Eighty eight percent of students feel intense pressure to learn English
The China Post

Carmen Russell;

According to a recent poll, a vast majority of students feel immense pressure to learn English.

The survey, organized by the People First Party caucus in the Taipei City Council, polled 1,180 fifth and sixth graders about their reasons for learning English. Eighty-eighty percent responded that they felt intense pressure to learn the language while 84 percent studied English at cram schools outside of their regular schoolwork.

Among those taking on additional English study at cram schools, 48 percent said that their parents forced their attendance. Only 27 percent said that it was of their own volition while another 24 percent were worried about falling behind the others.

"Out of twenty students that I have now, only one came voluntarily," said Lillian Chen who has taught English at a cram school for three years. "And he came because he was tired of getting poor grades. All the others were sent by their parents."

According to Peng Guo-neng, chair of the elementary school parent's association, parents aren't willing to let their children fall behind in the race. Many of them, he told the China Times Express, are even willing to let cram school teachers hit their children if it elicits good results. They want their children to go to strict teachers to learn. Chen agrees with Peng that parents are behind much of the pressure.

"A lot of parents complain to me and say I'm too nice, they ask me to be more strict. One grandmom even brought me a stick to hit her grandson."

"It's sad, but some of them need encouragement, some of them need pressure and some of them need to be beaten."

Chen clarified "beating" as "Not much, just like one strike on the hand."

"It's actually more for the threat of it," she explained

However, Chen says, that these parents do not truly reflect an overwhelming majority in her experience.

"There not all the same, some are more casual. They more like pass the responsibility to me. Once they send their kids to the cram school, they don't necessarily worry about teaching them English or watching their schoolwork. It's all my responsibility."

And there are still parents who want to let their children be... children.

"One mother said 'Oh, he's still young and he wants to have more time to play.' She was pretty cool about it."

According to the study, as the cram school craze is increasing, students are studying four or five years of English by the time they are in the fifth and sixth grades. While 96 percent can at least write their ABC's, the study revealed that there were still four percent who seemed to have no hope of even getting that far.

Hsinsheng Elementary school teacher Li Yi-min says that 90 percent of her students attend crams schools and some even study with tutors. She told the China Times Express that one student said she studied because "Mama says the cram school teacher will hit me." Comments such as this from students, Li says, bother many of the public school teachers to the point they "don't know whether to laugh or cry."

Even cram school teachers like Chen see the escalating push for the younger generation to learn English as being overdone.

"I do think it's too much for kids."

As for the 12-year-old whose grandmother asked Chen tohit?

"He couldn't even write A to Z when he first came," Chen said. "Now he's improving."

The survey was sent to 1,316 fifth and sixth graders at 48 grade schools in 12 districts. Of the 1,180 responds, 52 percent were boys while 48 percent were girls. Fifth-graders comprised 45 percent with sixth-graders made up 65 percent