Taiwan to attract overseas Chinese students to offset low birth rate

TAIPEI - The Ministry of Education (MOE) will attract 4,000 overseas Chinese students from Malaysia to study in Taiwan this year, Education Minister Chiang Wei-ling said yesterday.

The student recruitment programme is designed, in part, as a solution to Taiwan's declining birth rate, said Chiang. The MOE wishes to recruit approximately 100,000 foreign students to study in Taiwan, making up about 2 per cent of the nation's college students.

The falling birth rate - resulting in a smaller student population - is an inevitable phenomenon in Taiwan, but it can be partially solved by admitting students from China and other foreign countries, Chiang noted.

Chiang said many college heads had broached the problem of falling admission numbers to him.

An MOE delegation recently visited Malaysia in the hope of attracting students to study in universities in Taiwan, a journey that proved effective, said the minister.

"Overseas Chinese residents in Malaysia seemed deeply intrigued by the option of studying in Taiwan. We hope this is a good way to supply our schools with more students."

Yung-Fu Cheng, president of the Jinwen University of Science and Technology, suggested that Taiwan acknowledge the junior college or college degrees of over 300,000 foreign spouses residing in the nation, allowing them to become apprentices in different job sectors later on.

"This is a good suggestion and the MOE will discuss it as soon as possible," Chiang said.

Although the government has lifted restrictions on Chinese students studying in two-year junior colleges in Taiwan, the mainland government has only allowed students from Fujian and Guangdong provinces to do so.

"There are around 3 million new junior college graduates in China every year - this is a large potential student source for Taiwan," Chiang pointed out.

Local high schools will soon be forced to reduce the number of students in each class. Sizes are forecast to go from an average of 40 to 45 students per class to 35. The move is partly a response to the declining birth rate, Chiang said.