Committee on the Future Economy report: Strategy 1: Deepen and diversify our international connections

Panel's suggestions will help spur parents to work abroad

Above: Mr Chua, his wife Angel and their son Ace. As a result of their three-year stay in Dubai, Ace had to catch up on his studies and get used to a "different culture" in school here upon their return. Left: Mr Toh, his wife Melissa and their son N
Above: Mr Toh, his wife Melissa and their son Noah and daughter Sophie. The couple moved back to Singapore from London after Sophie was born because they were worried that she may have difficulty transitioning to the education system here.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG
Above: Mr Chua, his wife Angel and their son Ace. As a result of their three-year stay in Dubai, Ace had to catch up on his studies and get used to a "different culture" in school here upon their return. Left: Mr Toh, his wife Melissa and their son N
Above: Mr Chua, his wife Angel and their son Ace. As a result of their three-year stay in Dubai, Ace had to catch up on his studies and get used to a "different culture" in school here upon their return. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ANGEL PENG

The opportunity to live and work abroad does not come by often, but when it did for the Toh and Chua families, they seized it.

Mr Gerard Toh, an audit partner with KPMG Singapore, was asked to work at the firm's London office in 2008. It was a chance Mr Toh and his wife, who works at the same firm and managed to secure a similar posting, were not going to let pass.

"Both of us never studied abroad, so this was an opportunity for us to experience living overseas. It taught me many important lessons," Mr Toh, 36, told The Straits Times yesterday. One of his many lessons came soon after he arrived, when the global financial crisis began following the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Seeing workers filing out of office buildings with their personal belongings in a box was sobering. "It hits you that you should not take job security for granted," he said.

Working with people of 15 nationalities in his team also demanded more patience and empathy. The 18-month posting helped build character and taught him to be more independent, streetwise and resilient, he said. "The challenge is that the environment in Singapore is set up to be so seamless that sometimes it curtails self-exploration."

Mr Toh and his wife moved back to Singapore after the birth of their daughter Sophie, now eight, owing to worries that she may have difficulty transitioning to the education system here. The couple also have a son, Noah, who is six years old.

"The recommendations by the the Committee on the Future Economy (to ease parents' concerns about their children's education overseas) are a good first step. I think children's education is a key reason why many people do not want to relocate," said Mr Toh.

 

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For Ms Angel Peng and her husband Max Chua, the challenge was teaching their son Chinese when the family spent more than three years in Dubai, where Mr Chua worked as a regional operations manager at Inchcape Shipping Services. The couple had plucked their son Ace, then six, from a kindergarten here in 2011 and enrolled him in an international school.

"I bought Chinese textbooks and workbooks and attempted to teach him myself... But it is not easy, and he is quite weak in the subject now," Ms Peng, 40, told The Straits Times.

The family returned in 2014 after Mr Chua found another job here.

Ms Peng said her son, now 11, had to catch up on his studies and get used to a "different culture" in his school here. "Fortunately, the school assigned him buddies, so he had friends when he started. That helped," she noted.

Wong Siew Ying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Panel's suggestions will help spur parents to work abroad'. Print Edition | Subscribe