Deputy Education Minister Chen Liang-gee Wednesday announced plans to boost the number of study abroad grants for Southeast Asian nations and India, increasing slots in the "Xuehai" university exchange program alone by as many as 50.

The Ministry of Education's (MOE) move took place in coordination with President Tsai Ing-wen's "New Southward Policy," said Chen.

The new government policy aims to reduce Taiwan's economic reliance on mainland China by encouraging closer ties with ASEAN member states and six South Asian nations: India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan.

During an experience sharing session between students who had returned from abroad, Chen congratulated them on the opportunity.

"I am fortunate to have studied abroad on government funding myself. I believe students will discover contrasts between different cultures and their own after the experience, and that these contrasts will help to provoke and sharpen their perspectives."

According to the MOE, the Xuehai Program has seen 18,386 local students go abroad for studies or internships since its launch in 2007. In recent years, more than 2,000 students are sent abroad each year, to more than 60 countries.

"The United States and Japan have been the most popular (destinations)," said ministry official Huang Jing-ya. "But because of the policy change, we expect to see a significant shift toward ASEAN countries and India."

Huang said not only would there be more opportunities per year, but the ministry would also more readily accept applications aimed at universities and organizations in such countries.

More Overseas Internships

The ministry also announced plans to place more importance on industry-academic cooperation in its Xuehai Program - most notably, it has increased the number of overseas internship opportunities.

Emily Huang, a college senior who interned at a Vietnam-based wooden furnishing firm last summer, said that although most of her classmates preferred to stay close to home, she would not rule out working in Vietnam when she graduates next year. "Job opportunities are limited in Taiwan."

Though the environment may not be as clean in Vietnam, the people there are warm, Huang said. She recalled that Vietnam is ranked among the happiest countries in the world.

Source: China Post