The Standing Committee at a Primary School making Korean hearts with their hands. - Photo:The Embassy
The Standing Committee making their best "Korean heart signs" at Oasis Primary School. The Embassy

Standing Committee on Education and Research Visited Singapore

Last week the Embassy hosted the Standing Committee on Research and Education from the Norwegian Parliament. The Committee, led by Mr. Roy Steffensen, were here to learn from the Singaporean model of lifelong learning, and its interplay with the ecosystem of education, research and innovation.

Differently from Norway, Singapore is a country with little natural resources, and is therefore reliant on developing its human resources in order to remain competitive and relevant in the future. Therefore, the Singaporean government has been pursuing a policy of lifelong learning, where citizens in need of retraining can access subsidized short courses or even full university degrees. For small nations like Norway and Singapore, the future economic landscape is uncertain, so it is important to have an educational policy that cultivates creative minds that will start the industries of tomorrow.

During the visit, our guests met and discussed with representatives from the Ministry of Education, Members of the Singaporean Parliament, the National Research Foundation and SkillsFuture. All our hosts stressed the above-mentioned narrative as intrinsically linked with Singapore’s future strategic importance and competiveness. Therefore, it is if the utmost importance that the educational policy is sound educational policy. A representative from the Ministry of Education stated, “Abstract logical and creative thinking are necessary in a highly skilled country like Singapore”. Therefore, the school system focuses on problem solving from the onset. The delegation was struck by the cohesiveness regarding the policies of lifelong learning across all the government institutions.

Visits to Oasis Primary School and the two major comprehensive universities, Nanyang Technical University and National University of Singapore, gave our delegation an impression of how policy works in practice. Already from a young age, students are empowered to explore and take charge of their own learning. In addition, the on campus cooperation between the universities, businesses and the government to support internships for students impressed our delegation. For the businesses involved, the potential for further innovation is a key motivator for taking part in the cooperation. The universities also encourages students to take part in their respective entrepreneurial programmes, in line with the effort to promote exploration and self-driven learning.

At SkillsFuture, the Standing Committee had the opportunity to tour the Lifelong Learning Exploration Centre, an initiative where citizens can reflect on their skills, and prepare a career path. Some of the committee members did personality and value screenings, giving suggestions on what industries they fit in. Others ran straight to the interview section, checking if their outfit was suitable for an interview. Overall, our delegates were impressed by how well the centre supplemented the education system, as it allowed for long term planning of one’s career path. It was easy to see what skills you needed to improve in order to get your dream job.

The last day of the committee’s visit took place at the Norwegian Seaman’s Church. The program included presentations, from both Norwegian corporates and start-ups, about their projects in South East Asia and the benefits of being located in Singapore to promote business. The companies present were Eedenbull, DNV-GL, Antler, YARA, Wilhelmsen Ship Services, Coocon Capital, Moblrn and Kongsberg Maritime. They all highlighted the easy access to the global market, and the governments’ business friendly policy as the main benefits of being located in Singapore.

Afterwards, there was a Q&A session was held, giving the Standing Committee on Research and Education the opportunity to gain more knowledge about the education system and the co-operation between institutions and businesses in Singapore. It was established that the Norwegian education system have the opportunity to educate more students within science, and that they can learn how to attain a better co-operation between academia and business, from Singaporean institutions. The session also emphasized that the critical success factors for innovation in Singapore is its ability to think globally and Singapore’s investments in technology. The Norwegian Seaman’s Church hosted a delicious lunch, allowing our guests to mingle and further discuss the issues raised during the Q&A.

At the end of their stay, the MPs agreed that Norway has a lot to learn from the Singaporean model of facilitating education, innovation and lifelong learning. We therefore hope for a deeper cooperation in this field, also in the future.