Which is preferable: to fail to learn English or to successfully learn Esperanto?
There seems to be a consensus on this forum that the success rate in English-language learning in China (as in Quebec, Nunavut, and many other jurisdictions worldwide) is dismal, with disagreement on the reason. Some say the main reason is insufficient teacher education. Others say it has to do with a cultural aversion to putting so much effort in a second language, preferring instead to invest that time and money in maths, engineering, and precise sciences (or even Chinese as a second language itself among China's ethnic minorities). Yet others say it comes down to English itself: its chaotic orthography, the multiple exceptions to its rules of grammar, too many homonyms and homophones, its excessive dialect variations, and its lack of grammatical precision compared to many other languages.
I imagine that most would agree that, whatever the reason, there is no quick fix. If the problem really is teacher competence, it would take decades and much financial investment in a country with China's population to raise teacher competence adequately country-wide (especially given the difficulties inherent in the English language), and continued investment to maintain it, money rich families might have but China as a country does not. If the problem is a cultural aversion, this too would likely require decades of public education campaigns to get students to value English as much as maths, science, and engineering (or Chinese as a second language itself among China's ethnic minorities), with no guarantee of success.
If the problem is with the English language itself, given its ethnic roots, it won't be possible to reform the language without the collaboration of its native-speaking countries, which is not likely. Native English intellectuals have been trying to reform English spelling with little to no success since at least Milton's time, Milton himself being in its favour.
It would seem to me therefore that we are left with at least three options:
1. Maintain the status quo of incompetent teachers in public schools and a dismal overall rate of success leaving most graduates feeling like it was all a waste of time and money, and teachers with low morale.
2. Increase and then maintain funding for teacher training and for dyslexic and other learners with special needs, possibly through a tax increase, government borrowing, or through shifting government spending priorities, whether from environmental management or other critical funding priorities (any such decision being outside the control of the ordinary parent, teacher, or learner).
3. Given that studies have consistently shown Esperanto be be grammatically at least as precise as French and from five to ten times easier to learn than English (due to a strictly phonetic spelling, no exceptions to the rules, no redundant rules, a comparative lack of homonyms and homophones, and minimal dialectal variation of neologisms between regions which itself tends to disappear over time), grant each school the freedom to teach, and each student the freedom to be tested in, Esperanto (and possibly other comparatively easy languages) as (an) alternative(s) to English to fulfil compulsory education requirements, while still allowing university faculties to require English where appropriate, bearing in mind that not everyone can attend university now anyway, many opting for trades or professional schools instead. This would save time and money not only in teaching students, but teachers too, which would be particularly applicable to poorer families. Many teachers and students would be able to learn it to fluency from a self-instruction book and a dictionary (both of which could quickly be mass-produced), and a study circle with friends (which could also be quickly established as needed), which is seldom possible with English except among the most gifted or devoted. It would also ensure that those who do not have the opportunity to go on to university could still reach fluency in a second language before the end of their compulsory education, which they could all use to develop international friendships (especially in this internet age, and especially with Hungary and other jurisdictions that already officially recognize Esperanto as fulfilling compulsory second-language education requirements), and some in business. Another advantage with Esperanto is the lack of an idea of an ethnic native accent, which would significantly reduce the perceived need for a native English teacher (which equates to a white teacher in many parents' minds).
This last option could serve either as a temporary measure lasting a few decades until success rates in English are finally raised to decent levels, or as a permanent policy, based on the idea that however useful English may be to those who can learn it, it is useless to those who can't. Other languages that are reputed for their comparative ease of learning are Turkish and Indonesian (for similar reasons as Esperanro).
Five legitimate rationales in favour of English over Esperanto, at least for those who possess the necessary aptitude and resources to learn it, are that:
a. quantitatively, multiple more volumes of literature have been published in English than in Esperanto,
b. qualitatively, while an Esperanto publication has won one nomination for a Nobel Prize for literature, a number of English authors have won the prize itself, not to mention the great works published in English prior to its existence (for those who can read and understand archaic and classical English of course),
c. few ministries of education officially recognize Esperanto as fulfilling the second-language requirement for graduation from compulsory education and none make it compulsory, while English is recognized in all jurisdictions and is compulsory in some,
d. though Esperanto is provenly quite capable of poetic expression, English possesses a much richer vocabulary of homonyms and homophones than Esperanto does, giving it an advantage as a poetic language,
e. English is the dominant language in international aeronautical and maritime radio communication with some exceptions, with Esperanto being excluded from the exceptions,
f. though some employers require a knowledge of Esperanto (e.g. China Radio International and public schools in some jurisdictions, especially in Eastern European ones), and some businesses function in it (e.g. some publishers, exporters, importers, and tourism companies), they are multiple times outnumbered by English ones, and
g. many UN institutions, former colonies (usually at the expense of the local indigenous languages, sometimes through deliberate policies of cultural genocide such as through Canada's former residential school system that ended only in the 1990's), and NGO's recognize English as official, whereas only a few NGO's recognize Esperanto as such.
For this reason, the ministry of education ought to continue to officially recognize English as fulfilling the second-language requirement for compulsory education for schools that choose to teach it and students that choose to be tested in it.
Though both UNESCO and the Hungarian Academy of Sciences have confirmed that Esperanto is a language and cultural heritage like any other, and the Polish government has already officially recognized Esperanto as a part of Poland's intangible cultural heritage, one problem with the third option is linguistic prejudice: Some perceive ease of learning as making a language inferior while others tend to hold prejudices against planned languages (which might also explain opposition among the uneducated English masses to English spelling reform in spite of support from Milton, Tennyson, and other English intellectuals to today).
Of course there may be other options that I have overlooked, but at least among the three options that I can see, the first is a waste of time and money for probably around 96% of students, and the second would require a significant increase in government expenditure (which rests outside the control of either students, parents, or teachers), whereas the third (though it too would likely need decades to be fully accomplished), could be achieved with little to no increase in government expenditure and achieve close to a 100% success rate before the end of a student's compulsory education rather than only after the successful completion of one's university education for those who are so privileged.
A fourth option would be to make learning English optional in compulsory education (while not recognizing any other language), raise teacher qualifications, and give first priority to students with a proven aptitude for learning the mother tongue wherever student demand might outstrip the supply of competent teachers. While this policy would undoubtedly improve efficiency and raise the rate of success among those who do learn a second language, it would do nothing to raise overall rates of bilingualism and would maintain access to foreign friendships and knowledge as the purview of the privileged few as is now the case.