In late October 2017, Bavaragh Dagalomai （Jolan Hsieh）, a professor in the Department of Ethnic Relations and Cultures who doubles as the Director of Center for International Indigenous Affairs, National Dong Hwa University （NDHU）, led the students from NDHU’s College of Indigenous Studies to pay an educational visit to New Zealand for its Māori education.
Almost all the students were first-time visitors to New Zealand. No sooner did they arrive at the airport than they saw the term ”Aotearoa” instead of ”New Zealand” as the country name on the map. Leaving the airport, signboards and banners with juxtaposition of English and Māori were seen everywhere. This is a result of ”total-immersion,” the most successful learning method of Māori education in New Zealand. The students from NDHU were very impressed with the scene there.
Total-immersion as a learning method found perfect expression in the welcome reception of the university. The whole event proceeded in Māori without English translation, but the attendees could understand thoroughly. The students from Taiwan were so deeply touched by the scene that they shed tears: ”It is unthinkable that the Aborigines can use their own language with no need of English. We don’t have such experience in Taiwan.”
This Māori education visit gave the NDHU visitors a real shock, which prompted them to keep thinking: ”How can we reconstruct the subjectivity of the indigenous people under the current circumstances in Taiwan?”
The NDHU’s College of Indigenous Studies visited Te Wānanga o Aotearoa in New Zealand in 2015. Previously a craft training center, Te Wānanga o Aotearoa is now the second largest educational institution in New Zealand, and the largest among the three Māori universities.
Having devoted to promoting the bilateral exchange between NDHU and Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, Bavaragh Dagalomai stated that the exchange was limited to faculty members owing to meager resources before receiving the subsidy from the Taiwan Connection Project from the Ministry of Education, Taiwan in 2017. The subsidy ”not only enabled the active exchange and continuous interaction between Taiwan and New Zealand, but also broadened the indigenous students’ horizons!”
In a sincere and earnest manner, Bavaragh Dagalomai told us that many indigenous students tend to chicken out on the grounds of poor English or lack of money, and choose to engage in exchange with their counterparts in China. In fact, they do not speak poor English but lack encouragement. Since opening up new horizons has become part of the mainstream of higher education, ”we tell our indigenous students bluntly that New Zealand and Australia are the ideal destinations if they want to go on any exchange.”