Taiwan: Religion-affiliated schools offer study in single faith

By Huang Yi-jing, Taipei Times, Mar 17, 2008

Taipei, Taiwan -- The country's religion-affiliated schools are accepting applications for the upcoming school year after the Ministry of Education (MOE) agreed last year to allow religion-based schools to set up departments devoted to the study of a single faith.

The decision was a major move for the ministry, which historically advocated the separation of religion and academia.

Following the green light from the ministry, several schools such as Dharma Drum Buddhist College and Chang Jung Christian University immediately jumped at the opportunity and opened up specific departments to give their students extensive studies in the respective religions.

Last month, Chang Jung Christian School opened up the country's first School of Theology and formally introduced Christian studies into the collegiate curricula.

The diplomas of the seminary graduates will also be recognized by the ministry.

In addition to submitting an academic portfolio and passing a series of examinations, all applicants to the school must be Christians and must be recommended by the leader of their congregation.

All students at Dharma Drum Buddhist College are required to live in the school dormitory and follow a strict Buddhist vegetarian diet.

The college, combined with teaching resources from Dharma Drum Mountain World Center for Buddhist Education, allows students to learn all aspects of the religion, including the doctrine and the Buddhist code of conduct.

Students are also required to recite the sutra both morning and night as well as participate in service projects to amplify the Buddhist tenet of rendering compassion to others.

Huanfan University, the first university founded by the Buddhist community in a Chinese speaking country, is only recruiting female students -- including Buddhist nuns -- this year for its department of Buddhism studies.