On the morning of Tuesday, August 14 local time (evening of August 14 Taipei time), President Tsai Ing-wen, accompanied by Paraguayan President Horacio Cartes, attended the opening ceremony for pre-university courses at Taiwan-Paraguay Polytechnic University (Universidad Politécnica Taiwán-Paraguay, UPTP), and delivered the keynote address.
In her remarks, President Tsai said she was delighted to visit beautiful Paraguay once again, and even more pleased that right after arriving, her first stop brought her to the opening ceremony for math and English pre-university courses at the UPTP, a testament to the achievements of Taiwan-Paraguay cooperation in education.
The president pointed out that education is the foundation of any country's long-term competitiveness, and that cultivating engineers and technicians is particularly important in a country with a growing economy. Under President Cartes' leadership, the Paraguayan economy has seen steady growth over the past few years, transforming the previous focus on agricultural and animal husbandry, and developing a balance between agriculture and husbandry, and industry and commerce. So now is the best time for Paraguay to expand its higher, technical, and vocational education.
President Tsai went on to say that higher, technical, and vocational education in Taiwan are the key to supporting rapid high-tech industry growth. Our big focus on education, she said, has ensured the sustained transformation and upgrading of our industrial sector. This keeps Taiwan competitive in rapidly changing markets.
President Tsai mentioned that when President Cartes visited Taiwan last July, he expressed hope that Taiwan and Paraguay would launch a cooperative plan to establish the UPTP. Taiwan was honored to enlist the support of the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology (NTUST), ranked among the top five universities in Taiwan, and an elite university with extensive practical experience in technical and vocational education. NTUST was thus put in charge of plans and preparations for the new university in Paraguay.
President Tsai then explained that, after more than a year of hard work, teams from both countries had confirmed the legal basis and obtained land, and campus construction was set to begin. A team of experts from the NTUST will help provide instructors, design a curriculum, and invest in facilities. The new university, she said, is expected to comprise four engineering departments (civil, mechanical, industrial, and computer engineering), and is scheduled to formally open in March next year. President Tsai said she looks forward to the UPTP becoming, like the NTUST, one of the world's top new schools, turning out the kinds of engineers needed to support Paraguay's development.
President Tsai pointed out that although 400 spots were available for pre-university courses, there were more than 4,000 applicants, and that the successful candidates in the audience were certainly among the best students in Paraguay. President Tsai said she admired their enthusiastic commitment to Paraguay's national development, and thanked them for affirming the quality of Taiwan's higher education. The next step for the UPTP's university curriculum, she said, is to enroll 100 students from the pre-university courses, so everyone has a chance to vie for a slot. To encourage the students, President Tsai announced that each student admitted to the university will receive a tablet computer from Taiwan's Acer Corporation. The president then thanked Acer for working together with the government to support the educational development of Taiwan's diplomatic ally.
President Tsai also thanked NTUST professors Fang-Jung Shiou (修芳仲) and Fuchen Teng (鄧福宸) for their enthusiastic participation, and asked them to contribute their accumulated expertise and abilities to the enthusiastic young Paraguayan students.
President Tsai also took the opportunity to announce more good news: To help Taiwan's allies cultivate technical personnel, the government will increase the quota for technical and vocational education students in Taiwan. It will also provide financial aid to young students who want to come to Taiwan and attend courses in: mobile phone applications; home appliance and vehicle repair; carpentry; computers; and refrigeration and air conditioning. The number of slots in Spanish-language courses for students from our Latin American diplomatic allies will increase from 75 to 350, said the president, who welcomed interested students from Paraguay to enroll in technical courses in Taiwan.
The president expressed hope that all the students in the audience, whether they continue their schooling at home or receive training overseas, will one day become outstanding professionals and play a leading role in Paraguay's continued industrial and technological progress. She also asked them to always remember that Taiwan is Paraguay's best friend, and we're happy to share our experience, and contribute whatever Taiwan has to Paraguay's future.
In closing, President Tsai conveyed best wishes for the success of UPTP, and an ever stronger friendship between Taiwan and Paraguay.
The presidents of Taiwan and Paraguay then witnessed Education Minister Yeh Jiunn-rong (葉俊榮), on behalf of the Taiwan government, present an Acer tablet computer to Paraguayan Minister of Industry and Commerce Gustavo Leite, representing Acer's pledge to the first 100 students accepted into the UPTP. President Tsai and President Cartes then unveiled the UPTP plaque. After the ceremony, the two heads of state walked over to see classrooms for pre-university courses and a faculty lounge to get a better idea about the overall educational environment.
Education Minister Raúl Aguilera was among those representing Paraguay at the ceremony. National Security Council Secretary-General David T. Lee (李大維); Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮); Legislators Hsiao Bi-Khim (蕭美琴), Lee Chun-Yi (李俊俋), Chen Yi-Chieh (陳怡潔), and Tsai Shih-Ying (蔡適應); and ROC Ambassador to Paraguay Diego L. Chou (周麟) were all on hand representing Taiwan.