You speak, I speak, we speak for public subsidy

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The Tertiary Education Services Office (GAES) is ready to invest up to MOP2.1 million to cover interest on loans contracted by local students enrolled in higher education programmes to pursue foreign language training abroad, the Deputy Director of GAES, Chang Kun Hong, said in a press conference held at the office’s headquarters yesterday.
The “Interest subsidy scheme for language training for undergraduate and graduate students” will be launched on March 21, 2017 and is aimed at permanent residents under 45 years of age who hold a Bachelor’s degree, have been enrolled in a local higher education institution or high school for at least three consecutive years, and who want to pursue up to 24 months of language training overseas.
Portuguese, Mandarin, and English are the three languages covered by the scheme, which requires that enrolment be made in a foreign higher education institution recognised by host countries and regions as indicated in the scheme, explained Lo Lai Peng, GAES’s Functional Head for Higher Education Affairs.
The duration of Mandarin courses cannot be shorter than six months, while the length of Portuguese or English courses cannot be less than nine months.
Questioned by Business Daily if Taiwan also qualified as a location for learning Chinese, Mr. Chang re­plied in the negative, saying that only “Mandarin” training qualifies under the scheme. Thus, only higher edu­cation institutions in Mainland China are eligible.
The Office did not introduce restrictions on the list of Portuguese and English speaking countries.

Money talk
GAES will subsidise annual interest fees up to a maximum of 5 per cent on loans not exceeding MOP360,000 over a maximum period of two years.
In order to qualify for the interest subsidy scheme, applicants have to register in Mandarin courses which cost up to MOP5,000 per month, while the cap for English and Portuguese courses is MOP15,000 per month.
Beneficiaries of the scheme cannot re-apply, Mr. Chang clarified at the end of the press conference.
The time period for the payment of interest fees, via bank transfer, will be determined according to the length of the course, up to two years.
Some 70 per cent of interest costs will be paid in monthly instalments throughout the duration of the course, with the remaining 30 per cent following its completion.
Loans – to cover course fees, daily expenses, and travel costs – can be contracted from the six local banks participating in the scheme: Bank of China (Macau Branch), OCBC Wing Hang, S.A., Banco Nacional Ultramarino (BNU), Macau Commercial Bank (BCM), Guang Fa Bank of China, S.A. (CGB), and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC).

Portuguese la!
More than 80 undergraduate students from Macau will participate in a month-long Portuguese language course in Portugal this Summer, according to GAES co-ordinator Sou Chi Wai, Lusa reported earlier this week.
The Summer School initiative – titled ‘To Be and to Know Portuguese’ – has already involved 320 students from local universities since it was launched in December 2012, according to data released by GAES and published by the news service.
Speaking to Business Daily, GAES spokesperson Celia Ao Ieong said that the budget to send the 80 students to Portugal in 2017 will reach nearly MOP1.12 million.
According to Ms. Ao, the cost of sending the 79 students selected to take part in the Summer course last year, including course fees, advertising and subsidies, “was around MOP1.24 million.”
Thus, the average amount disbursed per student annually would roughly amount to MOP14,000 in 2017 and MOP15,696 in 2016, higher than the average annual spending of MOP4,410 per student said to be disbursed by GAES on the programme in the last three years as reported by Lusa.
According to information published by GAES on its website, the 80 students selected to go to Portugal this year must pay a tuition fee of MOP3,000. GAES and the Macau SAR Government, in turn, will cover costs including roundtrip transportation and travel insurance for the period of the course, the enrolment fee at the host institution, in Lisbon or Porto, as well as a MOP4,000 allowance for food and accommodation. 

Target public
According to Ms. Ao, of the 79 students who went to Portugal last year, 32 attended the University of Porto, while 47 attended the University of Lisbon. Moreover, 54 of the total were enrolled in one of the following local universities when they applied for the course: University of Macau (UM), Macao Polytechnic Institute (IPM), University of Saint-Joseph (USJ), the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) and Kiang Wu Nursing College (KWNC).
The remaining 21 were Macau residents studying in Taiwan, Mainland China, Hong Kong, Japan or the U.S. by the time of application, according to the GAES spokesperson.
Ms. Ao added that the 2017 programme is still open for application, and that the selection process has not yet begun.
The initiative, supported by the Portuguese Oriental Institute (IPOR), seeks to strengthen the knowledge of local higher education students in the Portuguese language and culture, and seeks to promote ‘the training of qualified bilingual persons,’ according to GAES.
The language training is developed in two phases.
In the first stage, IPOR offers a tuition-free 50-hour preparatory course in Macau called a ‘Basic Course in Portuguese.’ The best students qualify for pursuing the programme in Portugal for a period of four weeks.
‘GAES will select students that excel in global aspects to take part in the interview. In the interview, the top 60 students will be selected to participate in the 2nd phase of the Summer School in Portugal,’ read the guidelines published by the office.
Students who qualify for the Summer School in Portugal consist of two groups: ‘Type 1’ students who have completed the basic course provided by IPOR and have succeed in the interview; ‘Type 2’ students who have passed the Portuguese Level Test, also prepared by IPOR, with ‘better integrated performance,’ becoming eligible to go to Portugal to pursue their language training.