According to one of the stories on this, the Taipei City Government’s Department of Education did a study comparing the amount of time sixth-graders spent on Mandarin classes in several countries. In Taiwan the figure is between 80 and 133 hours. In China the figure is 172 hours. And in Singapore the number is between 80 and 200 hours. As a percentage of the population, however, I would expect Taiwan to have the highest number of fluent or native speakers of Mandarin. On the other hand, Chinese characters are difficult for everyone.
Ma’s call is probably aimed not just at boosting Mandarin but at edging out the teaching of Taiwanese and Hakka (which may not be able to be reduced without eliminating their teaching altogether). This also sounds like another move to increase the amount of Literary Sinitic (Classical Chinese) in the classroom, which would certainly be a move in the wrong direction.
I suspect, though, that calls from parents, who often place more value on English than on other courses, will put an end to this. And anyway, in Taiwan it’s the central government that sets educational policy.
- Ma wants more Mandarin, Taipei Times, April 13, 2006
- Tíshēng Guóyǔ wén nénglì — [Tai]běi Shì nǐ tíshēng Guóyǔ wénjiào xuéshí shuò (提升國語文能力 北市擬提升國語文教學時數), CNA, April 10, 2006