Recruitment trends in Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia


by Billy D. McGowan - Director of ESL

During the educational tour to Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, the group I was traveling with was met by experts offering information about education trends in each country. There were usually representatives from the US embassy's consular section, an economist, a political scientist and member of the local school board, or some combination of these, at each education fair. Among the most interesting was the Hong Kong briefing.

At the briefing in Hong Kong, the US vice consul assured the group, worried about the possibility of some recalcitrance since the "handover," that there had been no great change in attitude at the embassy towards students applying for visas. He reassured us that if our prospective students had received visas in the past, this trend would continue normally.

In reviewing the requirements for an F-1 visa, the group was admonished to offer clearer instructions to prospective student applicants. Among the requirements an applicant should bring to the interview process are the following:

1. A valid passport

2. Local identification

3. I-20, original, up-to-date and properly endorsed

4. Proof of ability to pay for studies, including living expenses-

5. Transcripts-demonstrating good study habits-and scores on standardized tests (SAT I, II; TOEFL, etc.)

6. Application and processing fees, both of which vary from country to country and should be paid on the day of the application. Processing usually requires a day or two.

In Bangkok, the Thai speakers cautioned admission offices to do more than to accept or reject students. These officials were particularly interested in having US admissions offices go beyond the ordinary responses and suggest ways that unsuccessful students might improve their application, or even more, to suggest that these students apply to another (named) university where their chances for admission might be better.

Thai students, even more than those in Hong Kong, were very interested in graduate studies in the US, and a large number of these students were interested in business management programs. In many fairs, visiting US university representatives hung up signs indicating they had MBA programs, and their tables were inundated with students seeking information. Fortunately, WPI was one such site of incredible interest.

Malaysia is preparing itself to be a center of education for students from developing countries with more modest means. For these students who cannot afford an American education but are still able to pay, there are Malaysian universities enticing them to enroll. Conversely, for Malaysian students who are interested in going overseas-and there are many-the notion of "twinning" has taken hold. These students are looking for foreign universities that will allow them to transfer all (or most) of their credits from their local institutions after a year, two or three and finish their studies (and receive their diploma) at these foreign universities. Malaysia believes its students are well prepared in mathematics and sciences to take advantage of foreign universities interested in such programs.

In Hong Kong, new determination by the ministry of education overseeing secondary schools seeks to overturn some of the English medium curricula and have them revert to Chinese language. Ministry education committees visit schools unannounced. The schools under scrutiny have to demonstrate that the medium is English and that the standard of the language in the particular school is up-to-standard. The populace of HK was not very pleased with this turn of events, but is powerless to stop it. Only the schools can actually affect their destiny by providing quality education in English.

In both Hong Kong and Bangkok, local education officers talked about some cultural aspects of East Asian character: a high rate of financial savings and a deep respect for education and skill, coupled with a desire to rise above the present level of education. The Chinese and Indians have always revered education and many, who either are unemployed now, or are victims of the current economic crisis in one way or another, may be seizing the opportunity to go abroad and get some more training to be in a better position to take advantage of the economic situation when it improves.

Many of the fairs, particularly those in the economically hardest hit countries in East Asia, had record increase in the numbers of participants. These increases, often in the hundreds, were all students, parents or both looking for foreign institutions for themselves or their children. After spending a day working at these fairs, this representative from WPI returned to his hotel room hoarse and tired. Meeting these participants interested in a scientific and technical education was exhaustive! Yes, Asia still seems to be a good place to recruit students, even during these years of economic uncertainty.

The third person talked about, among other current events, the new determination by the ministry over seeing the secondary education in HK to overturn some of the English medium school curricula and have them revert to Chinese language medium. Unannounced visits by the school committee was the procedure. The school under scrutiny would have to demonstrate that it actually was teaching in English and that the standard of the language in the particular school was up-to-standard. The populace of HK was not very pleased with this turn of events, but was powerless to stop it. Only the schools could actually affect their destiny by providing quality education in English.

The last speaker talked about cultural aspects of Chinese national character: high rate of financial savings and a deep respect for education and skill, coupled with a desire to rise above the present level of education. The Chinese have always revered education and many, who either are unemployed now, or are victims of the current economic crisis in one way or another, were seizing the opportunity to go abroad and get some more training to be in a better position to take advantage of the economic situation when it improves.

I do not remember the exact order of the speakers, and I cannot find my program which I planned to rely on in order to supply names. I hope you can use this information in spite of the "holes."

Good luck. I will be writing several newspaper articles in the next month. Requests for information, such as yours, help me to start getting these articles together.

All the best, PS. I will be in touch with the names of the two individuals whom I'd like you to send letters to: the president of WPI and the dean of student affairs.



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