The Ministry of Education is seeking to increase the number of foreign students in Taiwan by 30,000 by 2019 under the government’s “new southbound policy,” Minister of Education Pan Wen-chung (潘文忠) said.
The ministry has allocated NT$1 billion (US$31.77 million) to work toward three “new southbound policy” goals, Pan said at an Education and Culture Committee policy meeting.
The ministry has set aside NT$770 million to further train people who specialize in trade management and have a comprehensive understanding of Southeast Asian and South Asian cultures and languages, he said.
Taipei would also be used to attract students in the region to Taiwan to pursue higher education or professional education, and to learn Mandarin, he said.
The ministry has allotted NT$61 million for bilateral exchanges on culture and sports, he said.
It has allocated NT$160 million for the “Taiwanese link” initiative and to help higher-education institutions enter into an alliance of academic exchanges.
The initiative aims to deepen the nation’s ties with ASEAN member states and India through the help of ASEAN or Indian organizations or residents who graduated from a Taiwanese institution.
The ministry would help local universities identify students’ needs in the target regions, so that they can design curricula aimed at fostering actual talent rather than working just to meet recruitment goals, Pan said.
The ministry aims to boost the number of foreign students from 28,000 to 58,000 in 2019, Pan said.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chung Chia-pin (鍾佳濱) urged the ministry to devise job placement programs for foreign students, as other nations have done for Taiwanese studying and working overseas.
The ministry must not allow foreign students do the same work as “caretakers” or stay in dormitories, but it should help them gain useful work experience in Taiwan, he said.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) said that society is not treating “new residents” with due respect, which can be proved by many new residents opting to educate their children in Mandarin and refraining from teaching their children to learn their mother tongue.
Conversely, the children of Japanese or English-speaking parents tend to speak Japanese and English.
This shows that ethnic Taiwanese tacitly discriminate against new residents and highlights a lack of understanding of new residents, she said.
She said that almost all new residents know Mandarin, but very few ethnic Taiwanese know a Southeastern or South Asian language.
She said the ministry has earmarked a large budget to send Taiwanese students abroad to learn Southeast or South Asian languages, but the problem can be effectively ameliorated by helping new residents gain respect and by promoting their cultures, thus increasing people’s willingness to learn their languages.
Overseas Community Affairs Council Deputy Minister Tien Chiu-chin (田秋堇) said the nation has progressed on its efforts to promote Mandarin education in Myanmar.
Burmese authorities were very sensitive about Mandarin teaching materials printed in Taiwan, Tien said.
However, Burmese society has become more liberal and the first batch of Taiwan-made Mandarin textbooks is scheduled to be adopted by the Burmese government next year, she said.
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