Taiwan is leading the way on international food aid projects to alleviate malnutrition abroad. The island nation off the coast of China, whose sovereignty is the center of political debate, is home to more than 23 million Taiwanese.

With a literacy rate higher than 98 percent, an estimated GDP per capita of $47,800 and the unemployment rate of almost four percent in 2016, poverty and hunger in Taiwan aren’t seemingly large issues. In 2012, there was an estimated 1.5 percent of the population living below the line of poverty.

It is debated whether Taiwan should be considered a developed or a developing country. When it comes to the topic of hunger, Taiwan is actually a leader in providing food for others who are suffering around the globe. Over the past few years, the country has begun producing many foods within their own borders with a focus on self-sustainability.

According to Food for the Poor, Taiwan has spent more than the past ten years, “providing life-saving food for hundreds of thousands of people in Haiti and many other countries.” At the end of last year, Taiwan was even specifically thanked by a group of volunteers from Africa for the significant role the country is taking on in alleviating world hunger.

In 1985, after nearly 20 years of help from abroad, World Vision Taiwan reached a point to be able to handle the hunger issues within their own country. Since then, Taiwan has been giving to hunger initiatives in more than 70 countries.

It’s clear that the issue is not so much those dealing with hunger in Taiwan — instead of that, “Taiwan is making tremendous contributions to combating global challenges such as poverty and hunger.” With famine and malnutrition being a life-threatening reality for many right now, perhaps other countries can follow Taiwan’s lead.

Shannon Elder

Photo: Flickr

Students coming out of Taiwan have routinely placed high on international test scores. However, a common concern about this region of the world is that there is too much emphasis on memorization and examination, stifling students’ creativity to create graduates who can test well but lack the critical thinking necessary for many of the world’s jobs.

The Ministry of Education in Taiwan has tackled this concern with a variety of reforms. Here are 10 reforms that have been implemented in the past decade to improve education in Taiwan:

  1. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education, which oversees education in Taiwan, stated that their goal is to replace the right to an education with the right to learn, to place focus on citizens and to make education “learner-centered.”
  2. As a response to the country’s low birth rate, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education announced in 2015 that they would be merging universities to better accommodate students who pursue higher education in the country.
  3. In 2009, Taiwan introduced a new reading program called “Happy Reading 101,” which increased the amount of time allocated for reading in schools, expanded elementary and junior high libraries and encouraged schools to promote reading-friendly activities. After the implementation, Taiwan improved its reading performance on the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), jumping from 23rd in 2009 to 4th in 2012.
  4. To place less pressure on students hoping to continue their education, Taiwan’s Ministry of Education began promoting an “exam-free pathway” to high school. This pathway encourages high schools to look at residency status, civic involvement, extracurricular activities and other factors when accepting students, rather than on test scores alone.
  5. Education in Taiwan now focuses on implementing decentralized curricula to better serve students, with many schools developing Curriculum Development Education Committees to make education student-centered.
  6. In 2014, the Ministry of Education added three years of mandatory schooling to be completed after junior high. The implementation of compulsory secondary education ensures that each student is prepared for their next step in life, be it the vocational or academic track.
  7. According to World Education News and Reviews, arts education in Taiwan is now available to all students, with classes such as music and fine arts being added to the curriculum.
  8. Taiwan has made improvements to schools’ vocational education and training (VET) programs, which help prepare students who choose the vocational track in high school for their career goals.
  9. Taiwan’s Ministry of Education supported e-learning and began encouraging schools to prepare students for a technological world in 2014.
  10. In 2015, the Ministry of Education cut the application process for high school in half and began requiring high schools to admit at least 50% of students based on results of the Comprehensive Assessment Program. The Ministry hopes this reform will place less stress on students as they apply to secondary schooling.

Though these reforms are relatively new to the system of education in Taiwan, the country has already seen improvement. More students have become enrolled in higher education institutions and been given more opportunities to continue their education. In fact, the Ministry of Education reports that the college acceptance rate has steadily risen from 20 percent in the 1970s to over 90 percent as of 2012. Also, according to World Education News and Reviews, the literacy rate in Taiwan has steadily increased throughout the years, going from 86 percent in 1998 to 98.5 percent as of 2014.

Taiwan only hopes to improve the country’s education with goals “to re-orient education toward positive social values, to reshape the education system into an effective model, to reset reasonable resources, to reconstruct partnerships and to solidify learning scholarship” between now and 2023.

Jacqueline Artz

Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Taiwan

The calculation of poverty in Taiwan is a bit different. Families are considered poor if their monthly income is below a threshold set by the city or province. This means only 1.78% of the population, or about 130,000 people, are considered poor.

Each city in Taiwan has a different monthly income that is considered as a minimum. For example, while a family’s minimum income should be $171 to meet their basic needs in Kinmen County, the minimum is $337 in Taipei City.

The low percentage of poverty in Taiwan is not a coincidence, but rather is the result of efforts of the Taiwanese government alongside various civic organizations, private foundations and academic institutions. For example, in 1999 the government spent $5.08 billion on social welfare programs.

However, there are problems in the government’s standards for calculating poverty rates. In 2004, the Taipei Times reported an interesting example. In Taiwan, low-income households are provided 13 benefits and services by the government such as living subsidies, medical grants and emergency funds.

These services are given on an “all or nothing” basis, so if a family rises slightly above the poverty threshold, they lose their rights to all of these services. The article reports, “Given this ‘all or nothing system,’ low-income households do not wish to rise above the poverty line, for if they do, they would really fall into poverty.”

In 2011, the government raised the poverty line. With this, an additional 588,000 people became eligible for social assistance and subsidies. The article “Changing Times Force Taiwan to Raise Welfare Spending” notes the tradition of taking care of one’s elders, which means taking care of them financially, as a reason for the necessity of raising the poverty line.

Looking at it from a cultural perspective, the article points out that the tradition of extended families living altogether (usually three generations under one roof) is starting to break down. “The family are no longer as close-knit as they once were. Grown children, for example, do not necessarily care for their elderly parents,” reports Cindy Sui.

Despite some of these structural problems with the government subsidies, many NGOs are working to help those who are not regarded as poor but who nevertheless are barely getting by.

One of the most prominent organizations is the Taiwan Fund for Children and Families. Promoting and advocating for the well-being of children, youth, and underprivileged families, the organization was formed in 1950 and now has a force of 8,000 volunteers.

Although the percentage of those in poverty is very low, the Taiwanese are worried that the poverty line is not high enough. Looking at the cultural and financial conditions, there are definitely areas that need improvement.

Dilara Alemdar

Photo: Flickr

April 11 marked the official opening ceremony commemorating the completion of a new, groundbreaking water supply system made possible by the Haitian government, the Red Cross Society of the Republic of China and the International Cooperation and Development Fund of Taiwan (TaiwanICDF.) The new water system will reportedly supply safe and clean domestic water for over 90 percent of the area’s inhabitants.

In January 2010 a magnitude seven earthquake devastated Haiti and rendered about 1 million Haitians homeless, a number of which relocated from its capital, Port-au-Prince, to New Hope Village in Savane Diane. As a result, the need for accessible and clean water  increased exponentially, and the new system accommodates this need and serves as a sustainable, long-term solution. TaiwanICDF reportedly showed residents how to maintain and fix the system in the event that it breaks down.

The Taiwanese ambassador to Haiti, Peter Hwang, attended this special celebration, as did TaiwanICDF’s Secretary General, Tao Wen-lung. Wen-lung said the system would provide enough water not only for over 200 homes, but additionally for the village’s health facility, school and nearby agricultural irrigation needs. He described it as “a real godsend for local residents.”

In a video on the TaiwanICDF website, a local resident describes the arduous three-hour process he formerly endured to transfer water from a far-away source back to his home. Now, he has a quick and easy water source practically in his backyard. In the video, the resident also thanks TaiwanICDF for their instrumental role in developing and maintaining the system in his village.

China and Taiwan are hosts to numerous humanitarian organizations. TaiwanICDF is particularly focused on infrastructural and economic development for long-term stability in needy nations and regions, as well as technical cooperation, humanitarian assistance and international education and training. This type of maintainable, long-term investment in developing nations has provided a model by which helpful contributions in such countries can make significant long-term differences.

– Arielle Swett

Sources: ICDF, Taipei Times
Photo: Taiwan Today

China has the largest education system in the world; almost 10 million students received the entrance exam in 2013. The Chinese government’s compulsory education law states that nine years of education is mandatory for all Chinese children which the government funds. Furthermore, China is also excelling at higher-education, the amount of college students has risen drastically since the late 1970s. China also celebrates the right that all citizens enjoy the right to education regardless of their gender or race.

China has been focused on economic modernization and this idea shaped the Chinese school programs today. The current 12-year schooling came in the 1980s and consists of nine years of primary and secondary education and three years of senior secondary education. Accordingly, this leads to students heading to higher education after completing the 12-year school program. These higher education programs are highly competitive and scholarship based.

Furthermore, China has institutions that offer programs from Zhuanke, which is full-time study, before entering the bachelor’s programs to doctoral levels. Almost all of these institutions are public to continue stressing the equal opportunity for which China strives. Over 20 million students have finished the higher education programs in the Republic of China.

The Ministry of Education in Republic of China concludes that Taiwan students graduate with some of the highest scores in the world, especially in math and science. Taiwan is embracing the future of its students by posing a democratic free society and advocating hard-working students. In turn, the student focus on traditional learning out comes as well as modern advancements.

Taiwan is also geared towards international students. The international students will immerse themselves in the Taiwanese culture while competing with some of the toughest competition.

The Republic of China is a rising and developing country and the achievements through the remarkable education systems are comparable to the economic and social development in the recent years. China’s economy is one of the fastest growing and is quickly reducing China’s poverty. Due to the success of the education reform in the 1980s, China is seeing huge progress towards improving the lives of millions of Chinese.

One of the biggest strategies was including the support of women in the education platform. Accordingly, the education system has continued to be widely available to all citizens and flourish among the most in the world. The government insures gender equality and continuing funding in poor areas for education. Thus, all societies in China encourage education and the pursuit of higher education as well. This is direct effect of the nation’s priority which is a focus of the balance of social and economic development.

These policies were implemented towards education with the future in mind. The positive social changes made in China have decreased poverty around the nation rapidly. The effort to create more economic growth and a better job market is a direct relation to the better education system.

– Rachel Cannon

Sources: UNICEF, Ministry of Education
Photo: Flickr

Many people living barely above the poverty line in Taiwan will now have access to much needed welfare programs. Taiwan’s Ministry of Health and Welfare recently changed the maximum income eligible for welfare assistance in numerous areas of the country. The change will mean that an additional thousands of people will qualify for assistance.

The poverty line increase is broken down into low and middle income categories and will vary based on region. For those who live in a majority of Taiwan, a low-income household will now qualify with an income of NT$10,869 (US $347), instead of the previous amount of NT$10,244. The medium-low income families will see an increase from NT$15,366 to NT$16,304.

These numbers vary in the counties Kinmen and Lienchiang, which will increase the poverty line for low-income households from NT$8,798 to NT$9,769. Medium-income families can expect the line to increase from NT$13,197 to NT$14,654. Five other municipalities will raise the threshold from NT$11,066 to NT$11,860, and the remaining regions have yet to specify their intended increases.

The implications of these new poverty lines are vast, given that about 50,000 more people will have access to welfare programs in Taiwan. These programs include household living costs, education fees, and national health insurance premiums. Since one of the factors affecting a country’s economic development is health care availability, these assistance programs will aid in improving Taiwan’s overall economy and citizen well-being.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Focus Taiwan, Taipei Times
Photo: BBC

October 1, 2013 marked the opening ceremony of the International Workshop on Strategies for Combating Human Trafficking in Taipei City, Taiwan. The workshop serves to stimulate conversation and collaboration for human rights protection and is organized by the National Immigration Agency under the Ministry of the Interior. Around 200 policy experts and officials from Taiwan and abroad attended, including those from Brazil, Canada, Vietnam, the U.K. and 16 other countries.

Vice President of the Republic of China (ROC), otherwise known as Taiwan, Wu Den-yih, took a staunch stance against human trafficking at the opening ceremony. He stated that protecting human rights is a universal value that needs international attention. He also highlighted the firm commitment of the ROC government against human trafficking and violations of human rights.

In the days after the opening ceremony, the workshop hosted six discussion panels ranging from topics pertaining the protecting the youth from sex crimes to trying to prevent modern-day slavery and labor exploitation. Many guest speakers were featured at panels, including officials from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

This year was the fourth consecutive year that the U.S. State Department awarded Taiwan the Tier 1 status of the U.S. State Department Trafficking in Persons (TIP) Report, based on the government’s effort to fight human trafficking. While the Department of State places countries into one of three tiers, this ranking has no indication of the prevalence of human trafficking in the country, or lack thereof. The ranking simply acknowledges the effort a government has made to make human trafficking a pressing concern in the national political discourse and to attempt to address the problem.

Nevertheless, Taiwan’s ranking demonstrates its commitment of protecting human rights and ending human trafficking. In recent years, Taiwan has been improving law enforcement training, strengthening support services by building shelters and providing temporary work, and establishing policy strictly prosecuting traffickers, such as the Human Trafficking Prevention Act.

– Rahul Shah

Sources: UNPO, AIT, US State Department
Photo: American Institute in Taiwan