Sat, Sep 08, 2018 - Page 4 News List

ASEAN students focus of event

CHINESE TALENT:Premier William Lai said that the number of students from ASEAN nations saw an annual increase of 10 percent last year due to government incentives

By Joseph Yeh  /  CNA

Premier William Lai, second row second left, poses with principals from ASEAN member states at an ASEAN Chinese language school principals’ meeting in Taipei on Aug. 20.

Photo: Huang Yao-cheng, Taipei Times

On a hot summer day, more than 100 school principals from ASEAN member states gathered in a conference room in downtown Taipei to attend the first-ever ASEAN Chinese language school principals’ meeting from Aug. 20 to Aug. 22.

Organized by the Overseas Community Affairs Council, the agency in charge of liaising with ethnic Chinese communities abroad, the three-day event hosted 108 principals or top managers from seven nations — Thailand, Myanmar, Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines and Cambodia.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Premier William Lai (賴清德) said that the meeting sought to give participants a more in-depth understanding of government efforts in the cultural and educational exchange side of its New Southbound Policy targeting the 10 ASEAN members, as well as India, Bagladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, Australia and New Zealand.

Lai said the New Southbound Policy, initiated after President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016, has had success in improving links between Taiwan and ASEAN countries.

Tourism and trade exchanges aside, Lai said the number of students from ASEAN countries studying in Taiwan last year increased by 10 percent from a year earlier.

The number has seen a significant hike due to government incentives, including more scholarships targeting ASEAN students, he added.

According Ministry of Education statistics, more than 117,970 foreign students attended Taiwanese universities and colleges last year, or about 9 percent of university and college students. Of those, 35,460 came from ASEAN countries, or about 30 percent.

Overseas ethnic Chinese students — mainly from Hong Kong, Macau, as well as Malaysia and other ASEAN members — were another major source of international students last year, totaling 25,290, or 21.4 percent of foreign students, the ministry’s data showed.

The majority of foreign students who study in Taiwan tend to be ethnic Chinese or have some connection to Taiwan, and many of them come from ASEAN countries, the council said.

Another reason ASEAN members are a major source of international students is because the council has long forged close ties with overseas Chinese-language schools in the region, it said.

At the beginning of this year, 2,318 overseas Chinese-language schools were working closely with the government, with 73.7 percent in Asia, the council said.

Despite its limited budget, the council has for decades trained Chinese-language instructors and donated teaching materials to privately funded schools.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the principals’ meeting, Wang Shao-chang (王紹章), head of Sacred Heart Middle School in Mea-ai, northern Thailand, said Taiwan’s high-quality education environment is extremely attractive to his students.

Wang, who is also president of the Chiang Rai area Chinese-language teachers’ association, said another reason is that most third-generation ethnic Chinese in northern Thailand are decedants of Republic of China military personnel who ended up there at the end of World War II.

Lashio Holy Light Chinese Language School deputy principal Lee Ming-chang (李明昌) from Myanmar said that about 20 to 25 percent of his high-school graduates choose to pursue further studies overseas, and for most of them, Taiwan is their No. 1 choice.

However, the decades-long educational exchanges between Taiwan and Chinese-language schools in ASEAN have faced a new challenge in recent years.

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