In China and many other countries in Asia, we are witnessing what education experts call “brain circulation” — I saw it first-hand in September in Beijing, where I attended the inaugural Opening Convocation for the first class of Schwarzman Scholars, a new Master’s program designed to foster understanding of and international ties with China by giving the world’s best and brightest students the opportunity to develop their leadership skills and professional networks through a one-year Master’s Degree at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This program is just a recent manifestation of the trend.
This August, 36 young women pursuing undergraduate degrees in Computer Science and Engineering from universities across India and China completed the first year of the WeTech Qualcomm Global Scholars Program, an exciting new initiative made possible through Qualcomm’s support.
During the program, each Scholar received financial assistance through a US$5,000 scholarship and also had the unique opportunity to be mentored for a six-month period by a Qualcomm professional to further enhance her professional development and leadership skills.
As the Program Officer for Women Enhancing Technology (WeTech), administered by the Institute of International Education, I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in this program since its inception in 2015 and see the transformation of these young women throughout the course of their mentorships.
We had the opportunity to represent IIE and U.S. higher education at the G7 International Higher Education Summit last month in Tokyo. The Summit took place from May 18-19 and was hosted by the Japan Student Services Organization and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology.
The Summit was attended by representatives from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the European Union, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), the Korean National Institute for International Education (NIIED), the British Council, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), SEAMEO Regional Centre for Higher Education and Development (RIHED), and IIE.
IIE East Asia is pursuing a number of initiatives to support and engage with Greater China’s developing philanthropy sector. In Hong Kong the sector is mature and provides many opportunities for IIE—which has offices in both Hong Kong and Beijing—to support foundation work in throughout China. The philanthropy sector in the mainland is young but growing fast, and IIE is constantly developing new initiatives to address the needs of this burgeoning sector. Our work with the Ford Foundation under the Learning Circles for Chinese Philanthropy program has allowed us to identify a number of areas where we can support the sector drawing on the resources from both our offices. Below, Siusie Hsiao in IIE’s office in Beijing gives an overview of these key areas. We are very grateful to the Ford Foundation for supporting our work in this area. In due course we will also provide a view from Hong Kong showing how efforts across the region can be harmonized.
This year's Asia Pacific Association for International Education (APAIE) Conference was the biggest ever with 1,600 attendees. And although Australia was a long way even for some of us in the rest of Asia, universities, NGOs and international education experts from across the globe gathered to find common cause and mull over the issues facing our sector.
When the seeds of modern democratic governance were first taking root in the world, a story was circulated about an individual who approached Benjamin Franklin in 1787 outside of Independence Hall at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention. She asked Franklin whether he and his colleagues had created a monarchy or a republic. In reply he told her that the United States would be a “republic, if you can keep it.”
In most higher education discourse today it is not unusual to hear the claim that the world’s center of gravity is shifting toward the East. Indeed, no region has undergone as profound a transformation as Asia during the past half-century, from the 1970s to the present. Unprecedented economic growth has driven major social and demographic change and institutional reform and, in most countries, has brought about greater stability. The advent of a large middle class, coupled with openness and market reforms driven by economic imperatives, has contributed to greater interconnectedness among Asian states and between them and the rest of the world.
When we first traveled to Myanmar two years ago, there was little to no Wi-Fi, few mobile phones (SIM cards could only be obtained by lottery and cost around $1,500 each, making it unaffordable for most), no ATM machines or credit card usage, and frequent electricity outages. Fast forward just two years: consistent access to Wi-Fi, excellent 3G, and little need to bring stacks of cash anymore (credit cards are now accepted at most hotels). The arrival of telecom providers TeleNor and Oredoo has reduced the price of SIM cards to $1.50 resulting in a reported 30%+ market penetration of cell phones. Electricity outages are still common, and traffic in Yangon is worse than ever, but major change is palpable everywhere, and ATMs and 3G are just the more visible manifestations of this extraordinary transition.
Recently moving from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, I’ve found that the conversation regarding a “rising Southeast Asia” is just as lively and engaging in Thailand as it was in Malaysia. One of the key drivers of this buzz is the much-anticipated launch of the ASEAN Economic Community at the end of this year (more on that below). In the following post I’ll dig a little deeper into some of the unique features of the region, which I hope those unfamiliar with Southeast Asia will find useful, interesting, and perhaps a prompt for if or how to be invested in this unique area of the world.
Htoo Htoo Wah is the head of the English Department at the Myanmar Institute of Theology, a leading Christian higher education institution in Myanmar. After spending four intense weeks as a visiting scholar at Northern Arizona University, he had a moment to reflect on his experience of U.S. higher education.