The Business Times - Deepening knowledge of regional markets is vital
This call goes out as global growth prospects dim and competition gets tougher.
When offered an overseas job or assignment that entails relocating the family, Singapore parents are anxious that, upon their return here, their children will be behind in school.
More than two decades after this was raised as a big hurdle to Singapore’s push to go global, parents’ concern about their children’s education while working abroad remains a tough problem.
But the need to lick it is even greater now, given that more Singaporeans are required to work overseas to ensure that Singapore stays plugged into the world. Staying connected is one of seven strategies the Committee on the Future Economy (CFE) recommends in order for Singapore to achieve growth of 2-3 per cent yearly on average, higher than most advanced economies.
Some progress has been made in the last 20 to 25 years to ease the concern over children’s re-entry into schools after their parents’ overseas assignment, but the CFE report believes that still more can be done - especially by the government.
The committee’s 133-page report has some useful suggestions:
One is to get the Ministry of Education to extend its new Student Learning Space to overseas Singaporean students, so they can stay in touch with the national curriculum. At the moment, the online platform featuring learning resources aligned with the school curriculum is pitched at the Singapore-based student.
Another suggestion is to set up a one-stop portal carrying information useful to families preparing to return to Singapore, such as contact points of the public agencies that can help them with re-settling.
Still another suggestion is to make it easy for overseas Singaporean pupils to enrol in the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, which is offered in the mainstream schools here.
Encouraging more Singaporeans to re-locate is not just about getting them to help run Singapore’s overseas ventures; it is also about building up a repository of deep knowledge and experiences of markets beyond Singapore’s shores.
Knowing the market is key to selling a product. The extensive market networks forged and expertise gained by Singapore have given its exporters a competitive edge in capturing markets abroad. But the CFE report says these will not be enough to support Singapore’s next phase of internationalisation - when global economic growth is more subdued, markets less friendly and competition much tougher.
“We need to develop a stronger appreciation of different market conditions to form effective strategies that speak to the unique needs of each market,” the report says. “This will require a better understanding of variations within and across cities or provinces, as well as across different sectors in a particular market.”
Such deep knowledge can be acquired only by spending time in these markets. Thus the report suggests extending the SkillsFuture Leadership Development Initiative to the deployment of Singaporeans on “quality” overseas assignments.
At the moment, the initiative seeks to develop corporate leaders through sector-specific leadership and management programmes. The report says companies should consider “overlaying these with international experiences, such as overseas assignments and cross-functional rotations to key markets, so that these potential leaders can also groom their global instincts”.
The government should further urge companies to offer overseas internships of “a substantive duration” for students at the post-secondary level, says the report.
The report notes that Singapore is a base for many companies serving markets in Asia. Local universities have a range of area research programmes, while think tanks such as the Institute on Asia Consumer Insight and the Asia Competitiveness Institute are focused on specific subjects.
Singapore should tap and build on this knowledge, especially of Asia, it says.
“Asia offers many opportunities for both companies and individuals who are prepared to learn its intricacies, and to serve its varied range of needs,” it says.
“Rising consumption and demand for infrastructure in Asia offer significant export and investment opportunities for Singapore-based companies.”
The report says Singapore companies must not only speed up the pace of internationalisation, especially in the region, they should also groom talent with deep regional market expertise.
Source: The Business Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Permission required for reproduction.