Accounts of Working at the King Car English Village

I’ve been writing about the King Car Educational Foundation English Village. My most recent post on the place discussed the poor quality of reporting done by the BBC. In another post, I linked to a post on Talking Taiwanese containing a comment from a previous employee of King Car. I’ve also been able to locate the blogs of some of those working on the project. This is what they had to say.

The blog of Marlin Martin who is quoted in the BBC article states there are 30 people in his group of volunteers. This is in contrast with the 24 cited in the BBC article. I also found this blog entry of China News Agency article stating there are 34 volunteers in the organization. It’s been a little hard getting reliable information about the project, but then I’ve already discussed the quality of reporting on the project.

He writes,

My role as banker has not been one made of carboard. In our classroom we have two tellers’ counters, our own ATM, and current foreign exchange rates on display. You should see the students when they walk in. It’s great to show them the simple technique of making a withdrawal and filling out a deposit slip. Without enterpreters, no Chinese is allowed (Chinese is more commonly spoken than Taiwanese) and it’s great to see the students immersed, possibly for the first time, in a must-speak-English situation. They enjoy the experience and I don’t consider it a coincidence that I decided to bring my bank book and papers!

This entry from a different blog describes the day the press came.

Oh, and one more quick thing that I just remembered. We had the press in today! It was quite amazing. Morgan Sun (my boss) had told us that the press was coming on Thurs. (today), but I don’t think that any of us were quite prepared for what came in. It was like we were some amazing show! There were camera’s, video people, news managers, people in high positions throughout Taiwan, and more! But, even though we claimed not to be prepared, the press was really impressed. They were all over the place, taking pictures and interviewing people –

Glad to see the media is maintaining an objective distance from the project considering it’s relatively minor role in Taiwan language education.

This blog from a different teacher at the English Village has some interesting things to say about visas. Apparently the workers there are not issued work permits. In this post, he describes the difficulties faced by his inability to work for money.

I need to find some way to make more money. There have been some issues with money between King Car and the government, and we teachers are caught in the middle. According to my visa, I can’t get any jobs here in Taiwan, and we’re actually getting some sort of exception from the government to even teach at the English Village.

The blog goes on with later posts to discuss daily activities and show photos of the author’s work on the project and other teaching activities she’s doing.

Another blog contains more photos of the project and volunteers in the project. It also states there will be 20 volunteer teachers in the project.

One thing you’ll be quick to notice is that all of these bloggers view their work at the English Village as part of a Christian mission. As I have said many times, I have no problem with this. Nor do I think the Christian message that appears quite obvious in their work will make any difference at all to the Taiwanese they meet. And even if it did, being a Christian in Taiwan just doesn’t mean the same thing for politics, science, and education that it does in Kansas. The problems created by the English Village and the press it gets are quite different.

It appears that workers at the English Village, like those on other King Car English projects, are being paid only nominal amounts – if at all. The financial structure of the English Village is thus extremely distorted. In a typical commercial language enterprise, perhaps even before rent, wages are the largest cost. While it may be possible to find a few dozen people who will work for free, this is probably not a viable strategy for an education system. If this is true, the whole idea of an English Village the way that King Car is doing it is not a model for anything. It’s just a showroom for the good works of an organization that does charity work.

I may be wrong. Perhaps these missions are able and willing to provide thousands of volunteer workers year after year to staff schools and other pet projects. Perhaps King Car is willing to pay the administrative costs associated with such a project – year after year. I can even imagine that the MOE would do something crazy like this if they found they could get free foreign teachers from a Christian mission. After all, their own foreign teacher programs have failed miserably. I’m just not sure what this would do to English teaching in Taiwan. It would almost certainly distort the wage structure all out of control. With thousands of free English teachers in schools, it would drive down wages in commercial schools as low as they could go.

King Car seems determined to expand their empire of free foreign English teachers. I’m quite interested in seeing where they’ll take this. And if they take it as far as I imagine, I’m equally interested in seeing what a mess they can make of education in Taiwan.

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Comments

I’m glad you keep this issue “alive” Scott.

I assume – I hope I’m wrong, really – that Mr. Sun has more long-term, and few educational motives. If he, a businessman par excellence, is that intent on doing charity work, let him then also explain his motivation once and for all. And not just him saying in a press conference “This is great for Taiwan’s children” or “I went to South Korea and I saw something I liked, and I want to try in Taiwan”.

We have plenty of English university graduates who cannot find decent jobs. Why does Mr. Sun insist on importing fundamentalist Christian and often unqualified teachers? (sorry for my religious ‘beef’). I believe in charity work. I’ve done my share while living in Cape Town. But this, ‘charity’? Can Mr. Sun not support training our local English graduates to work in his ‘village’, for example? That would be the kind of charity most of us would understand.

Also Scott, the MOE allows some ‘village’ teachers to teach in mainstream schools for a few hours a week. Even if someone would not see any harm in these people coming out here to teach in the ‘village’, surely this should not happen? Unless those people have the right qualifications, of course (but I don’t know of any such requirements).

These are my assumptions. But these assumptions and the accompanying cynicism stem from non-transparent and plainly wrong educational practices. And as you say, let’s see where this is going. Only Mr. Sun and the MOE know.

Johan,
Mr. Sun was quoted in quite a few online Chinese articles that he is considering setting up a future co-op program with English Language Departments in Taiwan.

http://www.english.com.tw/modules/news/article.php?storyid=2299

http://www.cyberone.com.tw/ItemDetailPage/MainContent/05MediaContent.asp?MMMediaType=cti_customer&MMContentNoID=38226

Thanks for the links Julia!
So he did mention this – ten months ago to a journalist. Good I wasn’t waiting for his call I guess.

There were….people in high positions throughout Taiwan

Hahahahahahahahaha!

In your post you quoted a Marlin Martin blog post but there was no link, could you provide the link.
Thanks

Marlin Martin is a member of family whose blog I link to in the paragraph that mentions his name.

King Car is announcing plans to expand, according to a CNA article yesterday: Foundation looks to duplicate success of English Village nationwide.

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