The changing policy discourse and the implementation of multicultural education in Taiwan in the 21st century
Since the 1990s, the number of female marriage-based immigrants in Taiwan has increased dramatically. As of 2015, Taiwan was home to more than half a million female marriage-based immigrants, and the percentage of new immigrant children among all primary school children was more than 10%. This demographic change has had a huge impact on education policies in Taiwan. As the majority of these new immigrants are from Southeast Asia and mainland China, the major policy focus was initially on the needs of new immigrant children and ways for them and their mothers to assimilate into local society. However, as the importance of the ASEAN economy has increased on the global stage, the policy discourse of multicultural education in Taiwan has also changed. Richard Ruíz’s (1984) framework of language as a problem, as a right, and as a resource is a useful tool for understanding the changing discourses of related multicultural educational policies in Taiwan as examined through literature reviews and document analysis. The author argues that as the discourse of multicultural education in Taiwan has shifted from assimilation and ‘problematizing’ new immigrant children to an emphasis on building cross-cultural competency of all citizens in the context of global economy. Nevertheless, instrumental purposes and values are deeply embedded with the current discourse with strong emphasis on international competitiveness and enhancement of human capital. This is also reflected on implementation at the school level, as it is found that most Southeast Asia–related activities only target new immigrant students. In addition to encouraging schools to provide resources to non-new immigrant students, it is equally crucial to pay attention to multicultural awareness of local school teachers and their capabilities to infuse Southeast Asia (SEA) knowledge to their subjects. In this way, more cross-cultural communication and interaction between different ethnic groups within schools and society at large would become possible.