Sun, Nov 04, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Educators call for better support for immigrants

CULTURAL INTEGRATION Experts stressed the need to help immigrant spouses adapt to life in Taiwan as they battle discrimination and struggle to raise their children

By Jenny W. Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Educators yesterday warned that lack of government support to help immigrant spouses gain vital skills to adapt to society could affect the well-being of their children and the nation's competitiveness.

Speaking at a forum on education and counseling opportunities for children of new immigrants, National Taipei University of Education president Chuang Chi-ming (莊淇銘) said that children of immigrants from China, Thailand, Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries have the advantage of coming from a diverse background and should be encouraged to learn their mother's tongue and be proud of their mixed heritage.

"These children [of foreign spouses] should be treated like assets instead of burdens," he said.

Statistics from the Ministry of the Interior shows that three out of seven kids in Taiwan now were born to a foreign mother, and that by 2010, children of foreign spouses would make up 10 percent of the student population.

Many children of recent immigrants excel academically, but suffer emotionally because they are ostracized by their peers because of their mixed heritage, a participant said.

Some children are even ashamed to admit their mothers are foreigners, National Taiwan Normal University professor Wen Ming-li (溫明麗) said.

Wen said teachers have the obligation to help children integrate into Taiwanese culture without compromising their own, adding that they could do this by constructing a curriculum that instills a global perspective in children.

Teachers should also help local students develop a broader cultural view that teaches them to be more accepting of people who may be different from them.

National Taipei University of Education associate professor Chang Fang-chuan (張芳全) questioned whether language classes offered to immigrant spouses were sufficient to help them teach their children.

"Mandarin proficiency is not enough. The government should hold classes to help foreign spouses adapt to Taiwanese culture," Chang said.

"They should also be taught how to educate their children about their own culture," he said.

Some forum participants said that the language requirement for foreign spouses to obtain a Taiwanese identification card was too easy and counterproductive.

The law requires foreign spouses to attend 72 hours of Mandarin classes before taking a citizenship test.

"How can anyone gain a basic command of Mandarin after only 72 hours of classes?" another participant said. "If the government sets the standard a little higher, such as raising the requirement to 720 hours, then these foreign spouses will have an easier time finding a job and communicating with others after finishing the course."

Some forum participants said many foreign spouses wanted to attend more than 72 hours of Chinese language, but their Taiwanese husbands refused to let them go.

If the government were to raise the requirement, then these women would have a legitimate reason to attend more classes, they said.

Chang warned, however, that increasing the number of language class hours would only help some people.

A large percentage of mixed marriages involves lower-income families, and many of these immigrant wives need identification cards fast to find employment, he said.

AlSo see EDITORIAL: Leveling the migrant playing field

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