KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 15 — Taiwan is hoping to recruit some 4,000 Malaysian students this year alone in a bid to address the island republic’s falling birth rate.
According to a recent report by The China Post, Taiwan has already sent a delegation from its Education Ministry to promote the island state to Chinese students here, and said the effort was fruitful.
“Overseas Chinese residents in Malaysia seemed deeply intrigued by the option of studying in Taiwan. We hope this is a good way to supply our schools with more students,” Chiang Wei-ling, Taiwan’s education minister, was quoted as saying by The China Post on its website.
The student recruitment programme was partly aimed as a solution to Taiwan’s declining birth rate, said Chiang.
In all, Taiwan is aiming to draw some 100,000 students from abroad to provide a 2 per cent boost to the student population there.
But the measures could spell trouble for Malaysia’s own brain drain issue..
With an estimated five per cent of the population quitting the country annually, Malaysia has long suffered a brain drain that is often attributed to race-based affirmative action policies, with Singapore the main beneficiary.
According to a World Bank report in 2011, the number of skilled Malaysians living abroad rose 300 per cent in the last two decades, with two out of every 10 Malaysians with tertiary education opting to leave for either Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries or Singapore.
The organisation also highlighted a geographic and ethnic component to the talent outflow, with about 88 per cent of the Malaysian diaspora in Singapore being of ethnic Chinese origin.
Worryingly for Malaysia, the report concluded that these migrants were being replaced by unskilled and uneducated foreigners.
The New Economic Policy (NEP) and other programmes in its vein have been blamed for driving the country’s non-Malays to find an exit, with Singapore being the destination of choice for geographic and cultural reasons.
Born from the communal dissatisfaction that climaxed during the May 13, 1969 race riots, the NEP was designed ostensibly to lift the poorer sections of the Bumiputera Malay group in a bid to help it catch up to the economic progress of other communities.
Although technically defunct since 1990, the application of the NEP remains very much alive albeit unofficially.
Yesterday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced a New Economic Model (NEM) that extends and widens the aid and contracts that will be extended to the Bumiputera community under the government’s affirmative action policy.