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Bilingual Education Policy in Taiwan

One important role of a country’s education system is to ensure that its students can compete favorably in the international job market. To achieve this, the education system must emphasize the topics of relevance like technology, management, ethics and above all languages which act as the tool of communication that can enlarge an individual’s sphere of communication. Similarly, Taiwan has been among the countries that have put this into consideration. This is exhibited by their decision to come up with a language policy that introduced English which was perceived to be an international language for business.

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On the other hand, adoption of a foreign language can negatively impact the national identity of the language. As a result, Taiwan decided to implement, within its program the local language learning so that it could maintain the national identity. These two intentions led to the formation of the language policy that included the English Language Learning (ELL) and the Local Language Policy (LL).

Despite this, disparities have been witnessed in the outcomes of the two policies. This has been attributed to implementation hurdles. Studies have pointed out that the Implementation of the English Language Policy was comparatively better as a result of availability of resources and good planning. However, the Local languages were characterized by poor outcomes due to poor implementation, lack of resources and poor planning. In addition, one of the greatest tools for the implementation of a policy was sidelined. These were the parents. Studies have shown that parental attitudes played a champion role in the poor outcomes of the policies. Studies therefore point out that good planning and involvement of all key stakeholders in policy planning and implementation are a prerequisite to success.

To start with, this paper will make an exploration of the literature that has been written concerning the topic. It will identify the several contributions of the towards the mentioned research questions and critically analyze their relevance to the topic. The paper will then make a conclusive summary of the arguments pointed in the various studies pointed out within the literature.


From the different perspectives, it is evident that Taiwan, just like any other country that engages in a language policy implementation, has been faced with daunting tasks to ensure that its targets are achieved. Unfortunately, what is pointed out is a failed planning and implementation. To begin with, the policy formulators failed to put into consideration all the dimensions of the theory of language planning (Kloter, n.d, p.1). What the Taiwanese government focused on was the orthographic standardization of the languages involved but they forgot to ensure a good standardization of the phonological and grammatical aspects of the languages in question. In addition, the program did not also put into consideration other dimensions like status planning which is an essential part of language policy planning and implementation.

These do not mark the only weaknesses of the policy in Taiwan. Several other weaknesses were identified in the program. Language policy planning and implementation can be difficult for a multicultural and multilingual community (Wei, 2006, p. 90; Chen, 2006, p.89). These studies have pointed out that without a good plan and implementation, this could result in division and competition rather than unification and identity. The policymakers are therefore urged to ensure that they employ very neutral methods when engaged in language elevation or abolishment. This is because the language plays an important role in the image identification of a people as a whole.

The program also met with other challenges like the lack of resources, inadequate time, attitudes from key players like government, teachers, students and parents were all cited as impediments during the implementation and planning of the policy (Su, 2006, p. 270; Oladejo, 2006, p. 4; Kloter, n.d, 54). This has pointed out that for a successful program implementation, the key stakeholders must be put into consideration for any form of success to be witnessed. Without this, parent’s and student’s attitudes towards the local languages could implicate negatively their decisions to learn these languages. In addition, teachers’ attitudes towards English and the local languages could lead to their decisions to teach or not teach these subjects. This could be attributed to the lack of English teachers during the implementation of English language policy in Taiwan.

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However, the different governmental approach towards language in Taiwan has greatly implicated the country’s linguistic hierarchy. The government’s decision to ban the use of local languages during the KMT government and later the reintroduction of these languages back into the curriculum has had great impacts on Taiwan. While the move could be attributed to the need for self-identification and validation, it is evident that the move is slowly leading to a language shift with many urban dwellers switching from Tai-Gi to Mandarin (Liang and Sandel, 2006, p. 129).However Language shift can have great implications on the country. Apart from the symbolic representations which lead to the identification of the people, the language also acts to further social, economic and political interest (Scott and Tiun, 2006)

Despite these drawbacks, the mentioned challenges must be addressed squarely. This is attributed to the importance of language to the nation as a whole. To begin with, language serves as a tool for national identification. In addition, these languages could be used to advance political, social and economic interests (Hsiau, 1997, p. 23). Therefore, it is important that this language planning in Taiwan is implemented in a more professional way that will help reduce the mentioned drawbacks.


In conclusion, it is evident that Taiwan’s language policy was a good plan that would have benefited the people of Taiwan greatly. This is in terms of the linguistic capital, self-identity as a nation and togetherness and democracy of the citizens. However, the process of planning and implementing this program can never at any point be easy. The policymakers must actively involve the parents, students, schools and even local government. The attitude of teachers or parents can impede the process of policy implementation. In addition, policy formulators must underscore the importance of identifying the different dialects of a local language and fairly and in a neutral way coming up with the language that would be elevated. Standardization should take place holistically. This means that the different aspects of the language including its phonetic characteristics, grammatical and lexical structure must be put into consideration because without this, no unity can be achieved. In addition to this, the theory of language planning dictates that status planning must be considered great because, without this, no standardization can be achieved. Policymakers must observe these specified impediments so that they come up with better program structures for both duration and implementation. Without this, the policy will be termed a failure.

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