Early English start for Taipei kids

AP, The Straits Times, 7 November 2000

TAIPEI—Bilingual kindergartens have mushroomed in Taiwan in the past few years as a result of a push to get children to begin studying English earlier than ever before.

More than half of Taipei's kindergartens—all of them private—are now bilingual, and English will become a required course next year at Taiwan's 2,500 elementary schools.

We want to raise the nation's competitiveness, and English proficiency is a key requirement, said Mr Peng Fu-yuan, an Education Ministry official.

Unlike us, these children will grow up to speak English as fluently as Singaporeans or Hongkong Chinese, said Mr Lee Wen-yung, who has a three-year-old daughter enrolled at one of the bilingual kindergartens.

Most Taiwanese cannot manage a simple English conversation with foreigners and many remain silent in classes or mingle only with Taiwanese when they study abroad.