A workshop in Thailand
Sandwich Program in the Philippines
CDE's support for Vietnam
ICME - 9 in WMY 2000
In January 1997 a Workshop on Analysis was held in Suranaree University of Technology, Thailand. Professor Huzihiro Araki was the Japanese organizer and chose eight fields of analysis: operator algebras, function algebras, harmonic analysis, wavelets, hyperfunctions, Wiener functional integrals, solvable lattice models, and non-commutative differential geometry. I was invited to give an introductory lecture on hyperfunctions.
As newspapers have reported, the spectacular success of Thai economy can be felt during a short drive between the airport and the city center of Bangkok. Applied Science has been developing satisfactorily in Thailand. However, the growth of theoretical science has lagged behind and Thailand is not doing much in mainstream theoretical sciences, especially in mathematics.
At this stage in the progress of the country, Thailand felt a need to promote pure mathematics. With this in mind, Professor Sidney Mitchel, an American professor working at Chulalokorn University, organized the workshop.
In the late nineteen seventies, the number of people with Ph. D.'s in mathematics in the Philippines could be counted on the fingers of one hand. There was, however, an active mathematical society, the Mathematical Society of the Philippines (MSP), whose membership consisted mostly of teachers of college-level mathematics.
The leadership of MSP had a vision of creating a critical mass of researchers in mathematics in the country. They saw this as the first step towards establishing a stable and vital mathematics community.
At the time, quite a number of Filipinos were enrolled in Ph. D. programs in mathematics abroad, particularly in the U.S.A., but the rate of return to the Philippines of these scholars was minimal. They were easily absorbed by educational and research institutions there, so it was not feasible just to wait for returning Ph. D.'s to form the critical mass.
There was need for an intervention that would keep mathematicians working in the country. The resources of the three leading universities in the country, namely, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines could be tapped to form a Consortium in the Mathematical Sciences able to offer a local Ph. D. program in mathematics.
The dearth of Ph. D.'s posed a problem when it came to thesis advising. The theses were, of course, to be of international standard. The solution to the problem was the creation of the sandwich program.
The sandwich program concept, as implemented in the Consortium, consists of three stages :
Ph. D. students take the academic courses in any of the three universities.
Students go to a university abroad to start thesis research with a foreign adviser.
Students return home to complete the thesis with a local adviser.
The study done abroad is sandwiched between studies done at home, whence the name.
Initially, the links with the Southeast Asian Mathematical Society (SEAMS) and the grants from the German government (DAAD), the Australian government (IDP) ant the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) enabled scholars to spend time abroad with foreign thesis advisers, and, at times, allowed advisers to make a reciprocal visit to the scholars. Subsequently the growing exchanges between local universities and universities in the region provided similar opportunities.
In its twenty-year existence the program has produced 45 scholars. Of these 31 were in the sandwich program. One of the successes of the program is the global perspective gained by its graduates from their exposure to a foreign work environment and culture. Graduates have become part of a global (or at least regional) network of researchers in their research area and their interaction with members of these networks has led to research that is published in international journals.
Among Southeast Asian countries Vietnam has a relatively strong mathematical community. The Hanoi Institute of Mathematics is a center of excellence for mathematical research, although facilities like the mathematical library are in poor condition because of economic difficulties.
Vietnam has been a target country for the Commission on Development and Exchange (CDE) of IMU. The CDE supported the research team of Le Van Thanh (Hanoi) for 1992 - 1995 and a project closely related to this research group in 1996. In March 1997, the CDE supported the "Colloque Franco-Vietnamien" held in Ho Chi Minh City, in cooperation with CIMPA/ICPAM. Several young mathematicians from the Philippines and China were invited to this colloquium in a spirit of regional cooperation.
Historically and geographically Japan is closely related to Southeast Asia. Japan is a relatively advanced country in mathematics education and research. Although she already had her own indigenous mathematics, modern mathematics was introduced to Japan from western countries and has been one of the most important disciplines in the creation and development of her industry and economy. Japan has been trying hard to design a good national curriculum of mathematics for elementary and secondary schools. As a basis of industry, it is still vital for Japan, as it is for any other country, to improve the quality of mathematics education and to promote mathematics research nationwide.
In World Mathematical Year 2000 Japan will host the Ninth International Congress on Mathematical Education (ICME - 9), the first ICME to be held in East Asia. There have been many international meetings on mathematics education and mathematics research, which have been useful for regional cooperation among mathematicians. ICME - 9 will be a much more meaningful occasion to advance international understanding and mutual assistance in the world, especially in East and Southeast Asia.
In writing this article, I owe much to Southeast Asian mathematicians, especially to Professor Mari-Jo Ruiz of Ateneo de Manila University. I would like to thank them.
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