As the root of a nation, education is related to country's development as well as the advancement of civilization. For each country, training talents is a major strategic initiative to meet the challenges of the 21st century. China and Malaysia are close neighbors and their bilateral relations have entered into a stage of rapid development in recent years. The two countries have conducted all-round exchanges and cooperation in various fields. Among them, the bilateral educational cooperation is moving full steam ahead like a galloping steed.
Educational exchange between China and Malaysia is of strategic importance. It not only works for the interest of the nations, but also benefits the reform and development of educational system as well as the long-term peace and prosperity in China and ASEAN region. Since China and Malaysia established diplomatic ties 40 years ago, their educational exchange and cooperation have been innovated and developed greatly both in content and form along with the changes in the international situation. Their educational exchange has made continuous progress based on the principle of equality, mutual benefits and common development. Two sides also conducted new cooperation form and content so as to establish scientific and sound management mechanisms step by step.
Mutual Recognition of Academic Degrees Promotes the Rapid Development of Higher Education
The number of exchange students between China and Malaysia has been increasing since the Memorandum of Understanding on Education Cooperation was inked. China-Malaysia Mutual Recognition Agreement signed by two sides on April 28, 2011 signified that experts, scholars, teachers and students in both China and Malaysia would be highly appreciated so as to boost colleges and universities cooperation between two sides.
By 2013, Malaysia has recognised over 800 Chinese higher education institutions under the agreement, increasing the number of Malaysian students studying in China from 2,252 in 2011 to today’s 4,000. Also, the diplomas granted by more than 600 Malaysian institutions have been accredited by Ministry of Education of China. Over 10,000 Chinese students are now studying in Malaysia.
Wang Xiaotao, who majors in Malay language in School of Asian and African Studies of Beijing Foreign Studies University, said that as more Malaysian degrees are accredited by China, obtaining the postgraduate degree in Malaysia will enhance the competitive power for teaching Malay in China in the future.
Malaysian student Winnie Tan realizes she is in a fortunate position as the degree she earned at Peking University is also recognized in her home country. "After I finished studying in China, I could sit Malaysian exams for professional certification in urban planning, although my degree was not obtained in Malaysia." "Most of my colleagues at Peking University from Malaysia found good jobs when they went back home," Tan said. "With an accredited Chinese diploma, they are more competitive when they pursue a China-related career."
Mr. Chuah Chee Meng, former Education Attaché of Embassy of Malaysia in China claimed that China-Malaysia Mutual Recognition Agreement has advanced the exchanges between Chinese and Malaysian scholars and students and promoted cooperation in bilateral colleges and universities. This marks that China and Malaysia have opened a new chapter in bidirectional education cooperation.
In addition, Malaysian government launched a series of policies to encourage Chinese students to study in Malaysia. For example, Chinese students are allowed to work part-time for a maximum of 20 hours per week so as to lighten their financial burden. Also, in Malaysian institutions, special scholarships are set up in INTI International University & Colleges, Limkokwing University of Creative Technology and the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and so on to provide Chinese students funds and financial assistance.
Frequent Interaction Facilitates the Cooperation in Mutual Superior Resources
Dr. Hou Kok Chung, Malaysian Deputy Minister for Higher Education proposed Chinese universities to set up overseas campuses in Malaysia when meeting with Hao Ping, Chinese Vice Minister of Education in March 2011. Then, Xiamen University was selected by Chinese Ministry of Education to open China’s first overseas campus in Malaysia. At the beginning of 2012, Xiamen University announced on Weibo that it would open its first overseas campus in Malaysia. Invited by Malaysia in November 2012, Xiamen University planned to establish a branch campus in Malaysia by 2015.
On April 6th, 2013, Xiamen University hosted the China-Malaysia Secondary School Presidents Forum during its 92nd anniversary celebration. Famous Malaysian educators, 42 presidents of Malaysian independent Chinese secondary schools, 134 high school principals and representatives from 83 key middle schools in 13 Chinese provinces attended the forum.
Zhu Chongshi, President of Xiamen University said in the opening ceremony of the forum, “92 years ago, Tan Kah Kee returned to China from Malaysia and founded Xiamen University, the first university in China founded by an overseas Chinese. Throughout 92 years’ development, it has become one of the most famous universities in China, meeting Tan Kah Kee’s expectations.” As Zhu said earlier, it's a giveback to history to establish branch campus in Malaysia where Tan Kah Kee has ever lived.
Actually, Xiamen University set up an overseas correspondence department mainly for overseas Chinese in 1950s. At the beginning of 2003, University of Malaya became its sister school. Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting, Malaysian Prime Minister's Special Envoy to China believes, the frequent academic interaction helps Xiamen University become famous in Malaysia. Today, over 200 Malaysian students are studying in Xiamen University, making Malaysia one of the largest sources of overseas students in Xiamen University.
Tan Sri Ong Ka Ting stated, “As the first Chinese university to set up an overseas campus in Malaysia, Xiamen University is well-reputed and has huge group of alumni in Southeast Asia. The overseas campus will spur more Chinese students to study in Malaysia. Also, more foreign students will come to Malaysia on the basis of the good reputation of Xiamen University as well as its wide network of relationships in Southeast Asian countries.”
Language Education Forges Profound Friendship
In October 2013, an article “Kelantan, the most Malays of states, is into studying Chinese” was published in Singapore's Straits Times. According to the article, Kelantan has the largest number of Malays studying Chinese in Malaysia. The state government plays an important role in popularizing Chinese language. It provides money to fund Chinese schools for years and sends Malaysian students to China to learn Mandarin. Besides, the state government has also hired teachers from China to come to Malaysia to conduct Mandarin classes.
Wang Yinkang, who is from Yunnan, China, has lived in Kelantan for 18 years. As a teacher in the secondary school, he teaches Mandarin to 160 students per week. "I was initially surprised that Malaysian students would be willing to take up Mandarin classes. Then I realized it was because they believed it would enhance their job prospects," Wang said.
In China, many students learn Malay language as well. Han Xiao was once a teaching assistant of Malay language (undergraduate) at Beijing Foreign Language University and then chose to do her doctorate in University of Malaya. Han Xiao initially studied Malay in Beijing Foreign Language University because she believed Malay would enhance the job prospects as the trade between China and ASEAN has become more and more frequent. Then she found herself gradually fell in love with Malay language. As Han said, "The first question I got from my Malaysian classmates was ‘Why do you study Malay language?’ They feel proud that a foreigner learns their own language. Language learning from each other pull people from different countries closer. I make a lot of Malaysian friends. We get along very well and go out together. They tell me the most popular costume in Malaysia and we go shopping together in the market. We also sing Malaysian songs at KTV."
Language is a shiny key, which helps communication go directly to people’s hearts. Communicating with local people by their language sometimes will achieve best effect at least cost. Language education has tightened the friendship between the Chinese and Malaysian people. 29 Confucius Institutes were established in ASEAN region to offer people more opportunities to study Chinese. Two of them were set up in Malaysia -- Confucius Institute in the University of Malaya and Malaysia Global Hanyu & Culture Center.
In October 2013, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Malaysia. He and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak decided to upgrade bilateral relations to a comprehensive strategic partnership, which undoubtedly offered better environment and conditions for educational cooperation between China and Malaysia. Hence, their future for educational cooperation makes us anticipated.