for cooperative work in making projects and solving problems where educators are involved (Tharp & Yamauchi 1994). According to Willig and Ortiz (1991), the instructional strategies for students should depend on the concept that "language learners are active learners who, when exposed to sufficient language input from others, devise hypotheses about rules, test them out, modify them, and gradually construct their own language….the materials used and the instructional strategies themselves must be well structured, student-initiated, highly motivating, progress in a sequential fashion, and make use of the learner's expectancies regarding the consequences of interaction" (p. 291).


The teaching of the English language in Taiwan has indeed been a trend among the students; several Taiwanese had been enrolled in cram schools for this purpose. However, with the lack of training English Taiwanese teachers have, spoon-fed rules on English language learning had been applied; some of these rules were already obsolete. In a way, Taiwanese students had been instructed that unless a certain language issue can be explained clearly, they would just have to subconsciously reject it. Shrum and Glisan (1994) described this as the decontextualization process wherein instead of working towards genuine English language proficiency by means of acquisition and internalization, teachers tend to find reasons to explain or disregard these language issues. With this type of teaching practice, English education in the country has encountered several deficiencies.


            One of the main deficiencies of the English training for teachers in Taiwan is the use of inappropriate learning materials. As describe in the previous study, student teachers are typically exposed to complex English instruction and requirements, making it difficult for them to learn the language. Due to this difficulty, they tend to just resort to the memorization of grammatical rules rather that full comprehension and retention. The curriculum of the teachers is focused on exposing them to the superficial use of the English language, making it difficult for them to decipher its formal and informal uses. Moreover, the preparatory programs tend to just stick to what the English-learning materials have stated, increasing the teachers' dependence on textual and probably obsolete explanations. This English background tends to make the language tin and flat (Nunan 1999). As a result students are just taught of English communication that cannot really be acceptable in conversational terms.


            In relation to the dependence of the Taiwanese English curriculum on written materials, a major flaw of the training process for English teachers in the country is the quality of the materials themselves. While other programs may use too sophisticated learning materials, other English major students are exposed significantly on classic English literature. Although, learning about classical English literature is something that should be integrated in the curriculum, using this for the entire course is simply ineffective considering the language used in these literatures are not the ones used for typical English communication. As a result, some conversational statements of the English major students in Taiwan are out of sync; while the country takes pride of its English literature curricula, future Taiwanese English teachers are devoid of K-12 native-speaking English education, which is supported by up to date materials (Hwang 2005).


            The teachers' lack of exposure to proper English use is also one of the deficiencies of English education in the country. Even if the student teacher is trained in an English-speaking country, the training will most likely be spent of classroom training and library readings. In turn, this produces an odd mixture of academic and slang English words; in worst cases, awkward pairing of words can make the speaker sound pompous and gibberish (Hwang 2005). It is then essential that in a curriculum or preparatory program for Taiwanese English teachers, sufficient experience on the realistic use of the English language is integrated. Through this, teachers will be trained to speak and teach the language as they are used in typical English conversations. Most importantly, this exposure will allow them to develop more confidence in using the language in actual conversations.


            The deficiencies in the Taiwanese English curriculum not only affect the quality of English education students receive; this also affects the teachers confidence in handling changes in English teaching practices. It has been cited that due to the increasing interest of the Taiwanese students to learn the English language, the local government decided that young children in the elementary level should be exposed to English education as well. This protocol has been suggested by the Ministry of Education (MoE) and is supported by three main goals. According to Shih (2001), the first objective of this regulation is to improve the students' oral and written English skills; this is mainly because the problem on pronunciation is a typical issue among young learners. The teachers themselves believe that English education will be significantly enhanced if the pronunciation of the students will be enhanced. This goal stressed that early English education can be a good methodology for helping learners with their pronunciation problems, thus avoiding Taiwanese English.


            The inclusion of English education in the elementary level also aims to heighten the interest of the students on language learning skills. Primary English education can become less stressful for the students as they have more time to develop their language skills as compared to secondary education where language becomes more of a requirement. Finally, the introduction of early English education in the country aims to teach student about the English language while learning their own and others' cultures as well. Despite the clear benefit of this program, teachers were not too confident about this change. In one research (Crawford 2001) were teachers had been interviewed regarding this development, the teachers were very conscious in participating with this new endeavor. Specifically, they do not believe that the limited expertise or experience that they have would support the success of English education at the primary level. The teachers were also concerned that they had not been trained to handle mixed-level classes where students have varying degrees of English language learning experience. Considering that other students may come from various private language schools or bilingual kindergartens, the teachers believe that the knowledge gap will only cause confusion on the students and pressures on their parents. This belief however, has long been contradicted by other literatures.


Edelsky and Jilbert (1985) for instance, concluded that children are able to obtain different language systems without confusion even in the presence of other children with varying language capabilities. Peyton (1990) also concluded that students did not question their individual abilities in relation to language. They will just plunge in and use the resources available to them. Thus, in these researches, feelings of confusion as well as difficulties incurred in bilingual education have not been evident among the children. Instead of being a confusion agent, the bilingualism of children increased their alternatives for establishing meaningful learning.

Lambert (1984) also supports this view by stressing that the learning process of another language is really based on language aptitude and intellectual capacity but also on the belief and perception of the learner towards others. The feelings of confusion and inferiority among bilingual children must be addressed as "People use cultural systems of meaning to organize their behavior and interpret experience but cultural knowledge is more than a collection of symbols [....]. It is an intricately patterned system of symbols which may include objects such as a flag, a gesture such as waving one's hand, a place such as a church or events such as a wedding…they are all parts of a system of symbols" (Spadley 1979 p. 97). By learning the foreign language and meaning of expressions, a child relates and assimilates diverse values and customs. In the case of children having diverse language backgrounds, educators should understand that language and cultural symbols that make up early learning and the children's heritage.


From these perspectives, it is emphasized that rather than be concerned on mixed-level classes, the educational system, teachers in particular, should serve as an equalizer and provide the students with the instruments they need to be effective English learners (Ferdman 1990). This concept of Ferdman further emphasized that children should be given assistance by their schools in adapting and integrating English education demands. Based from the results of the interview, it is clearly suggested that teachers themselves are not confidents with their abilities as English teachers. Since their skills and capabilities in English teaching are derived from their preparatory teaching programs, much development in Taiwan's current curriculum for English teachers is indeed necessary.


In one research study, the researcher noted that the teaching approach of the English instructors must not be solely based on the curriculum but must be adaptable to their students' need (Tung 1996). This research was done in order to determine the effectiveness of English education within Taiwanese universities and colleges as well as provide suggestions to improve current techniques applied. Furthermore, the learning attitudes and opinions of the students on English education were also obtained. The process was carried out through the use of the social investigation methodology and survey questionnaire. The analysis of data was focused on the assessment of the teachers' teaching effectiveness.


The results of the research showed that both teachers and students believe that evaluating English language programs offered in universities and colleges is essential. The findings also showed that students are more concerned of what they will learn from their English classes than on the grades that they will receive. The researcher then concluded that the English teaching approaches for the Taiwanese students in the universities and colleges should be undergo modifications. Specifically, the teaching method and techniques used for teaching preparatory programs for English majors should prioritize the learning attitudes of the students. English teaching plans should also be flexible enough to ensure that learnings goals are achieved (Tung 1996).



            The curriculum for English teachers in Taiwan is characterized by the provision of English-learning materials, book-based learning and two-way bilingual education. These curriculum characteristics allowed future English teachers to learn the basics of the language as well as balance both Taiwanese and English cultures. However, certain deficiencies in the Taiwanese curriculum had been noted by various literatures. For instance, while using English-learning materials and the book-based approach for the preparatory programs of the English teachers may have been effective some ways, this had been the root of most curriculum deficiencies.


One of which is the development of what they termed as Taiwanese English; Due to the student teachers' lack of exposure to realistic English conversation, their communication skills are then affected, especially their pronunciation. Their lack of English-speaking experience also makes them less confident to use the language or adapt new language teaching practices. This deficiency is also related to the fact that the Taiwanese curriculum is more concentrated on reading and grammatical-translation analysis rather than on holistic English education. The lack of exposure of the Taiwanese English teachers also affect their attitude towards language issues as they tend to disregard them if clear explanations are not available. The dependence of the English majors on published materials also affects the efficacy of their education. In particular, depending on obsolete resources like classical English literature do not really enhance their skills. Although, learning classic English literature can help broaden their English reading and comprehension skills, learning the English form and structure adapted in these literatures may not be helpful in shaping the students' English-speaking abilities.


            In general, the Taiwanese curriculum for English teachers cannot be considered as fully effective due to its significant flaws. It is then essential that changes must be done in order to develop better English teachers in the country. In particular, their exposure to mainstream English communication should be increased; balance in the use of instructional materials and practical application of the language should be observed. Rather than focusing on the contents of the instructional materials, instructors should integrate interesting learning activities; these would help the student teachers to assimilate what they have learned from specific examples. The books and other instructional materials should also be updated. Finally, student teachers should be educated not only with the English basics but also with essential teaching attitudes such as flexibility, resourcefulness, determination and confidence.


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