WENR, Nov./Dec. 2001: Asia/Pacific

Regional News



Afghan University Struggles in Pakistan
The Afghan University situated in Peshawar, Pakistan remains a symbol of hope for the more than 2.5 million refugees who reside there.
The faculty is mostly comprised of academics who could not teach freely in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime. Refugee scholars founded the university in 1999 after five other Afghan universities operating in Pakistan were closed the previous year. The university offers courses in agriculture, Islamic studies, law, literature, medicine, political science and science to 2,700 students, one-quarter of them women. There is a small teaching hospital, but surgery cannot be performed when the weather is hot, due to a lack air conditioning and sufficient electricity.
The university operates on US$200,000 a year. Faculty pay is $58 a month. Many students cannot afford the tuition fees. The former vice-chancellor of the university said that when they raised the tuition from US$4 a month to $7 a month, the institution lost one-tenth of its students. Financial issues, along with the recent enrollment of female students, are a constant source of conflict at the school.
The Chronicle of Higher Education [1]
Oct. 19, 2001


Shanghai Polishes Its English
In preparation of the upcoming Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation [2] summit, Shanghai officials have instituted pro-English policies in all facets of life. In city schools, English studies now begin in the third grade and every Wednesday is English Day. English tapes have been given–free of charge–to large segments of the population, including cabdrivers, in an attempt to prepare the city for English-speaking visitors. In comparison with other Chinese cities, Shanghai has always stressed the importance of English, but the pending conference is taking the idea of bilingual citizens to a new level.
The Christian Science Monitor [3]
Oct. 18, 2001
WTO Brings Bilingual Education to China
The Ministry of Education has mandated that some Chinese universities and colleges must now conduct more lectures in English and use English textbooks. According to the ministry’s projections, within three years 11 million students will use English textbooks and that as many as 10 percent of university courses — especially those in information technology, biotechnology, finance and law — will be taught in both Chinese and English. The recent stress on bilingual education is the result of China’s admittance into the World Trade Organization. The ministry has lifted the ban on imported English textbooks in order to promote China’s participation in a globalized economy.


First Astrology, Now Yoga
The Indian government has proposed that yoga be taught at medical schools as a branch of ayurveda, a health philosophy that views disease as the result of a disturbance in the body’s natural equilibrium. The proposition follows on the heels of another proposal made in April that would make astrology a university major. The plan to introduce ayurveda is part of the government’s campaign to combine Indian culture and traditions with Western practices. The establishment of yoga as part of an academic medical program would promote the idea of equilibrium as a healthy state, according to government sources.


Four Schools Run Into Accreditation Problems
The University Grants Commission [4] (UGC) plans to double its efforts to check the credentials of private degree-awarding institutions, especially those operating under a charter, after it was discovered that six private colleges had false accreditation and were therefore unable to award legitimate degrees.
The universities under scrutiny are:
• The International University of Management Sciences
• Syed Ali Hajveri University
• The Imperial College of Business Studies
• Park Aims and Panjnad University.
The University of Punjab [5] is taking notice of these warnings because several of the accused schools operate under its jurisdiction.
The Nation [6]
Oct. 23, 2001


University Spreads its Wings
The National University of Singapore [7] plans to establish five branch campuses overseas by 2005. The school has chosen to open two campuses in the United States, two in China and one in India because of the predominance of science and technology in those countries. The university aims to send 20 percent of its undergraduate population abroad.
The first college is set to open in January 2002. At least 10 students from Singapore will take engineering courses at Stanford University [8] while interning for one year at a technology-based company. Boston will be the probable location for the second U.S. campus. The other campuses will be in Shanghai and Shenzhen, China, and either Bangalore or Bombay, India. The foreign campuses will most likely be designed to look like corporate offices rather than classrooms.
The Chronicle of Higher Education [1]
Oct. 12, 2001


Is Pressure to Excel Too High?
On Nov. 7, many South Korean students took a test that will largely determine their futures. Each year, parents pray and pay to ensure their children’s success on these national college entrance exams. Some families shell out as much as US$2,000 a month for tutorials outside the classroom. It is a fact of life in South Korea that students who go to the best colleges get the best jobs after graduation. The country’s top three universities are extremely competitive forcing students to rigorously prepare for these exams. The determination and obsession with excellence among these students has often defined South Korea’s recent socio-economic development.
Emigration figures have drastically increased as a result of the pressures of the educational system. Many students leave the country each year to pursue higher education elsewhere. The Ministry of Education is trying to mitigate the problem by allowing universities to select students on factors other than exam scores, such as special talents and skills.
BBC News [9]
Nov. 6, 2001

Student Teachers Go on Strike

In South Korea, students at 11 teachers colleges went on strike to oppose a new plan proposed by the Education Ministry. The proposal would allow secondary-school instructors to teach in elementary schools, which the ministry says will help lower student-teacher ratios. However, the student teachers fear it will compromise the quality of education because the new teachers will not need to fulfill the qualifications for elementary education.


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