On February 28, 2023, the West Virginia Department of Education welcomed Taiwanese representatives to formally sign the US-Taiwan Education Initiative agreement.
The American Institute in Taiwan and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the United States, under the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on International Education Cooperation and West Virginia House Resolution 12, have agreed to strengthen their cooperative ties.
The parties agreed to enhance mutual connection by promoting exchange opportunities for Chinese and English-language teachers, as well as allocating resources to better serve language programs in schools, universities, and other institutions in both West Virginia and Taiwan.
Other states, including Alabama and Kentucky, also signed similar agreements, according to Asia Matters for America.
Under the promotion of Critical Language Scholarships, the US State Department recognizes Chinese as one of the 15 languages deemed crucial to national economic competitiveness and security.
A study by the National Education Association also found that learning a new language can lead to higher academic achievement, reading ability, and problem-solving skills among children.
The Mountain State, however, has suffered a serious teacher shortage, and it is difficult to find enough local Mandarin Chinese teachers, according to Deborah Nicholson, coordinator for world languages at the West Virginia Department of Education.
The US-Taiwan Education Initiative was established as a solution to such problems. In December 2020, the United States and Taiwan launched the Initiative, which aims to expand opportunities for American students to learn Mandarin from Taiwanese teachers, as well as opportunities for US teachers to help Taiwan reach its goal of becoming a bilingual society by 2030.
Under this initiative, Taiwan was invited in 2022 to join the Teachers of Critical Language Program (TCLP), which recruits K-12 teachers in Taiwan to teach Mandarin in the United States. At the same time, Taiwan’s Overseas Community Affairs Council (OCAC) has opened 54 Taiwan Centers for Mandarin Learning in various cities across the United States. OCAC is working towards the goal of opening 100 centers in 2025, including additional centers in the United States and Europe.
The West Virginia Department of Education reported that there are only three Taiwanese teachers working in K–12 classrooms in the state as of March 2023. The authority intends to increase that number under this agreement. Besides promoting Mandarin Chinese language education, they hope that the language teachers from Taiwan will also serve as a cultural resource for their host schools and communities. Taiwan and West Virginia have also maintained study abroad programs, such as the Huayu Enrichment Scholarship for West Virginia residents to study at a university or college in Taiwan.
“These educators offer rich learning environments and a perspective that is of great benefit to our students,” said Superintendent Roach. “We hope teachers from Taiwan take advantage of this program and come to West Virginia because we believe these types of opportunities are as rewarding for the teachers as it is for our children.”
The West Virginia Department of Education and the Taiwan Ministry of Education will form work groups to communicate and plan closely throughout the first year to ensure the initiative is implemented according to the Memorandum of Understanding.
West Virginia officials have expressed their hope that the agreement with Taiwan will encourage more students to study foreign languages and boost the state’s economic competitiveness in the future.
Van Tran is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She is an undergraduate student majoring in International Studies at Rhodes College, with a concentration in Asian Studies and immigration.