By LIM MUN FAH
Tens of thousands of Malaysian students have benefited from Taiwan's overseas compatriot education policy over the past half of a century.
After the Nanyang University in Singapore was merged with the University of Singapore in the 80s to form the National University of Singapore (NUS), Taiwan became the most viable option for Malaysian Chinese independent school students to further their studies.
The period when there was many Malaysian Chinese independent school students studying in Taiwan was the 80s to the early 90s.
Later, Singapore universities opened their doors to Malaysian students who scored well in the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC). Universities in China also started to accept Malaysian students.
Meanwhile, more universities in Europe and the United States started to recognize the UEC, and the local private colleges and universities have also begun to admit Chinese independent school students with the UEC.
As a result, the number of students pursuing studies in Taiwan has decreased as the Chinese independent school students are having more and more options.
Take the Foon Yew High School in Johor Bahru for example. According to The 2006 Foon Yew Graduation Magazine, as many as 200 of its students furthered their studies in Taiwan each year during the 80s and 90s. But the number has gradually reduced over the years, and in 2006, only 60 students pursued their studies in Taiwan. At the same time, 506 students were enrolled at the local private colleges, 155 students furthered their studies in Singapore, 13 students went to China, and the remaining 41 students went to Europe countries, the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Today, many parents leave the decision to their children to choose where to further their studies while financial considerations have become a secondary issue.
My eldest son is studying at the National Taiwan University while the youngest son is studying at the Nanjing University in China. When comparing the fees, I found that the cost of studying in China is more than double the cost of studying in Taiwan's nation universities. My friends were surprised when I told them this as they always thought that studying in China is less expensive.
As far as I know, the annual fee to study in the faculty of arts of a Taiwanese university is about RM6,000 (S$2,564), with accommodation cost at between RM800 and RM900 a year. However, the annual fee to study in the faculty of arts of a university in Beijing requires at least RM17,000 and the accommodation cost is about RM9,000 year. Although the accommodation cost is lower outside Beijing, such as that of Nanjing University where accommodation for a foreign student is about RM2,500, it is still much more expensive than in Taipei.
Overseas compatriots studying in Taiwan may also apply for student aid funds or seek permission to work part time. Those with excellent performance can also apply for scholarships. Taiwan Education Minister Wu Ching-chi has recently announced that starting from this year, all Malaysian Chinese independent school students studying in Taiwan will be directly awarded a scholarship of about RM30,000 a year if they score A1 in Chinese, English, Mathematics, Science and Chemistry papers in the UEC.
My son is one of the beneficiaries of the overseas compatriot education policy of Taiwan, for which I am really grateful. I hope China would emulate Taiwan so that Chinese independent school students from poor Malaysian families will also have a chance to pursue their dreams of furthering their studies in China.