Foreign ‘laoban’ branching out to Internet
By Trista di Genova
Special to The China Post
Many foreign teachers come and go in Taiwan, but some of them call this island home and contribute something substantive to the English-language learning environment here.
A good example of this is Ross Kenneger, who installed himself in Taiwan 10 years ago and has opened four successful elementary language schools in Neihu district.
Kenneger’s classes run like clockwork. Maps of world history and posters of verbs and adjectives line the walls, and are used constantly as points of historical, geographical and linguistic reference.
“Owners don’t even decorate a classroom properly. How are students supposed to learn?” he says.
When watching his class, it is remarkable to see students discussing advanced topics such as environmental awareness with eagerness and a high degree of full-sentence fluency.
“A teacher must have 100 percent of the students practice the dialogue 100 percent of the time,” he said in an interview this week. “And now I’m going to do a comedy show on how NOT to teach.”
“It’ll involve certain rules,” he explained, “like don’t watch the students, just read from
the book in your hand. Don’t repeat or practice what you teach. Don’t use the white board to illustrate concepts. Use grammar that the teacher doesn’t understand well enough to explain, dress poorly and watch the clock!” he laughed.
“It’s pathetic to watch a teacher teach when only 30 percent of the students are listening and even fewer speak for more than 30 seconds in a one-hour class. Time it,” he challenges.
So far, he has posted several English-teaching episodes on the Internet, called CEC teaching, subtitled in Chinese by his wife
Cecillia. Over 200 members have signed up for these shows.
He plans to film a pilot series with his students. Decrying the dearth of quality educational programming and method in Taiwan, he wants to fill that gap with “a television sitcom about a foreigner running an English school,” a bit like the 1975 U.S. sitcom “Welcome Back Kotter.”
Kenneger sees huge potential in
cracking the demand for learning English
online. He calculates that with a market of
50 million computer users in China who want to learn English, subscribers could log in every week to watch a show for NT$100 a month.
“And how many millions of dollars a month is that?” he asks.
Kenneger seems driven by a sense that “English education in Taiwan is a disgrace,” as he puts it. “School owners don’t speak English well enough. They use neither quality material, nor teaching tools. They don’t use a method of teaching. Most don’t have a B.A. They’re businessmen, not teachers, and can’t teach teachers how to teach; therefore children don’t learn.”
And the fact that Taiwan hasn’t standardized the English-teaching curriculum doesn’t help, he believes.
“Taiwan’s efforts to learn English need to be rationalized to be effective: one integrated program, and one dynamic method which use material designed for students in Taiwan, not for ESL students in America.”