Scope for greater Singapore-China cooperation in education and transport: Ng Chee Meng

BEIJING - Teachers from Singapore and China will soon have more opportunities to interact and learn from one another, said visiting Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng.

Education ministries from the two countries are ironing out a new attachment programme for technical and vocational educators, he told China's Xinhua news agency in an interview published on Tuesday (Aug 01).

"We hope to see this come to fruition within the coming year," said Mr Ng.

Mr Ng, also second minister for transport, also said that Singapore welcomes China's interest in the Kuala Lumpur-Singapore high-speed rail project, which is expected to be operational by end 2026.

"We are aware of China's track record and experience in this area: many Singapore leaders, including Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, have taken the Chinese HSR and found it to be comfortable, punctual, and reliable," said Mr Ng, who is on a four-day working visit to China that ends on Wednesday(Aug 02).

The attachment programme comes after the education ministries of the two countries signed a revised Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) at the 10th China-Asean Education Cooperation Week last week.

The two education ministries will also look at ways to keep two flagship student exchange programmes relevant to students in a changing world, said Mr Ng. The two programmes, which have been running for over a decade, are the Sino-Singapore Undergraduate Exchange and the Sino-Singapore High School Exchange.

In Beijing, Mr Ng met China's Minister of Transport Li Xiaopeng, Administrator of the Civil Aviation Administration of China Feng Zhenglin, and other senior officials.

He then travelled to Qingdao, where he will visit a factory run by the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation and observe the off-site testing of signalling and communications systems for the new Thomson-East Coast Line (TEL) trains.

The China corporation is both the provider of new trains on the upcoming TEL, and supplier of additional trains for the North-South and East-West Lines.

Mr Ng said there is much scope for deeper cooperation between Singapore and China in the area of transport.

With air links between the two sides growing strongly since bilateral air services were expanded in 2005 - there were more than 5.6 million passenger movements between China and Singapore by air in 2016 - China's Belt and Road Initiative provides good reason to improve connectivity, he said. He was referring to the project to build land and sea trade routes linking Asia, Africa and Europe, based on ancient trade routes. Under this, billions of dollars will be invested in infrastructure projects including railways, ports and power grids in countries along the routes.

Mr Ng said: "We should leverage on the expansion of the Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Singapore air hubs to improve regional and international connectivity."

He added that Singapore will work to further liberalise Asean-China air services.

As for land transport, Mr Ng noted that Chinese companies are familiar with Singapore's operating context, having won about $4.3 billion in Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) tenders in the last five years alone.

He said: "We continue to welcome the participation of Chinese companies and their partners in our future tenders."