In year 2000, the pioneering, innovative and courageous brains behind the experimental bilingual program at Yu-Tsai implemented what was the first of its kind in the nation. It was a vision born out of the need to meet the challenges of our times a bilingual education that was, and still is, uniquely tailored to the aspirations and reality of the local residents of Greater Taipei. Years of rich bilingual teaching experience, propelled by half a century of educating elementary-aged pupils, the bilingual program at Yu-Tsai is not only growing stronger but has become more relevant than ever in a new century in which all eyes seem to be focused outward and globalization has become a key concept.
In spite of the success of the bilingual program, the school is not sitting on its laurels, but is constantly innovating, keeping abreast with the most recent pedagogical researches to stay relevant and proactive. The current bilingual program curriculum is a real integration of all the components of English instruction, i.e. oral, listening, reading and writing, using informational content of interest and relevance to the learner. "Real integration" of these various language competencies is achieved when language is taught through contextualized use rather than on fragmented examples of correct sentence usage. Content material is incorporated into language classes. The language and material used are modified in order to provide for comprehensible input to second language students. This is referred to as language-sensitive content instruction. While our foreign teachers have exerted much time and effort at integrating these components, the materials and resources must support this initiative to be truly effective.
The curriculum of the bilingual program has developed into one that is skill-focused. The students achieve mastery of skills through various means in the classroom, such as group work, hands-on activities, use of demonstration, realia or visual displays, music, video or slides, just to name a few. When we target the basic literacy skills, we are giving our students ladders to be able to scale new heights. These ladders are what we have always tried to focus on from the beginning. It is an undeniable fact that without the basic skills of listening, oral, reading and writing, a student cannot progress to the next level of learning. A continuum of basic concepts and skills that must be acquired from first to sixth grade has been defined and has given structure to the curriculum. Benchmarks on every grade are being established so that we know what specific skills we are measuring. If there are benchmarks, there must be assessments to inform us if the students have mastered the grade level skills expected. To help our students become successful, we should focus more on formative assessments. Formative assessment allows a teacher to evaluate their students during the learning cycle, not just at the end of the grading period or semester.
This is the type of assessment Yu-Tsai is concerned with. The goal of formative assessment is to shape instruction. A teacher changes teaching strategies or make decisions based on the results of formative assessments. The learners take center stage as the pace and capability of every student is taken into account. And because no two children are alike, we are moving from one-size-fits-all instruction to an approach called differentiated instruction. Teachers differentiate among the different abilities in the classroom. We differentiate by learning style, product that we expect from each student, process that we employ to teach a particular concept, etc. Differentiating instruction is therefore crucial in an integrated, skill-focused classroom. Teaching is not textbook-driven where each page must be finished because the parents expected it. Teaching is not based on what is convenient or comfortable for the teacher. In our curriculum, teaching is all about the individual learner.
Just as Yu-Tsai began with a vision for its students, the curriculum works towards making that vision a reality. We build on our past experiences and on what we have as we move on to many more fifty years of educating the future leaders of this country.
By Lolit Carranza-Chen •雙語部課程組長 陳蘿莉老師