Sunday, February 22, 2015

The decline of English departments

English used to be the top choice of major for college-bound Taiwanese high school seniors for a simple reason. English-majors were advantageous of getting a good job. When graduating, they could either work as English secretaries for numerous foreign invested corporations or as English teachers in different levels of public or private schools.

The need therefore induced the supply. 127 out of 161 universities on this island had English departments. Unfortunately the good times did not last long.

It was typical domino effect. Sustaining low birth rate saw the decreasing need for English teachers, so the students were hesitant to choose English as their college major out of consideration for their future job. As the English departments could not recruit enough students, some were forced to shut down and others tried hard to survive.

Low birth rate, however, is not the only trouble that English departments are facing.

For years Taiwan’s unfriendly cross-strait policy has driven a great number of foreign investors to pack up and move their Asia-Pacific headquarters to mainland China. Their move subsequently ridded English majors of their job opportunities. The remaining English departments found themselves harder to survive.  

The Ministry of Education reiterated its laissez-faire stance toward whether any higher education institutions let their English departments or graduate schools continue to exist. The MOE must have thought that English teachers of English departments will not lose their job because English is after all a required subject for all majors in all colleges. The English teachers can always go back to teach freshman or sophomore English without any problems.

The decline of English departments may not be entirely a bad thing. Each school can take this chance to re-examine its English department, to reconsider its course arrangement and its future development, so that the department may become stronger to meet future challenges. 

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