Abu Dhabi looks to S'pore; It is reviewing education system in bid to diversify economy

Abu Dhabi looks to S'pore; It is reviewing education system in bid to diversify economy

Wednesday, 02 September 2009

Media Type
The Straits Times - Pg A14

Abu Dhabi - In 50 years, Singapore has moved from Third World to First, building a modern economy with one of the highest per capita incomes in Asia. The key to that transformation has been its education system, which has developed in capacity and depth to support Singapore's economic growth.

And now, the petro-emirate of Abu Dhabi is keen to learn from Singapore's experience as it seeks to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil.

On Monday, the emirate's crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Zayed Al-Nahyan, invited former education minister Tony Tan to deliver the annual Ramadan lecture in Abu Dhabi.

Dr Tan, who served as education minister for seven years, is credited with playing a big part in shaping Singapore's university landscape. He now chairs the National Research Foundation and the International Academic Advisory Panel, which advises the Government on the university sector.

'Being a small country with limited natural resources, the training of human capital is of crucial importance for Singapore's evolving economic structure. More skilled workers, technicians and university graduates will be needed,' he said. He noted Singapore has to become a nation of innovators and designers as the country transits to a knowledge-based economy.

Abu Dhabi has embarked on a massive overhaul of its education system and is keen to learn from countries such as Singapore, which features regularly at the top of education ranking tables. The emiratis have already been building their own knowledge centres by bringing in top university names such as New York University and Sorbonne.

In the knowledge economy, Dr Tan said, talent will be the key to economic success: 'Global cities which are able to produce many skilled, well-trained and motivated graduates are very attractive to companies which tend to locate and invest in places with a high concentration of talent.'

Dr Mugheer Khamis Al-Khaili, director-general of Abu Dhabi Education Council - one of the key agencies heading the reform - said emiratis lag far behind Singaporean youngsters in maths and science skills, as well as English.

Abu Dhabi, he added, also seeks to emulate the quality of Singapore's teaching force, and is interested in getting Singapore's National Institute of Education to set up a campus in the emirate. 'Singapore has a model education system that everyone looks up to. We are hoping to get Singapore's help to accelerate our educational reforms,' he said.

This is something Singapore is more than willing to do, said Dr Tan. 'Singapore had much help from other countries when it was developing its own education system,' he said, and it is ready to share its best practices and ideas with others, like Abu Dhabi.

Source: The Straits Times - Pg A14, sph