Ming Chuan University

I get a lot of e-mail asking about teaching at Ming Chuan. I get so much of it that I can’t answer it all. Over the next few postings, I’m going to try to explain what my job is like, what kind of place Ming Chuan is to work for, and what kind of people the school wants.

I have been at MCU since September 2002. So far, I feel the school is a good employer. This doesn’t mean that a lot of stupid things don’t happen– they do. But it does mean that despite the terrible stories you heard floating around the Internet about teaching in Taiwan, there are places that offer quality employment with reasonable compensation.

At MCU, every undergraduate has to take 4 years of English. The English Language Center was set up several years ago to deal with this requirement. At that time, the school could handle all instruction with only a few teachers. But the schools has grown enormously since then, and now we have somewhere over 60 teachers in our unit.

The ELC is the equivalent of a department, but must be distinguished from the Department of Applied English (DAE). The DAE offers courses to English majors, such as literature. linguistics, etc. We offer a program called Practical English to non-English majors based on textbooks that we have produced ourselves. We also offer courses to advanced students who test into what is called ‘Honours English’. Or at least this is the plan, but in fact, it’s not that simple. Many of our teachers also teach DAE classes and some of their teachers also teach our courses. In the past, it was the policy that first-year instructors be fluent in Mandarin. Almost all the time, this meant that first-year classes were taught by local instructors. As a result, the most experienced first-year PE instructors are DAE instructors. If the DAE did not have enough teachers, they would ask the ELC to support them with extra teachers. The same was true for academic courses; if they can not find instructors for some of the courses they need to offer, they ask us to help. Keep in mind that all teachers contracted through the DAE have a PhD. The DAE teachers I have talked to about our first-year classes are extremely unhappy and claim the course is too simple and boring. On the other hand, our instructors generally get sent to teach the courses that their instructors do not want to teach. An example of this is Composition. Because teaching Composition involves a great deal of homework and marking, they have handed ALL their Sophomore Composition classes to our teachers. I teach one of these.

Last year, the system I described above changed dramatically. The DAE instructors without a PhD who had been teaching first-year PE were transferred to the ELC. I’m not sure how much change this made to their jobs. It undoubtedly caused some stress, but everything appears to have settled down since then. I have had the pleasure of working closely with a number of them, and found them to be not only highly competent, but also really nice people.

The second major responsibility of the ELC is to construct and administer a test of English ability to every undergraduate twice every term (that’s 4 times a year!). The school has something like 18,000 students. Complicating the problem is the fact that each level of the program needs a different test, and some levels may need a day school and night school version. That’s a lot of tests, and the coordination and handling of this sometimes results in a very complex arrangement.

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