INCLUSIVITY: A deputy education minister said that classes in the seven languages would familiarize all students with the concept of a multicultural society
By Rachel Lin and Jake Chung / Staff reporter, with staff writer
Teachers and materials in seven Southeast Asian languages are to be provided for students nationwide, demonstrating that Taiwan is a multicultural and multiethnic nation, the Ministry of Education said yesterday.
It is an “important day in history” that sets a new milestone for the nation’s education policy, Deputy Minister of Education Fan Sun-lu （范巽綠） told a news conference.
There are to be a total of 126 books in Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Malay and Filipino, with 2,328 people certified to teach the courses, Fan said.
Giving students an opportunity to learn Southeast Asian languages will familiarize them with the concept of a multilingual, multiethnic and multicultural society, she added.
Starting in August, when the next semester begins, there is to be one period of a mandatory Southeast Asian language course in elementary schools each week, an optional course based on whether there are enough interested students for a “flexible education” period in junior-high schools and an optional course in senior-high schools, K-12 Education Administration Director-General Peng Fu-yuan （彭富源） said.
Taiwan is the first nation to incorporate multiple Southeast Asian languages into official curricula and develop official textbooks for them, he said.
The textbooks would be the same nationwide and also include cultural knowledge, such as why some people wear hijabs and the significance of the adab gesture when greeting others, said Ting An-ni （丁安妮）, an Indonesian-language teacher at Beixin Elementary School in New Taipei City.
Huang Pao-yun （黃寶雲）, Beixin Elementary School’s Malaysian-language teacher, said she was proud that the languages of foreign spouses are now included as official courses, adding that she felt truly accepted by the Taiwanese government and people.
New Taipei City Department of Education Director Chang Ming-wen （張明文） said that the city participated in the drafting of Southeast Asian language textbooks in 2016 and has held trial courses since 2017.
The New Taipei City Government has prepared several ancillary measures to support the policy, Chang said, adding that it has endeavored to make the wording of the materials as genuine as possible.
The K-12 Education Administration, National Central University and the Institute for Information Industry have also collaborated on creating digital content for Southeast Asian language education, Peng said.
The project aims to overcome the constraints of distance and lack of educational resources in rural areas to allow schoolchildren to learn the languages in real time, he said.
Deputy Minister of Education Fan Sun-lu, back center, and guests attend a news conference in Taipei yesterday as the ministry announces the inclusion of seven Southeast Asian languages into primary and secondary-school courses starting next semester. Photo: Rachel Lin, Taipei Times