Use expertise in education to enhance Singapore's soft power

Time and again, we read reports of foreign places' infatuation with the Singapore-style education system and schools ("S'pore-style schools a hit in the region"; March 7, and "Singapore-style tuition classes sprout up in Hong Kong"; ST Online, Jan 11).

Such infatuation is largely fuelled by Singapore's reputation for quality education.

In Hong Kong, the Philippines and Indonesia, many individuals have seen the value of Singapore-style education, and turned it into a money spinner.

The problem is that the quality of their offerings is varied and runs the risk of tarnishing the reputation of Singapore education.

Lured by the Singapore brand, parents overseas may not realise that what they are paying for is merely a counterfeit or a fraction of the entire package.

This could become a problem for our Singapore brand in the long run, but in every problem, there is opportunity.

I suggest that the Singapore Government extend its education cooperation beyond providing technical assistance and training to government officers in foreign countries.

We can provide public talks, workshops and seminars on a host of educational topics - ranging from curriculum, teaching methods and school leadership to educational policies - directly to people overseas. By sharing our expertise in quality education, we will foster goodwill and exchange.

I suggest that our Government tap the educational expertise and resources at our disposal to enhance the soft power of Singapore.

Given the magnitude of the challenges in the global economic arena and our inherent vulnerabilities, we should consider using our expertise in quality education to win friends around the world.

William Tan Whee Kiem