WENR, April 2008: Asia Pacific

Record Numbers of Students

Although the pace of educational progress in Afghanistan varies dramatically across the country, depending largely on who maintains control there, students and teachers at 9,000 schools in 29 provinces began the new academic year on March 23 in record numbers. An estimated 6.5 million children – some 35 percent of them girls – attended schools across the country. Historically, that’s a record number of students, Zuhur Afghan, a ministry spokesman, told RFE/RL.

Furthermore, the Education Ministry says that it intends to start construction on 30 new schools in each province. In addition, at least one teacher-training school is being set up in every province. More than 50 million new textbooks will also be distributed at schools during the first day of the new academic year. However, a lack of security remains a major concern for education workers.

As the Taliban has become more active over the past two years, they have increasingly aimed attacks at soft targets. Officials say more than 230 people in the education sector have been killed. Many schools have also been torched, leaving 300,000 children temporarily out of school. And the system is still grossly underfunded and requires major infrastructural and material rebuilding to the tune of an estimated US$3 billion over the next five years.-RFE/RL
February 28, 2008

UAE University Opens in Afghanistan

With a grant from the United Arab Emirates’ late president, Shaikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyah, Shaikh Zayed University inaugurated a new campus in the Afghan province of Khost in March. The new campus will have a capacity of 3,000 students, and is located approximately 120 miles from the capital Kabul.

Emirates News Agency
March 23, 2008

Indian vs. Chinese Education

A recent report from the RAND Corporation comparing the education systems of India and China shows that while China has outperformed India in primary and secondary education across a range of access, quality and delivery indicators since the late 1940s, India has traditionally enjoyed an edge over China in higher education. Today, however, those traditional disparities have diminished as India has increasingly focused on improving quality and access in non-tertiary education and China has plowed resources into expanding its tertiary provision, allowing it to overtake India in terms of enrollments and graduates.

Among many of its findings, the study finds that China’s historical bottom-up approach to educational development over the last 60 years has resulted in a much more literate society than India, and one that has a good foundation upon which to grow the tertiary education system, which has in recent years been the main education focus of the central government. Meanwhile, the Indian government’s focus on funding higher education and its use of English has allowed the country to build a position in the global economy as a service provider as opposed to China’s largely manufacturing-based position within the world economy.

Both countries face major challenges if they are to continue on a trajectory of improving educational opportunities for their populations. Primary among those will be assuring quality and maintaining funding, both pubic and private to meet demands of growing populations.

The paper and its findings are available from the RAND website.

RAND Corporation
February 2008


Saudi Embassy Introduces Measures to Reduce Radicalism among Students on Australian Campuses

In an effort to curb radicalism among its students on Australian university campuses, the Saudi Embassy has introduced measures ensuring that Saudi students make up less than 1 percent of any campus.

According to officials interviewed by the Australian newspaper, radicalization is already taking place in the country, and a recent influx of Saudi students might add to the momentum. It is for this reason that the embassy’s cultural mission has introduced measures to prevent potential radicals from congregating in one place. The number of Saudi students in Australia has risen almost eightfold in the last five years to a current total enrollment of 2,090.

The Australian
February 27, 2008

UNSW to Issue Diploma Supplement

The Diploma Supplement has become a central tool of European academic mobility and credential portability reforms through the Bologna Process, and now an Australian university is set to become the first institution in the Asia-Pacific region to introduce its version. The University of New South Wales issued an ‘education passport’ to approximately 500 students at a graduation ceremony in March.

The supplement will accompany the traditional degree, and as well as detailing the academic performance of undergraduate, masters or PhD students, it will verify key graduate attributes such as leadership, teamwork and communications activities. UNSW is one of 14 universities preparing a template for graduate statements compliant with the European standard. The results will be presented to the federal Government ahead of national take-up of education passports.

The Australian
March 26, 2008


New Quality Assurance Body in the Works

Education authorities announced recently that they will establish a new body to monitor education standards at the school level. The National Committee for Educational Inspection will be charged with ensuring the implementation of regulations governing national education policy, according to draft regulations made public in February.

The organization will be responsible for carrying out inspections, mainly in compulsory and secondary educational institutions, to ensure the nine-year compulsory education curriculum is being introduced effectively and that education resources are being distributed equitably.

China Daily
February 22, 2008

Foreign Student Numbers Approach 200,000

In 2007, the number of international students at Chinese institutions of education grew to 195,503, according to Ministry of Education data. Students came from 188 different countries, and enrolled at 544 institutions of education. The Chinese government awarded scholarships to 10,151 students.

The top five overseas student source countries were the Republic of Korea, Japan, the United States, Vietnam and Thailand with students numbering 64,481, 18,640, 14,758, 9,702 and 7,306 respectively.

China Daily
March 14, 2008

Elite ‘211’ Schools to Receive US$1.4 Billion

In a third phase of special funding for China’s elite research universities, a total of US$1.4 billion will be administered through the so-called ‘211 Project’. The announcement was made by government officials in late March.

The ‘211 Project’ was launched in 1995 in a bid to develop a network of ‘key’ universities and university departments. Of China’s 1,700 standard institutions of higher education, 6 percent receive the additional funding administered through the 211 initiative. Four-fifths of all doctoral students are trained at these schools, two-thirds of all graduate students and half of all foreign students, in addition to one-third of all undergraduates.

In the first phase of the project, China earmarked $400 million through the initiative, and in the second phase, a total of $850 million was allocated.

People’s Daily
March 26, 2008

Hong Kong

Seeking Hub Status

Hong Kong is not alone in its ambition to become a hub for internationally mobile students, in fact it is surrounded by competition, including, but not limited to Singapore, Malaysia, mainland China and South Korea; however, it is probably the latest to declare openly its goals.

Last October, Donald Tsang, Hong Kong’s chief executive, announced that he wanted to place Hong Kong into the market for international students. According to academics interviewed by the Chronicle of Higher Education, the goal maybe harder to achieve than Mr. Tsang imagines, despite a strong academic culture and some of the best universities in the region. Hong Kong’s higher-education system, which is overseen by the local government, not Beijing, consists of eight public and two private universities. The main obstacle appears to be the lack of a unified and cohesive marketing strategy, despite the creation of an internationalization committee two years ago by the tertiary sector’s public universities, which has resulted in multiple recruitment forays abroad.

The measures announced by Mr. Tsang include an increase in the cap on non-local undergraduate students — including mainland Chinese — to 20 percent, up from the current 10 percent; new and expanded scholarships for foreign students; looser employment restrictions on foreign students who work in Hong Kong; and more time after graduation for foreign students to find permanent jobs there. In addition, Hong Kong’s education system will be brought into line in 2012 with universities in the United States and China, when it switches to a four-year degree program from its present three-year system. Higher education in Hong Kong is also considerably cheaper than in the United States, Australia, Canada, and Britain, which now attract the largest numbers of international students.

The Chronicle of Higher Education
February 29, 2008


Higher Education System Faces ‘Implosion’

With a falling birth rate and an oversupply of university places, the Japanese higher education system faces the prospect of ‘imploding,’ according to research from a University of Oxford professor. Roger Goodman predicts that as many as 40 percent of institutions of higher education in the country will go bankrupt, merge or be taken over within the next ten years. In addition, he says that the situation will make it increasingly difficult for less prestigious and smaller establishments to continue operating as they currently do, and that demand for lower-level institutions will decline dramatically.

Kyodo News
Feb 26, 2008

Two-Year Colleges at the Forefront of the Fight for Survival

According to statistics from Ministry of Education, 124 two-year colleges have closed in the past six years, leaving a total of 435 still operating across the country in 2007. Despite the closure rate, junior colleges still face a troubling future, and only those that can redefine themselves will continue to enroll students, according to a recent Asahi Shimbun article.

Once seen as preparatory schools for young women to become good homemakers, junior colleges are either reinventing themselves or facing closure. With limited budgets, some have chosen to focus on promoting themselves as stepping stones for university education by emphasizing their university-preparation courses for students interested in transferring. Others have tried to appeal to male students and career-oriented female students by focusing their curriculum on job-ready programs. Still others have re-organized themselves into four-year institutions.

Many students, who in years past would not have been accepted by universities, are now finding that they can get places at universities by transferring out of junior colleges. Still, many two-year colleges face a bleak future and have set short-term enrollment goals that if not met will result in closure.

Asahi Shimbun
February 25, 2008


30% Rise in Foreign Student Numbers

According to recently released government figures, the number of foreign students enrolled at Malaysian institutions of education rose 30 percent in 2007 to 65,000 from 48,000 in 2006. The latest figures have been welcomed by education officials who have been promoting Malaysia as an international education destination, with a target of enrolling 100,000 students by 2010.

Indonesia and China were the biggest markets, followed by the Middle East and African countries. The combined number of students from China and Indonesia was 15,000, while there were 9,000 students from the Middle East.

The Star
March 9, 2008


Government Signs Cooperation Deal with South Korea

The governments of South Korea and Vietnam have signed an agreement to help strengthen the Vietnamese education sector, specifically in the areas of economics, scientific technology, tourism, maritime logistics, culture and healthcare. Vietnam will support Korean language teaching and will provide more scholarships for Vietnamese students wanting to study in Korea, in addition to easing the process for those wanting to do so.

From now until 2020, Vietnam plans to send between 300-500 students to Korea on doctoral study scholarships. In addition, Korea will help Vietnam build an electronic curriculum and a high-quality vocational training college.

Voice of Vietnam
February 26, 2008

Posted in Asia Pacific, Regional News Summaries