Caribbean ally joins Taiwan’s Foreign English Teacher Program

The Taiwan government has expanded its Foreign English Teacher recruitment program to include for the first time St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG), one of its diplomatic allies in the Caribbean.

It is first time since the start of the government-sponsored Foreign English Teacher (FET) recruitment program in 2005 that it has been opened to another country outside a core group of six -- the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.

Under the Ministry of Education (MOE) project, certified teachers from those countries are recruited, in collaboration with local governments, to teach English at public schools in rural areas of Taiwan at the elementary and junior high level.

SVG, an English-speaking island country in the Eastern Caribbean, made a proactive effort to gain participation in the program and has been included this year on a trial basis after a comprehensive review of its teacher training and certification system, the MOE said.

"St. Vincent and the Grenadines has a rigorous teacher training program," an MOE official told CNA. "After a review, it was determined the country's training system was similar to Taiwan's," the official added.

The expansion of the FET to a seventh English-speaking country is also in keeping with the MOE's goal of developing "a more diverse learning environment for Taiwan students," the official said.

The first recruit from SVG, La Toya Williams, has already arrived in Taiwan and has completed a one-week orientation program in Taipei for some of the 80-plus teachers that the MOE sponsors each year in the FET program.

In September, Williams will begin a one-year contract, which will include a three-month probationary period, at Dahu Junior High School in Miaoli County.

Williams, 38, has more than 15 years' experience as a teacher and holds a teaching certificate from the SVG Teachers Training College, a bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Guadalajara in Mexico, and a master's degree in Technology Oriented Learning from the same university.

"Taiwan was not even on my radar," she told CNA. "I was informed about the FET program by a close friend who knows my passion for teaching and love for travel. I thought about it for only a few minutes before deciding to go for it."

Her selection to the FET program came after much discussion between SVG and Taiwan, which have had unbroken diplomatic relations for 35 years. "The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of St. Vincent and the Grenadines approached my embassy one day with an initiative to send teachers to teach English in Taiwan," Baushuan Ger, Taiwan's ambassador to SVG was quoted recently as saying in a report by SVG-based iWitness News.

"I am very happy that in Taipei, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Labor have all given very positive responses to my embassy's recommendation."

In its efforts to deepen its relations with Taiwan, the government of SVG is hoping that Williams' inclusion in the 2016 FET program is just the start of many such exchanges that could be beneficial to both countries, according to SVG Minister of Education St. Clair Prince.

"It serves as a token of our attempt to give back to a friend who has given so much to SVG, especially in the area of education," Prince said in an e-mail interview with CNA.

"It is hoped also that when Williams returns to the classroom in SVG, she'll be able to use some of the methodologies and experience gained in Taiwan."

Before Williams' gets to that stage, however she will be looking to draw on another aspect of her cosmopolitan experience. "Because of my own experience learning Spanish in Mexico as a second language, I think I'll be able to relate to the Taiwanese students in my classes," she said.

Williams will now join a small group of Vincentians who have secured legal teaching jobs in Taiwan over the years although not in the government's FET program.

Source: Overseas Community Affairs Council