Singapore International Schools in ASEAN Capital Cities

MP Jamus Lim

Assoc Prof Jamus Jerome Lim: I wish to suggest that the Ministry consider funding a network of international schools located in all major regional capitals within ASEAN. These schools will offer the full Singapore curriculum similar to that of any local MOE school, from the kindergarten through to the secondary school level.

Students that attend such schools would be able to transfer relatively seamlessly from a school back in, say, Jakarta or Bangkok, back to one in Jurong or Buangkok. They would pay comparable supplemental fees just as any student enrolled in a local school would. And they would take the same common exams – PSLE, “O” or “N” Levels – at the appropriate time and level.

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Why would the taxpayer wish to subsidise schools located in other countries?

For starters, students attending these schools would be Singaporeans more likely than not. It makes sense that they be provided with a subsidised Singaporean education as others in their cohort are. Moreover, these children are often simply following their parents overseas as they are being posted rather than making any conscious decision of their own to relocate.

Furthermore, the subsidy has an additional benefit from the perspective of the parents. By reducing the frictions associated with moving their families to a different country, it offers positive incentives for our local professionals to relocate and thereby upgrade their experience and exposure to the region, which is often cited as a reason for local middle managers being skipped over for promotion.

In a response to a Parliamentary Question I filed late last year, Minister of State Gan explained that MOE already provides funding and teaching support to one international school in Hong Kong. 

She said that MOE did so because there were a sizable number of Singaporean children there and that this assistance helped with the reintegration of these kids back to our educational system here. So, there is already a precedent to this suggestion.

She also mentioned, however, that there was a lack of demand for such education elsewhere, which was why it was not offered beyond Hong Kong. To this, I will only add two thoughts.

First, it strikes me as unusual that Singaporeans living in Hong Kong, an otherwise modern and sophisticated educational system, would demand more Singapore-style education there rather than in other ASEAN capitals with comparatively weaker educational systems.

Second, such demand itself is, in fact, endogenous. If such schools existed, it would encourage more locals to consider taking on regional postings, which in turn would generate the requisite demand.

Through Enterprise Singapore, the Government is expending much treasure to support our firms in their regionalisation efforts. It has also worked hard to encourage our professionals to consider regional postings. What I am suggesting here today is simply another step towards lowering the barriers to making our local talent ever more international and ever more competitive.

Ministry of Education
28 February 2023

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