EDU Secretary-General H.E. Irving Levance studies successful Singapore Education model
The embodiment of a knowledge based society, Singapore is a shining example of how a country can use a commitment to quality education as a strategic asset. It is for this reason that the Secretary General visited to be briefed on lessons learned in educational best practice.
He met with prominent Singaporean diplomat H.E. Jai S. Sohan who has held several key appointments in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) since he joined the Foreign Service in 1985, including Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary. He served as Director of ASEAN Directorate and as Director of Consular Directorate. He also served as Singapore's Consul-General in San Francisco, Deputy Chief of Mission in Kuala Lumpur and Deputy Chief of Mission in Jakarta. He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze) in 2001, the Long Service Medal in 2008 and the Public Administration Medal (Silver) in 2011.
Mr Sohan’s relaxed charm and engaging manner made for a pleasant meeting, while his youthful countenance belied his role as a father to two teenage children, which gives him a personal appreciation of the importance of making correct educational choices.
The successes in the Singaporean approach has its roots in wise decisions made at the time of independence, designed to assure an environment of stability, reliable defence capabilities, the adoption of English as the official language and the establishment of a tripartite system of labour relations involving the government, employers and labour unions interacting cooperatively.
It was recognised early that, as a nation with no natural resources, not even its own water supply, the population of Singapore would be its principal marketable asset.
UNIVERSAL FUNDED EDUCATION
Universal state funded education was seen as the best way to enhance the value of this resource to create a skilled, flexible and capable workforce. Private education on British, Australian, American, French and German models were also encouraged to flourish in the international schools market. A policy of continuous training, re-training, re-branding, research and development, design technology, clean energy technologies and a business environment making it an attractive hub for multi-national companies has kept Singapore ahead of the curve. Its well educated and well trained population is well placed to flexibly adapt to future challenges and developments.
H.E. Irving Levance was impressed with an example of this as H.E. Jai S. Sohan proudly expounded the ‘New Water’ project. Singaporean ingenuity and technical prowess has produced high quality, drinkable, water through reverse osmosis, which reduces dependence on imported water.
With English as the official language and with Malay, Mandarin and Tamil widely spoken, Singapore has been very successful in forging a multicultural and ethnically diverse population into a national identity. Cultural background is seen as important though and an agenda promoting the study of the ‘paternal language’ of each student is a way to ensure its continuation.
The Singapore model demonstrates that it is possible to sensitively handle cultural background, identify the best facets of local culture and skilfully combine them with the most successful aspects of international methodologies.