Golden opportunity for Singapore to be a global education hub

I read with amazement at how Australia's education sector is now the nation's third-largest export, contributing A$28.6 billion (S$29.4 billion) to its coffers ('Ghetto' worry amid foreign student boom in Australia, Nov 11).

Attracting over 700,000 students and providing them a seamless platform for world-class education is definitely a reflection of the investment by Australian universities in building a brand and reputation not just for themselves, but for the nation as a whole.

That prompts the question why Singapore is still not investing enough to position itself as an education hub.

With infrastructure available in both government and private educational institutions, Singapore can easily attract global students - from primary up to tertiary levels.

Instead of merging public schools that have dwindling local enrolments, these can be opened up to foreign students, both those already living here or from overseas.

Attracting foreign students, especially at the school or college level, would help them blend in faster and better into our society. This helps in tackling a key concern for the Government as it looks at ways to better integrate foreigners into the local community.

Furthermore, with Singapore accelerating its push to become a Smart Nation and a data analytics hub, there is a stronger need for new talent to create diverse thinking capabilities among the student community.

Going a step further, Singapore could take a leaf from Dubai's Academic City and carve out a space to attract international educational institutions to set up their offshore campuses in Singapore. This will not only attract talent and capital, but also generate high-end employment for Singaporeans in the education services sector.

Education is one of the primary sectors that benefits from a rising middle-class population globally, and it is imperative that Singapore moves quickly to capitalise on this front.

Sriram Iyer

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 20, 2017, with the headline 'Golden opportunity for Singapore to be a global education hub'. Print Edition | Subscribe