Can work closely with India on skill development: Singapore minister

Updated on Jun 08, 2019 07:19 AM IST

Although India and Singapore are vastly different countries, the two have many similarities, the Singapore minister said.

Seen here is Singapore education minister Ong Ye Kung.
Seen here is Singapore education minister Ong Ye Kung.
Hindustan Times, New Delhi | ByAmandeep Shukla and Rajeev Jayaswal

Singapore is keen to cooperate with India in the area of skills development, visiting education minister Ong Ye Kung said on Friday, adding that the newly constituted cabinet committee on employment and skill development will invigorate India’s efforts at imparting essential employability skills to the people.

“I believe there is significant scope for India and Singapore to work closely together in the area of skills development. Singapore is small and has limited resources but, notwithstanding this, I believe we can make a meaningful impact in this area,” he said at a plenary session, “Talent and skills for a digital economy”, of the Growth Net Summit in New Delhi.

Although India and Singapore are vastly different countries, the two have many similarities, the Singapore minister said. “Singapore grew from third- to first-world in a generation, and we continue to try to break new ground in city planning, smart city solutions, education and SkillsFuture,” he said.

Observing that India’s economic transformation was even more remarkable, he continued, “You are now the fastest-growing major emerging economy in the world, millions of Indians are lifted out of poverty every year, and the middle class has quadrupled over the last 25 years.

Also Read| ‘It is for governments to help people improve their skills and careers’: Singapore education minister

“You have implemented significant national initiatives on such a large scale, such as Aadhaar, GST [Goods and Services Tax], revamped bankruptcy laws, and are pushing ahead with the building of smart cities.

“And amid all these transformations, we are traditional societies -- firm in family values, steadfast in our hopes and dreams for our young, and investing in our children to ensure they have a bright future.”

Kung said social transformation in the age of Internet could be ensured by two things -- grounding the youth in skills and starting young. “Knowledge and skills go hand in hand. One must go with the other. But the Internet has made knowledge so readily available, therefore skills have become much more valued in the digital economy,” he said.

“This is why companies such as Google and Apple are hiring based on skills, and not just whether you have a college degree. And many companies are moving in that direction.”

Skilling is the only way to avoid job losses brought about by computerisation and by robots that can easily take over routine and repetitive tasks. “So, the way a worker avoids being replaced by computers and robots is to attain skills at the level of a craftsman or an artisan, which machines cannot yet replicate,” he said.

Citing Singapore’s example, he said education reforms must start when a person is very young. “What we are doing is building up infant care and early childhood education,” he said.

“Government spending in the pre-school sector has increased 2.5 times from 2012 to 2107 [in Singapore], and is set to increase further. We are not seeking to cram calculus and science into the pre-school curriculum. In fact, our emphasis is quite the opposite. “Let the children learn through play, develop socio-emotional skills, and be exposed to languages, especially English and their mother tongues. This is to lay a good foundation for them to learn through the joy of exploration,” he said.

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