TAIWAN’S NEW “Southbound” policy will mean more educational opportunities for people from all Asean countries, including Thailand.
“In line with the policy, our government will offer more scholarships for academic staff and students from Southeast Asian nations to boost the development of the region’s human resource,” said Taiwanese Education Minister Pan Wen-chung.
Fifteen scholarships are being granted via the Thai Ministry of Education, which is also covering Bt20,000 personal expenses per month for Masters Degree students and Bt15,000 for undergraduate students besides a Bt40,000 contribution towards the tuition fees.
“We want to help Thai lecturers, most of whom have Masters Degrees to study for their PhD in Taiwan via this scholarship scheme,” said Pan. “We are also creating a platform for Thai and Taiwanese universities to work together and we are also organising human resources training.”
Taiwan would expand its foreign student quota, particularly for those from Asean countries, in the academic year 2018, he added.
In 2016, Taiwan granted 193 scholarships for undergraduates from Asean countries. while also giving a further 984 language learning scholarships and 100 scholarships for lecturers from these countries.
In that same period, Taiwan had 12,000 students from Malaysia, 5,000 students from Indonesia, 4,700 students from Vietnam and 1,700 students from Thailand. The ministry expected the number of Asean students to rise in future.
Besides scholarships, Taiwan also offered human resources training for Asean countries on various subjects, including academic, industry, vocational promotion or executives’ business administration, Pan said. “What Taiwan wants is to pass on its experience and knowledge to Asean countries,” Pan said, adding that Taiwan was looking at hiking Taiwan-Asean investments in education to a value of Bt1 billion.
President Tsai Ing-wen administration’s “new southbound policy”, which came from a proposal by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was clear that a priority should be to strengthen ties with Southeast Asian nations and India, as well as Australia and New Zealand.
As some critics feared this policy might not last long if Taiwan’s opposition Nationalist Party, also known as Kuomintang, won power, Pan affirmed the policy would remain as it concerned education. This policy was also useful to Taiwan, he said citing the increase in the number of visitors from Southeast Asia to Taiwan, which is safe and friendly to visitors.
Taiwan’s capital Taipei is home to 100,000 foreign partners and children of Taiwanese nationals. The biggest immigrant group is Vietnamese, followed by Indonesian, Myanmar and Thai.
To help educate them in their original languages the ministry would add Asean language courses in primary schools, Pan said.
Starting in 2019, every primary school in Taiwan will include seven Asean languages as elective subjects: Thai, Vietnamese, Malaysian, Burman, Indonesian, Cambodian and Filipino.
Besides the private businesses in Taiwan those in the wooden furniture industry also want to invite Asean people for training in furniture design and related technology.
“Many Taiwanese have invested in Southeast Asia. We have capital and technology but we don’t have the raw materials. So we are ready and willing to train new people if the government can promote this as an educational scheme under the new southbound policy,” said Mauson Industrial Co’s general manager Hsu Michael.
Jason Huang, director of the Taiwan Woodworking Machinery Association in Taichung City, said businesspeople were ready to train Asean people as many had already invested in the region.
The association has supported an industrial-academic cooperation training programme in furniture and carpentry at National Taipei University of Technology and next year, 40 Vietnamese students will undergo one-year vocational training course there.
At National Formosa University, a well-known technical institute in Huwei District, Yunlin County, study programmes in engineering and technology are popular among students from Southeast Asia.
Most of the foreign students were Chinese Malaysians who were studying undergraduate programmes as the university .
One lecturer, Assistant Professor Arnold Wang, said 18 Malaysian students were studying a programme comprising eight months of teaching classes and four months of internship.
Two of these students would be awarded full tuition coverage based on highest grade averages.
The university also wants to introduce courses at Malaysian institutes with a high population of Chinese Malaysian students, such as Taylor’s University Subang Jaya in the Malaysian State of Selangor.
A Malaysian student identified only as Daniel said he chose to study at Formosa due to its prestigious mechanical engineering courses and the opportunity of internship at a real workplace. He said being taught in the Chinese language posed no difficulty to him and although it was more expensive than studying in Malaysia, Daniel said it was worth it.
Another student, Chan Kwan Chen from the Malaysian State of Kedah, agreed, saying that studying in Taiwan offered new opportunities and experiences compared with studying in his home country.
Having some relatives in Thailand, the young man said he knew too little about Thai institutes and hoped to learn more.