Higher Education - Overview

A World Champion You May Have Yet to Know

A small nation in the Western Pacific, Taiwan has emerged a vibrant powerhouse in the world economy. It has secured a leading role in numerous industries worldwide, particularly on the IT front. "The global economy couldn't function without it," BusinessWeek concludes in its May 16, 2005 cover story titled "Why Taiwan Matters." Taiwan has accumulated such economic clout mainly on the back of an abundant pool of high-caliber human resources. The quality of human resources hinges on higher education.

In its World Competitiveness Yearbook 2015 the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) ranked Taiwan 11th globally. When it comes to IT hardware, Taiwan is undoubtedly a leading player in both R&D and production. More than 90 percent of the world's laptops are attributable to Taiwan-based suppliers. Taiwan is also the world's leading supplier of computer chips, smartphones and GPS devices installed on automobiles, just to name a few. What's the secret behind Taiwan's success? Besides well-defined economic goals, the key lies in Taiwan's commitment to persistently bettering its higher education over the past six decades.

Expand higher education to nurture a quality labor force

The past 20 years have seen a gradual shift in emphasis to populism from elitism in Taiwan's higher education. What results is a big jump in the quality of its labor force. Those who have received higher education now account for over 60 percent of the population, putting Taiwan at 14th spot in tertiary enrollment in the 2015 Global Competitiveness Report compiled by the World Economic Forum (WEF). With high-caliber talent readily available, Taiwan's job market hardly needs to worry about a scarcity of engineers or technicians. Local industries can thus focus on innovation that is key to their staying competitive internationally. On more than a few occasions, Taiwan has been hailed by major international financial media as one of the world's few centers clustered with high-tech wizards. It's no understatement.

Taiwan—Home to Greater China's No. 1 University

In recent years Asian universities' relentless pursuit for excellence has been duly rewarded in the form of enviable rankings in many international appraisals. Those in Taiwan are no exception. In the 2015 QS ranking, there are 9 universities in the Top 400, they are National Taiwan University (70), National Tsing Hua University (155), National Chiao Tung University (182), National Cheng Kung University (224), National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (260), National Yang-Ming University (338), National Taiwan Normal University (376), National Sun Yat-sen University (379),National Central University (397).

No. 10 innovator in the world

In the WEF's 2015 Global Competitiveness Report, Taiwan also did exceptionally well in the category of innovation. Of the 144 countries on the list, Taiwan was ranked 10th in the world.

The achievement has a lot to do with Taiwan's higher education as well. When it comes to "innovative research," Taiwan's higher education was rated as No. 3 in a survey of presidents of 135 Asian universities. The quest for innovation by the universities in Taiwan is best illustrated by the vibrant creativity exhibited by their students. To help students bring out their creativity to the fullest, the Ministry of Education (MOE) now selects the finest of them for overseas studies annually, with all the expenses paid for by the government. The initiative has paid off. Students from Taiwan have emerged frequent winners of such prestigious honors as iF and red dot product design awards over these past few years.

Influence Over Ethnic-Chinese Communities

Another invaluable achievement scored by Taiwan's higher education has been its contribution to talent cultivation across ethnic-Chinese communities around the globe. In certain parts of Asia, college education is simply not taken for granted by everyone. What's worse, anti-Chinese sentiment prevalent in some countries means that higher education is simply denied to quite a few ethnic-Chinese youngsters. For its part, the Republic of China on Taiwan has adopted a proactive approach toward caring for fellow countrymen and women residing abroad since it was founded in 1911. In particular, favorable treatment is provided in the country's higher education mechanism—from a fair quota of students to low tuition, reasonable lodging and opportunities to learn Mandarin.

A good number of overseas Chinese youth have thus been able to attend universities in Taiwan, and many of them have ultimately emerged prominent figures and even leaders in their respective home countries. For instance, Khein-Seng Pua—whose ingenuity brought about the world's first USB flash removable disk—comes from Malaysia and is a graduate from National Chiao Tung University. Barry Lam, founder and CEO of the world's largest laptop contract-maker Quanta Computer Inc., comes from Hong Kong and graduated from National Taiwan University. Tsai Ming-liang, a prize-winning filmmaker who has made a name for himself at many international film festivals, comes from Malaysia and graduated from the Department of Theatre Arts, Chinese Culture University. Since 1990, a cumulative 49,377 overseas Chinese youth—mostly from Macau, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Myanmar and Indonesia—have attended universities, colleges and junior colleges in Taiwan.

A Rich and Diverse Culture

As an immigrant society, Taiwan has long been a melting pot for residents coming from the Chinese mainland and Southeast Asia as well as aborigines. This has resulted in a great diversity in spoken language and diet. Furthermore, the biological diversity in Taiwan is equally impressive due to its unique geographic location and climate. Taking up a mere 0.002 percent of the planet's land area, Taiwan is home to 2.5% of its species.

Taiwan's cultural diversity has never undermined its longstanding role as torch-bearer of orthodox Chinese culture. Many international visitors who yearn to build a better understanding of Chinese culture have continued to regard Taiwan as their foremost choice to the present day. The rationale is simple. Whatever cultural heritage had been left on the Chinese mainland after the communist takeover in 1949 was ruthlessly disrupted during the Cultural Revolution. Hong Kong and Singapore, both former colonies of Western powers, have a cultural propensity leaning toward the West.

As an open society, Taiwan is a hearty host to all kinds of cultural activities. Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan, for instance, has long enjoyed worldwide fame.Taiwan's hard-earned position as a legitimate heir of orthodox, rich Chinese culture must be traced to its underscoring education and lavishing investments all these decades. In the curriculum of general studies meant for college students, Chinese literature and history have remained compulsory courses to the very present day. At quite a few campuses, meticulously designed courses are made available for international students to learn Mandarin. Of ethnic-Chinese communities around the world, Taiwan is the only place where traditional Chinese is designated the official written language.

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