Tue, Feb 12, 2008 - Page 3 News List

FEATURE: International students in Taiwan at an all-time high

By Ko Shu-ling  /  STAFF REPORTER


The number of international students in Taiwan has increased significantly in recent years, mostly because of a worldwide increase in Mandarin education and efforts by the Ministry of Education to attract students to Taiwan.

Statistics show that the number of foreign students in Taiwan hit a record-high 17,742 last year, 3,263 more than the previous year.

Of those, 5,259 people from 117 countries were pursuing degrees here. Students from Vietnam comprised the largest group, followed by those from Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and the US.

Jennie Wu (吳亞君), chief of the Research Division at the ministry's Bureau of International Cultural and Educational Relations, attributed the hike to the global thirst for Mandarin learning.

The reasons international students choose Taiwan over China vary from student to student, she said, but many come here because Taiwan is a freer society, people are friendlier and the teaching is more flexible.

A large number of international students have enrolled at National Taiwan University, National Chengchi University, National Taiwan Normal University and Ming Chuan University, she said.

Ayrat Sabirian is one of them. The 19-year-old Russian is a junior at Ming Chuan University's International College. He said that before arriving in Taiwan, government bureaucracy and red tape had been troublesome. Luckily for him, his father has a business partner in Taiwan who took care of the matter for him. The person, a Taiwanese, also serves as his guarantor.

The reason he chose Taiwan over China was political, Sabirian said.

"I appreciate Taiwan's full democracy and human rights," he said. "I never thought of going to China. For me, it is more of a place to visit."

Sabirian's older sister, who came before him and studied at the same college, also played a role in his decision, he said. She is pursuing a master's degree at Yuan Ze University in Jhongli (中壢) in Taoyuan County.

The Moscow native said he gets by with his self-taught Mandarin and has had no problems making friends. Had he more time, he said, he would have liked to enroll in a language training program.

Sabirian works part-time for a company that imports wine from Ukraine. He said he hoped his experience would help him become a better businessman.

With increasing global interest in China, Taiwan has become a center for Mandarin language education, said Ellen Chen (陳亦蘭), dean of the International College at Ming Chuan University.

"They come here to prepare themselves for working with the Chinese or in China," she said.

The surge in international students is also attributed to scholarship incentives provided by the Ministry of Education and extensive educational fairs organized to recruit students, she said.

Ming Chuan's International College boasts the second-largest population of international students in the country. Most of them are in the undergraduate program, Chen said.

In addition to pursuing degrees, statistics show that about 2,300 exchange students from 70 countries are studying in Taiwan, mostly from Japan, South Korea, the US, Germany and France.

As of December, 10,177 foreign students were enrolled at the 26 Mandarin language learning centers in Taiwan.

These students come mostly from Japan, the US, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam.

Tess Fang (方淑華), division chief of the Mandarin Training Center at National Taiwan Normal University, said that student enrollment at the center had grown steadily over the past eight years.

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