Southeast Asian languages will be included as elective subjects in school curriculums beginning from the 2018 academic year, according to the K-12 Education Administration under the Ministry of Education Dec. 10.
Under the current system, elementary school students are required to study a native language—Holo, Hakka or an indigenous tongue. They may then opt to continue their chosen subject in junior high school.
From 2018, various Southeast Asian languages will be added to this list. Students who select a Southeast Asian tongue will have the option to persist with the language in junior and senior high school.
“The introduction of these languages will help bolster cross-cultural understanding between Taiwan and countries throughout Southeast Asia,” said an official at the K-12 Education Administration. “This should provide Taiwan with greater opportunities for collaboration with nations in the region.”
According to the MOE, there are currently some 140,000 children with at least one parent from Southeast Asia in Taiwan’s schools, or five percent of the total. The ministry is developing teaching materials for the languages of Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. Textbooks for each will be available in 18 volumes across four levels.
By early December, local governments in Taiwan had trained 1,313 teachers of these languages, mostly new immigrants from Southeast Asia, through short-term projects funded in part by the MOE. Tertiary institutions are also working to meet the expected demand for instructors by introducing new language courses.
Earlier this year, National Chi Nan University in central Taiwan began offering academic credits for studying Burmese, Indonesian, Thai and Vietnamese. Several other universities are expected to follow suit in the near future.
These efforts are in line with the government’s New Southbound Policy, under which Taiwan is seeking to create fresh economic impetus and deepen business, culture, education, tourism and trade ties with countries in Southeast and South Asia as well as Australia and New Zealand.
Business and trade ties with the region have been expanding in recent years. Taiwan’s outbound investment in its top five Southeast Asian trading partners reached 14.8 percent of the total in 2015, up from 5.8 percent the year before. (OC-E)
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