Taiwan helps set up 29 Mandarin language centres, retain 40 teachers in India
Taiwan has taken several steps to help retain the 40-odd Mandarin teachers who are in India, including subsidising almost 50% of their salary
New Delhi: Taiwan has helped set up 29 Mandarin language centres at leading universities across India, including the Rashtriya Raksha University in Gujarat, to help train more people in the Chinese language, people familiar with the matter said.
The move comes at a time when there is renewed interest in Mandarin amid the dragging standoff with China on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), especially among India’s security agencies. Mandarin also continues to be among the popular languages, along with French, German and Spanish, for young officers of the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).
Several of the Mandarin language centres created by the Taiwan government are in private universities, in view of the funding needed to attract experienced teachers, the people said on condition of anonymity. Most of these centres have one or two Mandarin teachers, they said.
Among the more prominent collaborations is the one with the Rashtriya Raksha University, which is described as a model security educational varsity that focuses on security, strategic and police education and research and training. There are four Taiwanese experts working with the university, and authorities in Taiwan are looking to expand the initiative to more institutions in India, the people said.
However, with interest in Mandarin also growing in the US and European nations amid geo-political tensions between Western countries and China, these countries have emerged as attractive destinations for Taiwanese experts and teachers, especially since they offer better salaries and amenities.
The Taiwanese side has taken several steps to help retain the 40-odd Mandarin teachers who are in India, including subsidising almost 50% of their salary and even turning to private firms to offer more incentives to them. This issue has become more pressing as Taiwan has a small pool of only 400 qualified Mandarin teachers, the people said.
The setting up of the Mandarin language centres has coincided with greater scrutiny and curbs on China’s Confucius Institutes in India after the start of the border standoff in 2020.
The Indian government has conducted a review of Confucius Institutes in the country, including two centres University Grants Commission operating in Kolkata and Mumbai, and the(UGC) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) informed all colleges and universities last year that any existing or planned collaborations with Confucius Institutes will require clearance under the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act (FCRA).
Confucius Institutes are run by the Centre for Language Education and Cooperation, a controversial organisation also known as Hanban that functions under China’s education ministry. These institutes offer courses in Mandarin and Chinese culture but have come under increased scrutiny in countries such as Australia, Canada and the US for their role in spreading propaganda and interference in free speech and other domestic issues.
While India and Taiwan don’t have formal diplomatic relations, both sides established representative offices in each other’s capitals in 1995. Taiwan also set up an office in Chennai in December 2012 and has plans to enhance its official presence in India by setting up a new office in Mumbai.
Taiwan is widely considered to have one of the most extensive networks for keeping track of developments in China, especially since Mandarin is a common language, and experts contend there is a lot that India can gain from such collaborations.
Sameer Patil, deputy director with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) in Mumbai, said, “The fact is that we need to learn Mandarin but have had an adverse experience with the Confucius Institutes, which served as part of China’s larger influence operations. Therefore, this initiative by Taiwan will help to fulfill this critical requirement and, at the same time, help to strengthen the nascent India-Taiwan relationship.”
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