The Ministry of Education (MOE) is reportedly drafting a four-year, NT$500 million (US$16.8 million) plan to recruit African undergraduate and graduate students, to help train the kind of professionals needed to work in priority industries in which Taiwan plays a leading role.
Reports of the plan, which surfaced a week ago, cited sources who talked about establishing dual-degree programs between Taiwanese and African universities, saying that some local schools had already started recruiting in Africa.
It sounded like another admirable effort to expand Taiwan’s soft power, harnessing one of the nation’s strengths — its tertiary institutions — with one of its weaknesses, a shortage of students.
However, another story was published just a few days earlier about the alleged exploitation of foreign students through work-study “internships.” It involved Swazi students enrolled at Mingdao University and questions about donations paid to the school by companies employing the student interns.
It turned out that the ministry had been forced to intervene in late November 2018 after it learned of media reports in Eswatini about how the business administration students at Mingdao were working 40 hours per week skinning chickens at a Changhua County factory in return for tuition and accommodation. The ministry ordered the school to cancel the work contracts and help the students return to a full-time class schedule.
The ministry was already well aware that the recruitment of foreign students from New Southbound Policy nations and others was open to abuse, as earlier that November it had reprimanded the University of Kang Ning over its recruitment of Sri Lankan high-school graduates who ended up working illegally at underground factories and slaughterhouses in Taipei and Tainan.
At the time, the ministry said the Kang Ning case was an isolated incident, which it clearly was not, as more complaints have been raised since then about internship programs at other schools.
The ministry in July last year said it would supervise enrollment of foreign students to ensure that labor brokers are not involved and the schools are not advertising that students could work to pay off the cost of their schooling and that documentation and enrollment materials are available in Chinese, English and the official language of the country where students are being recruited.
Among other steps, it also encouraged students to call the Network for International Student Advisors hotline if they encountered problems.
The MOE is following the reactive, rather than proactive, route that the Fisheries Agency has been using to supervise the recruitment and treatment of foreign fishers aboard Taiwan’s deepwater fleet — with equally dismal results for the nation’s image.
Higher education and deep-sea fishing appear worlds apart, but in both cases there are Taiwanese institutions — schools and fisheries — in need of, or perhaps desperate for, people eager for the opportunity to provide for themselves and their families, and there are people who want to take advantage.
It is not enough to rest on laws and regulations and hope that everyone will follow the rules, especially when there has been direct evidence that too many do not.
The MOE must take more aggressive steps to protect students who move far from home and their families to study, and to protect Taiwan’s reputation.
All the positive media coverage of this nation’s democracy, of the government’s success in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and its efforts to provide masks and other medical equipment to those in need can be tarnished by news reports in students’ home countries of abuse allegations and broken promises.
Education ministry officials appear in need of some remedial education.
Chinese strongman Xi Jinping (習近平) hasn’t had a very good spring, either economically or politically. Not that long ago, he seemed to be riding high. The PRC economy had been on a long winning streak of more than six percent annual growth, catapulting the world’s most populous nation into the second-largest power, behind only the United States. Hundreds of millions had been brought out of poverty. Beijing’s military too had emerged as the most powerful in Asia, lagging only behind the US, the long-time leader on the global stage. One can attribute much of the recent downturn to the international economic
Asked whether he declined to impose sanctions against China, US President Donald Trump said: “Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal... [W]hen you’re in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we’ve done a lot.” It was not a proud moment for Trump or the US. Yet, just three days later, John Bolton’s replacement as director of the National Security Council, Robert O’Brien, delivered a powerful indictment of the Chinese communist government and criticized prior administrations’ “passivity” in the face of Beijing’s contraventions of international law
In an opinion piece, Chang Jui-chuan (張睿銓) suggested that Taiwan focus its efforts not on making citizens “bilingual,” but on building a robust translation industry, as Japan has done (“The social cost of English education,” June 29, page 6). Although Chang makes some good points — Taiwan could certainly improve its translation capabilities — the nation needs a different sort of pivot: from bilingualism to multilingualism. There are reasons why Japan might not be the most suitable role model for the nation’s language policy. Bluntly put, Japan’s status in the world is unquestioned. The same cannot be said of Taiwan. Many confuse