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Cultivating Taiwan’s Educational Links of Cooperation within Southeast Asia

When the term “global village” first appeared in 1960s, the concept of globalization had impact on the world’s operation. Globalization refers to a process in which boundaries between countries are blurring. International dynamics expands like ripples that affect each other. Recently, driven by globalization waves, Taiwan’s higher education has transformed. As the “Aim for the Top University Project”, “Teaching Excellence Project”, and “Teaching & Learning Resource Center”, etc. are carried out, all colleges and universities are aggressively pushing ahead with renovations to teaching, research, academy-industry cooperation, internationalization, international ranking, and academic influence. Moreover, scholarships are offered to foreign students, all-English teaching environment are enhanced, administrative support system for foreign students affairs in colleges and universities are refined, foreign students’ entrance applications and related regulations for stay in Taiwan after graduation are relaxed. The purpose is to increase Taiwan’s international competitiveness and higher education level and aggressively export Taiwan’s quality education.

Data from the Department of Statistics, Ministry of Education (MOE) shows that degree-seeking foreign students in Taiwan in 2011 totaled 10,987; overseas Chinese students 14,045; Mandarin Chinese Language Program Students 14,480; exchange students, research students, short-term study students, and students on personal study plan 15,090; overseas youth vocational training school students 861, totaling 55463. Among them, students who come to Taiwan from Southeast Asia (SEA) account for 58.7% of all foreign students. This suggests that currently foreign students studying in Taiwan mainly come from SEA countries. On the other hand, SEA countries’ populations approximate 570,000,000 in total, of whom overseas Chinese account for about 5%. Their gross university enrollment rate on average is below 20%. This may benefit Taiwan in soliciting students from that region. Besides, this region’s geography and culture are similar to Taiwan’s and has close economic and trade interaction with Taiwan. Hence, the MOE suggested an “Cultivating Taiwan’s Educational Links of Cooperation within Southeast Asia”. Beginning with SEA, the plan attempts to establish Taiwan’s academic influence in SEA by increasing the demand of countries across this region for academic exchange with Taiwan. Then, it stretches from there to Asia Pacific and on to the world at large.

“Cultivating Taiwan’s Educational Links of Cooperation within Southeast Asia ” (referred to as “the Plan” hereinafter) is a 4-year mid-term plan which is built on the three pillars: expanding the number of international students from SEA that come to Taiwan, establishing programs and educational pathways for talented educators and mid-level government officials, and increasing interactions between Taiwan and SEA. Based on this, 13 strategies and 46 projects were created to deepen roots in that region.

In respect of “expanding the number of international students from SEA that come to Taiwan”, the MOE will improve the friendly environment for foreign students, consolidate Taiwan’s education centers and related resources, and expand higher education exhibitions in SEA. These efforts aim to promote Taiwan’s quality higher education, draw excellent foreign students to Taiwan for degree study, short-term study, and Chinese language learning. Besides, in order to smooth administrative channels for international students to come to Taiwan for study, currently some amendment has been made to the “Immigration Act” to simplify visa procedures for them to reside and stay in Taiwan. In the future, the MOE will coordinate with related departments to continue to review related regulations.

In respect of “establishing programs and educational pathways for talented educators and mid-level government officials”, the MOE plans to aggressively invite SEA mid-level government officials to come to Taiwan for further study. Presently, talent cultivation plan agreements have been signed with Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Malaysia, etc. In the future, cooperation with SAE countries will be continued to assist them to cultivate their high-level talent. Moreover, the MOE plans to hold a higher education forum and invite important leaders to come to Taiwan for dialogue. This is to seek their identification with Taiwan’s education and facilitate further cooperation between both sides. A Taiwan-Thailand higher education forum was held in March 2012 and a Taiwan-Indonesia higher education forum was held in April to facilitate international higher education exchange.

In respect of “increasing interactions between Taiwan and SEA”, the MOE encourages colleges and universities to give courses for various languages. In addition, guidance courses, nation-wide and community artistic and cultural performances, family parent-child exchanges for new inhabitants are held. These efforts attempt to increase mutual understanding between Taiwanese residents and new inhabitants through learning and exchange. Besides, schools assist SAR international school to hold campus activities, including enrolment, social exchange, language exchange, alumnae experience sharing, festivals, etc. And guidance for international students’ life is actively given to facilitate international exchange.

After a number of coordination and adjustment, with assistance and promotion by all executive agencies, Taiwan’s higher education quality has received affirmation from other countries. This shows that all efforts are beginning to bear fruit. In the future, efforts will be continued to promote and review the aforementioned plans to further the SAE plans and thereby catapult Taiwan’s higher education onto the world stage.