Every year in mid-November, St. John’s University holds a Coming of Age Ceremony (成年禮) for all of our first-year university students ~ plus SJU President Ay, faculty, alumni, tutors and staff. The event is organized by the St. John’s University Chaplaincy, and takes weeks of preparation for our chaplaincy staff and the student fellowship team ~ but it’s all worth it, and every year we thank God for another successful event! It’s also got high praise from the Ministry of Education too.
And it all happened yesterday afternoon!
The students (and tutors) this year all had special red SJU ties, emblazoned with SJU logos and words, and with matching white shirts (or black for some), everyone looked very smart. Took quite some effort to get those ties on the right way, but everyone helped out their friends and in the end, they all looked great! Many parents came too, and were warmly thanked and presented with gifts of potted plants, as were the class tutors. We had speeches and music, a wine toast, formal bows, prayers and a blessing from Rev. Lennon Y. R. Chang. All this to mark the students’ arrival in the big wide world of adulthood, a world of maturity and responsibility. Ah yes, a great occasion!
But, this year there were only 350 or so students at the Coming of Age Ceremony. Looking back on these blog posts marking the same event over the years – they go back to 2012, when there were 1,500 students at the ceremony, and the hall was packed out. In those 5 years, student enrollment has gone down by 200-300 each year – last year there were about 800 at the ceremony. It is seriously worrying. And it’s also a major problem affecting all of Taiwan. A drastic fall in the birth rate (and hardly any immigration) is impacting all schools and colleges, from primary schools upwards. At university level, there are way too many universities and nowhere near enough students to go round, so the only way to keep the numbers up is to reduce standards – and for small private universities like ours, the problem is particularly bad. Yes, these days we have lots of foreign students and lots of new and innovative programme to attract students (and keep them), but still, they are not enough to keep up with the falling numbers of Taiwan students. Next year is a ‘dragon year’ of students coming through (there’s a high birth rate every dragon year!) plus we have the junior college students who, next year, for the first time, will be eligible to join in the Coming of Age Ceremony. So we look forward to an upward rise in 2018!
So please keep us in your prayers and thoughts as St. John’s University works hard to resolve this problem ~ and face the challenges ahead!
PS The university’s own article (in Chinese) about yesterday’s event is here