With the rapid development of the Internet and the trends of internationalization and globalization, English has become more and more important with time. As many countries around the world regard English education as important educational thrust, Taiwan, R.O.C. is keeping in line with mainstream international education trends as it endeavors to improve the overall competitiveness of the country and develop more outstanding researchers in academic disciplines with the hope that all its citizens can adapt to the trends of internationalization and globalization. Since 2001, English has become the core curriculum of the country’s elementary education. Our Department applied for, and received approval to establish the Master’s program in English instruction in response to the national policy of building up a deep-rooted foundation in English education from the elementary school. In response to the deep hope different sectors have regarding the English education of young children, we endeavor to improve the standard of research in English instruction in response to future trends and to cope with various demands. The primary reasons are elaborated as follows:
(1) Cultivate researchers in English instruction to consolidate the foundation of English education in the country
Since the implementation of the English education policy at the elementary school level, research into early English education has become more important. With much research on the theory and practice of English education leading to articles and on inspiring students’ interest in learning English, practicing communication education, and multiple assessments. Therefore, the method of English instruction has become more energetic and diverse as compared to traditional teaching methods which focus on grammar and translation. Likewise, the quality of English instruction has been significantly improved. Nevertheless, the innovations in teaching methods are an important facet in the revolution of education, and the basic research of English instruction is the foundation of the good starting education of English. However, regarding the essence of foreign language learning, the process and mechanism of foreign language acquisition inside and outside of the classroom, as well as the individual differences and difficulties young children and preschool children encounter in foreign language acquisition of are still in the early stages in Taiwan. As English education in Taiwan is taking root at the elementary education level, the period students take to learn English has been extended. It is essential to discover children’s difficulties in English learning and providing remedial education is deemed urgent. According to related literature, it is unlikely for new teaching methods and new teaching materials to increase young learners’ motivation in learning English. Likewise, it is important discover children’s learning difficulties in English from their internal mechanisms of language acquisition. As there is currently very little research in this area, the Department of English Instruction hence plans to integrate the faculty in language development and English instruction to establish the Master’s program which is aimed at cultivating more research talent in English instruction to cope with English education development in Taiwan. The research direction of our Master’s program shall not only meet the needs of the society, but also treat the innovation and revitalization of English teaching methods and teaching materials as an important goal. We also expect to consolidate the basic research of English instruction in Taiwan. From the perspective of language development, we aim to examine the mechanism and outcomes of foreign language learning. With English acquisition of Taiwanese children the as the fundamental subject, we would like to understand their difficulties in learning English to develop substantial ideas and methods in language teaching in the hope of promoting the quality of English teaching in Taiwan.
(2) Integrate research in related disciplines to provide guidance in the planning of foreign language teaching policies
The implementation of English instruction in elementary schools in Taiwan has brought tremendous impact to English education. Likewise, English teaching has prospered in kindergartens in Taiwan. Now, there are many self-claimed bi-lingual or English instructing kindergartens. In fact, there is a substantial growth in English instruction at preschools. However, there is very few research on the English instruction of preschool and young children and research institutes in this area of studies. Although related studies are seen in the disciplines of education, psychology, early childhood education, etc., there is an inability to integrate their research results. Now, in different counties and cities, English instruction starts in different grades. Although the theoretical foundation reflects the diverse viewpoints in different disciplines, it is necessary to consider the diversity of language education in overall planning, showing the necessity of integrating research in different disciplines. Considering the necessity of English education at the overall understanding level, we are enthusiastic to establish a Master’s program with overall understanding education of English as the core, with the hope of integrating language, culture, psychology, children’s development, education, and other disciplines. To cope with the revolution of English education in Taiwan, in addition to consolidating the foundation of English education in Taiwan, we can also offer references to the making of language education policies at home and abroad.
(3) Encourage life-long learning and provide opportunities for further research in English instruction
Through life-long learning, we aim to provide every person with the opportunity to receive education in different stages of his or her life. In a horizontal dimension, community college, academic conferences, the Internet, long-distance learning, and lectures sponsored by publishers, etc. are unofficial opportunities for education in English instruction. In the vertical dimension, college education and graduate education provide another more systematic and more profound channels of learning. It is also a direct channel to reserve senior researchers in English instruction. The implementation of English instruction in elementary education has attracted the attention of different sectors regarding overall education in English. At present, many English teachers and university graduates express the urge of further their studies in English instruction at the postgraduate level. Our department would like to meet the needs of these potential students and establish a Master’s program in English instruction. Encouraging in-service studies, we are enthusiastic in improving teachers’ the quality of English instruction. We would also like to endeavor in providing opportunities in further studies to people dedicated to English instruction, and collaborating with like-minded people to promote English education in Taiwan.
2. Goals of Establishment
(1) Cultivate research talent in English instruction and consolidate basic research in English instruction in Taiwan
(2.) Integrate related disciplines to cope with the needs of English education at the overall understanding stage
(3) Encourage life-long learning and provide opportunities of further studies in English instruction
3. Educational Objections
(1) Cultivate research talent in English instruction
(2) Endeavor to integrate academic research in English instruction and related disciplines
(3) Participate in academic communities at home and abroad to consolidate basic research in English instruction in Taiwan
4. Basic Literacy
(1) Respecting academic ethics and intelligent property rights
(2) Competency in effective communication
(3) Spirit in teamwork
(4) Competency in life-long learning and self-learning
(5) Competency in concerns for humanity and respecting of multiculturalism
(6) Respecting different research approaches and academic viewpoints
5. Core Competencies
(1) Competency in professional knowledge in English instruction and academic research
(2) Competency in writing academic papers
(3) Competency in logical thinking, independent judgment, and scientific research
(4) Professional abilities in English instruction and related disciplines and competence in working in various industries
The curriculum of the Master’s program is designed in reference to the curricula of the departments of English instruction and related disciplines at home and abroad. To cope with the national education policy, demands of society, and the unique needs of English instruction at elementary schools, with consideration of the association with the integrated curriculum at the undergraduate level, we augmented the scope and depth of our curriculum to cultivate students’ abilities in research and independent thinking. The courses cover the study of English teaching and process, language acquisition, developmental theory, the difficulties of learning foreign languages, coping strategies, teaching method, study of actual conditions, etc. In addition to regular and traditional theory of English instruction, we also emphasize on the study of the mechanism of learners’ internal language learning mechanism and individual differences. Integrating the theory of English instruction, classroom observations, and research with dual focus of qualitative and quantitative data, we hope to thoroughly understand the development of English and learning conditions of the children in Taiwan, as well as the relations between the strategies of teaching and learning. Considering the individual differences of language learners, we would like to develop English education appropriate to different conditions and individuals. Other than the theory and research methodology, our department emphasizes of the research on teaching practices and classroom conditions. In addition to internship and classroom observations, there is an affiliated elementary school of our university which provides opportunities for students to conduct practical training in teaching and classroom observation.
7. Development Direction and Focus
(1) Cultivate innovative research talent who are able and compete in the basic research in English instruction at the overall understanding level
(2) Promote advanced research in language acquisition, language psychology, English instruction, language culture, and related disciplines to further explore and deepen knowledge in English instruction
(3) Construct a basic database for English learning portfolio to speed up and promote the development of English education in Taiwan