, TAIPEI, May 17 – Learning English is an obsession in Taiwan, but a plan to boost instruction in the language for elementary school students has triggered an unusual response — outrage.
Taipei county wants to add two English classes to the weekly schedule from September, thus doubling or in some cases tripling the pupils\’ exposure to the language, but teachers, students and their parents are not happy.
"Kids should have time to enjoy their a childhood," said Su You-liang, a teacher at Ta Kuan Elementary School in Panchiao city.
On Sunday, thousands of children and grown-ups took to the streets of Taipei, urging the county government to scrap what they called an "illegal plan".
The two additional English classes are supposed to help local school children catch up with their counterparts in Singapore and Hong Kong, education officials said.
The export-dependent island has long had a love affair with the English language, seeing proficiency as a prerequisite for success, with President Ma Ying-jeou routinely doing interviews with foreign reporters in the language.
Many Taiwanese complain that the English instruction they receive at school is insufficient, and a plethora of private schools specialising in the language have evolved across the island.