Posted tagged ‘Singapore’

The skills debate – an intervention from South-East Asia

June 26, 2018

In a recent post on this blog I looked at the developing discussion around skills, and how universities should respond. In the meantime, Singapore’s Education Minister, Ong Ye Kung, has suggested that the city state should have a multi-pathway model of post-secondary education and training. Part of this will be run through a new state agency called SkillsFuture, which is offering high-potential qualifications not involving a university degree.

There is an additional point to be observed in Singapore’s approach. The Minister wants schools to stream pupils ‘according to their inclinations’ regarding science, creative arts or IT. The idea behind the Minister’s approach is to stabilise careers. The general assumption is most developed countries is that those entering the labour force in future will not remain with one employer but will have a ‘portfolio’ of careers. The Minister does not want this for Singapore’s workforce.

All of this indicates again that the debate about skills, education and training has really only just begun, and governments, their agencies and educational institutions may not all be making the same assumptions and pursuing the same pedagogical goals. Indeed whether this matters is not yet clear either.


Chewing it over

November 23, 2012

I took the photo below the other day as I was walking down a city street. I won’t say where. Just say it’s on your street, because wherever you live, if you look down and study the pavement, this is what you are likely to see. And what you are seeing is discarded chewing gum that people have spat out.

the chewing gum street

I have increased contrast levels on the photo to make the gum more visible, but there it is. Of course as we know this wouldn’t be the scene in Singapore, because former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew banned the importation and use of chewing gum in the city state. While not particularly wanting to espouse Lee’s somewhat authoritarian form of government, you might wonder whether he had a point.

Nor is this just a minor aesthetic complaint. The cost annually of removing chewing gum from pavements can be astronomical. It is estimated that London spends £10 million a year on this operation.

Let’s chew this one over and do something.

Protecting higher education during a crisis

September 3, 2010

One country that often gets mentioned in Ireland as being a rival in seeking foreign direct investment and promoting indigenous innovation is Singapore. Although like us an island state, and having a population of roughly the same size as ours, in terms of land mass it is one of the smallest countries in the world. To put that in perspective, it is about one-third of the size of County Westmeath.

In terms of its pirorities and ambitions, there are however similarities with Ireland. Singapore has positioned itself as a global financial services centre, and has developed a strong performance in the biopharmaceutical area. It has prioritised the strategy for a knowledge society and economy, and has placed great emphasis on R&D.

And now, most recently, it has taken steps to protect universities in the event of future economic crises: it has set up the ‘Singapore Universities Trust’, through which $4 billion will be provided to secure universities into the future.

Ireland is frequently bidding against Singapore when attracting high value investments. If we are seen to be less serious about universities than they are, it may hurt us considerably. It may be timely therefore to look at this initiative to see whether it could or should be replicated here.

Chewy issue

March 4, 2010

In these uncertain times, it’s a great comfort that some things will not change. One of these is Singapore’s ban on the import, sale and use of chewing gum. The government there has announced that this ban will remain in place. The ban was originally introduced in 1992, though for some time before that Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had indicated his intention of addressing what he considered were the public tidiness and health issues arising from its widespread use.

Former US President Lyndon B. Johnson is said to have remarked of Gerald Ford (who later became President) that he was ‘so dumb he can’t walk and chew gum at the same time’. For anybody so afflicted, Singapore is the place.