Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Tzu Chi’s Education Mission

On September 28, 2019, Tzu Chi Education Foundation celebrated its 30th anniversary at Hualien’s Jing Si Hall, with the theme of “Spreading kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity around, while collaborating with institutions in Taiwan and overseas: How Tzu Chi schools have guided students with professionalism and humanism.” A total of over 1,000 attended the event, and among them were Masters from Jing Si Abode, faculty members, staff and students of Tzu Chi University of Science and Technology, Tzu Chi University, Tzu Chi Senior High School Affiliated with Tzu Chi University, and Tainan Tzu Chi Senior High School, along with members of other Tzu Chi affiliates.

Members associated with Tzu Chi Foundation’s charity, medicine, education and humanistic culture affiliates presented a performance entitled Practicing Diligently to open up this event. It was followed by a video presentation and personal sharing, about how students have carried out their schools’ motto of kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity in their daily lives. 40,000 have learned humanistic culture and Great Love while studying at Tzu Chi schools, and after graduation, these alumni have spread this motto around. Faculty members, staff and students of the four schools presented two musical sign language and drama performances with the themes of Bright-Eyes Rescued Her Mother and Cause and Consequence, to remind us to cherish opportunities to love our parents and care for the needy, moreover, loving all living beings and protecting our Earth by sticking to a vegetarian diet.

More than thirty years ago, Dharma Master Cheng Yen decided to assist indigenous girls living in eastern Taiwan to continue their studies and offer them jobs after they completed their education. On September 17, 1989, Tzu Chi Nursing College was founded, with only 107 freshmen, and yet more than 20,000 participated in its grand opening. Fang-Yu Lu is now a nursing freshman at Tzu Chi University of Science and Technology, and a member of the indigenous Taroko Tribe. She grew up in a deprived environment, and Tzu Chi’s financial aid has assisted her to continue her studies. Fang-Yu has experienced firsthand, how Tzu Chi members have carried their kindness and compassion, and she is thus determined to do her best to help others.

Tzu Chi schools regard the essence of education as “teaching with propriety and educating with virtue.” In addition to instilling professional skills and knowledge, all four schools have worked to enhance students’ humanism. Moreover, Tzu Chi schools have worked closely with other Tzu Chi affiliates, for the betterment of the world.

Teachers have accompanied their students to serve communities in Taiwan and overseas, enabling the students to apply what they have learned to serve others, and from serving others, they could enhance their skills and compassion. Professor Yun-Chi Ho, dean of TCU’s College of Education and Communication, pointed out that she loves to inspire students to protect our environment, serve others and love their parents. Additionally, she expects students to do as much as they can to spread love around.

A TCU’s nursing student Cheng-Syun Cai has participated in the TCU Medical Outreach in the Philippines, and she experienced that as long as she wore a smile, gave a hug, or sang a song, expressing her sincerity and caring, she didn’t have any problems interacting with the local people.

Many students served the needy right after the 921 major earthquakes, which took place in 1999, Typhoon Morakot in 2009, the New Taipei City water park explosion in 2015, the Tainan earthquake in 2016, the Hualien earthquake in 2018, etc. Yu-Tong Lin is a Hualien Tzu Chi Elementary School student, who cares about the needy, so he has taken part in numerous fundraising activities to help them.

Society focuses too much on students’ grades and, meanwhile, doesn’t care much about their characters, which has generated many problems in Taiwan. Tzu Chi schools prepare students to have fine dispositions, life wisdom, and the ability to live their daily lives independently. Huei-Sing Cai is a Tzu Chi University alumna, who provided her blood sample to Tzu Chi Stem Cell Center, while studying at TCU. She later donated her bone marrow to help a needy person. At Tzu Chi University, she learned that people can help each other and work with each other for the well-being of humanity, which has inspired her to always attend to others’ needs.

To assist physicians and medical students in enhancing their surgical skills and knowledge, many people have given of themselves after passing, for physicians and students to learn from them, and we have named them “Silent Mentors.” Tzu Chi University initiated a Gross Anatomy Program in 1996, for third year medical students, and pioneered its Simulation Surgery Program in 2002, providing opportunities for students to learn from these Silent Mentors, before performing surgeries on real patients. Since its inception in 2002, a total of 1,463 faculty members and students coming from thirty universities around the world have participated in this program. Moreover, 2,879 physicians from thirty medical associations in Taiwan have also taken part in this program. Tzu Chi University wishes these attendants can apply the skills and good deeds they have learned from their Silent Mentors, to serve their patients.

Professor Shu-Fen Lo is a faculty member in the Nursing Department of Tzu Chi University of Science and Technology, whose husband is an aborigine. She believes education can make big changes, so she has led her students to care for indigenous children living in the remote villages of eastern Taiwan. Professor Lo asked her students to put themselves into the shoes of others, learn the spirit of nursing care from serving the needy, and she was consequently awarded the “Outstanding Teacher Award” by the Ministry of Education in 2019.

Yi-Ting Hu, a nursing student at Tzu Chi University of Science and Technology, is grateful that Tzu Chi Foundation has greatly helped her tribe and assisted to turn her life around.

Students at Tzu Chi schools are accompanied by senior Tzu Chi volunteers from the first day they begin attending their schools. These volunteers and students are not family members, yet they are very close to each other. We have named these volunteers “Tzu-Cheng dads and Yi-Te moms.” This year, 2,162 Tzu-Cheng dads and Yi-Te moms are accompanying students. Min-Lang Jheng was a Tzu-Cheng dad who didn’t have any children, yet he looked after students as if they were his children, and so, in his later days, over ten students walked with him through the last stretch of his life.

Dr. Bo-Wei Chen said, “Tzu Chi Foundation has taught me the essence of altruistic giving, and Tzu Chi schools have guided me to have a broad perspective of life, in addition to the right ways of interacting with others, so my life is filled with joy and laughter.”

Through the good efforts and persistence toward its educational goals during the past thirty years, the impact of Tzu Chi’s education can be seen. Tzu Chi University placed sixty-seventh in THE University Impact Rankings 2019, tenth in Asia and first place in Taiwan. Professor Pen-Jung Wang, CEO of Tzu Chi’s Education Mission, stated that “We are grateful to Dharma Master Cheng Yen for giving us a clear direction, and to Tzu Chi members around the world for their full support, for we have developed fine ways of learning and teaching, besides our unique school traditions. Education requires everyone to make continuous efforts, and we have seen some fruitful results. We funded two universities to nurture professionals to serve the needy in eastern Taiwan, and we are appreciated that many of our alumni have chosen to serve needy people here. We need to move forward from where we are, by making continuous efforts, expanding our teaching and research capabilities, and spreading humanism around. We wish to take one step at a time, enabling our educational philosophies and practices to become a vital part of our society, and eventually becoming mainstream. Moreover, by working together, we are able to assist people to turn their lives around and make this world a better one.”

In recent years, more international students have chosen to study at Tzu Chi schools. One Mozambique student decided to study Chinese here. He wants to learn more about Dharma Master Cheng Yen’s teachings, so he will be able to share these teachings with his countrymen in the future. Another one is from Al-Ashriyyah Nurul Iman Islamic Boarding School of Indonesia. He witnessed how Tzu Chi helped his school in Indonesia, and is grateful that Tzu Chi provided a scholarship for him to come to Taiwan. Although we are from different places and have different cultures, he is quite certain we can respect each other and work together.

While singing The Acacia that Connects the Dharma Master and Me, the presidents of the four Tzu Chi schools made commitments to pass on the Tzu Chi Spirit and remember why our schools were founded, and to also set high goals to work towards in the future. The CEO of Tzu Chi’s Education Foundation pointed out that Tzu Chi’s four schools provide education from preschool classes to Ph.D. programs, we have more international students every year, we also send more domestic students to study overseas, and we will continue with these efforts.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen has been awarded honorary doctorates by seven universities, and Chung Cheng University is one of them. Chung Cheng University’s vice president Jung-Ting Tsai attended this event and shared that Dharma Master Cheng Yen has guided Tzu Chi volunteers to serve the needy around the world. Whenever there is a disaster, Tzu Chi volunteers, coming from elsewhere, will show up to help, and while working there, they always do their best and invite local people to help each other. Local people may have different religious faiths, yet Tzu Chi volunteers respect their faiths heartily.

Many people have devoted themselves to education, and therefore we could achieve so much in thirty years. Professor Sze-Piao Yang was the first president at Tzu Chi University of Science and technology, and he is over 100 years old. His presence at the event reminded us to stick to Tzu Chi’s educational principles and continue to prepare students with professionalism and humanism. Tuan-Cheng Wang, the director of Tzu Chi Education Foundation, pointed out that we have done a lot during the past thirty years and we are going to do more in the future. Our founder, Dharma Master Cheng Yen, has given us a clear direction, and we need to guide our students to head into their futures with a clear path. Tzu Chi’s affiliates in charity, medicine, education and humanistic culture will continuously work with each other, and invite the public to work with us for the well-being of humanity.

Dharma Master Cheng Yen was grateful for everyone’s good efforts. She was grateful we have been guiding our students wisely and compassionately, and now they have grown up. These grown-ups are shouldering their responsibilities with clear directions and caring hearts, and they know well how to make the best use of their lives. Tzu Chi Foundation originated from a charity mission, in 1966, to serve deprived people. It later built hospitals to care for needy patients, and in order to nurture medical professionals, we founded a nursing college and a medical college. The Dharma Master has reminded us that humanistic culture is a crucial part of everything we do. All Tzu Chi members are associated with four missions, namely charity, medicine, education and humanistic culture, and we need to work closely with each other. The Dharma Master again reminded us that we should be mindful of our own thoughts, develop our potentials to the fullest, and work with others for the well-being of humanity.