TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — In the face of a looming super-aged society, a shrinking labor force and stronger demand for global-minded talent, increased international enrollment could be a quick fix to multiple crises, said experts at a forum on international bilingual education in Taiwan, on Tuesday (June 28).
Ranked 33rd globally in the 2022 Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, National Cheng Kung University (NCKU) hosted a forum that gathered the top influencers in shaping the country's bilingual education and high-tech jobs to exchange views on the most pressing issues relating to language education and talent acquisition.
Lio Mon-chi (劉孟奇), deputy minister of education, said in his pre-recorded speech that the country has been offering various incentives to recruit more international students as a way to counter the challenges of an aging population. A bilingual environment and industry-academic collaboration, Lio said, can add to Taiwan's attractiveness.
Dr. Josef Goldberger, Director of the German Academic Exchange Service's Information Centre in Taipei, said recruiting international students can even out the ever-decreasing enrollment of local students, internationalize campus life, and attract a more talented international workforce. To prepare these overseas students to enter the local job market, internship programs and language training should be in place, he suggested.
Two years ago, the government of Taiwan set a goal to develop the country into a bilingual nation by 2030, but participants at Tuesday's event agreed more can be done.
Ed Jager, director for Trade and Investment from the Canadian Trade Office in Taipei, shared his observations about growing up in a bilingual country, saying people should be informed of the various benefits of learning and using a different language; also, the environment for students to use the language has to be created.
"It is bilingualism that helps Canada distinguish itself on the world stage and gain more opportunities," he added.
Ralph Rogers, director of the British Council in Taiwan, said the organization has been working with higher education institutions across Taiwan to give quality training to English teachers for the next generation and offer insights into bilingual education policymakers and stakeholders.
The NCKU's Global Future Forum also touched upon the pressing issue of acquiring and retaining internationalized and well-trained talent in Taiwan against the backdrop of a low-wage, hierarchical business culture, which Goldberger isolated as the country's biggest shortcoming when it comes to attracting global talent.
Micron Technology also took part in the event, whose talent acquisition chief in Taiwan, Milan Chang (張嵋嵐), also addressed the issue of addressing restrictions on part-time foreign workers, for example, to attract international talent to work for Taiwanese companies, thus increasing their competitiveness.
In her speech at the event, NCKU President Su Huey-jen (蘇慧貞) said the school has been looking closely at industry demands to cultivate "future talent" and partnerships with foreign offices in Taiwan to design curriculums that improve English language proficiency. In addition to job-specific skills, she urged students to embrace diversity as a competitive edge.
Tuesday's forum was also live-streamed on NCKU's main campus in Tainan to allow its students and faculty to listen to the speeches and to take part in the panel discussions. An exhibition was held on the campus to promote the school's bilingual education program and to enable students and faculty to network with industry, government, and academic stakeholders.