Taiwanese kids’ quest for a good education abroad

Author: Raymond Koot

Like in any country, parents in Taiwan want the best in life for their children. The Taiwanese are prepared to make great sacrifices to offer their offspring a headstart. That includes sending them to school abroad.

I just finished my Skype chat with my son Jason, who is studying in California. He is doing well in Carlsbad Golf Academy, a wonderful institute that teaches the business – and fortunately, also the game – of golf.

Jason is not the only Taiwan teen who gets his education abroad. Dozens of my friends, suppliers and business partners are familiar with the practice. Once kids in Taiwan reach the age of 15 or 16, it is time to start thinking about their high school and college careers. Time to plan ahead and find out in what western country and at what institute the young Taiwanese will get its education. Although Taiwan’s education system is certainly adequate, it is not good enough for many that can afford to consider the international alternatives.

International level
The quest is twofold. First: to many people here, local schools just do not offer the outlook on the international business arena. An education in Europe, the US or Canada brings their kids’ development to an international level, in a way they feel is necessary to get ahead in life. Second: getting your kid into one of the major international universities – Harvard, UCLA, USC – abroad will get them noticed by large international corporations. Popular study programs among kids from Taiwan are international studies, PR, HR, Finance and even Art Management.

It is a pretty expensive operation, this foreign education. Tens of thousands of dollars are spent each year, including the cost of living. At a university like USC, the fee for education is about 38,000 per semester, excluding expenses like housing and travel. Getting kids ready to go takes time, money and effort. Many schools and colleges require that a kid passed exams for language and other skills, some even require high scores at entry tests.

Thriving industry
As the Taiwanese have a keen eye for business opportunities, a thriving industry has developed of companies that can help your kid get to university. The training to pass the tests, the paperwork that comes with applying, finding a place to live: they take care of everything! It all comes at a price, as you will understand.

And so a lot of Taiwan kids are sent abroad at around 17 years of age. Some go earlier, for an additional year at some US high school, often to raise their level of English language skills. In some cases, learning English and getting to know different cultures is the sole idea of the expedition. It is certainly a big step, as the teenagers are to be separated from their families for as long as four to six year, obviously spending Christmas and summer holidays back in Taiwan. It is a step towards adulthood, that is not always taken easily. Some kids find it hard to get their lives organised, others feel lonely and homesick for a while. Not every school or college choice turns out to be the right one. In the case of my son Jason, his first year in college taught him some lessons in life. It was tough, but he is fine now in Carlsbad.

A job at the big firm
After they graduate, some students get a job at the big firm they – or their parents – dreamed of. Other head back to Taipei, to see what the future brings them. We’ll have to see what the future holds for Jason. There are some well-known international golf brands that source their products from Taiwanese manufacturers. One of them already expressed his interest in employing a smart local kid with a good education at a US golf business academy, so… who knows?

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