Going into the 21th century, education can no longer be encompassed within the boundaries of a classroom learning experience.
In his recent speech at the International education Summit in Toronto, Education Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen said “We believe that students will need 21st century skills – knowledge, skills and a value system. Students need new skills today, such as the ability to handle information. They also need the requisite language skills and a more expansive world-view, coupled with the ability to work in diverse teams. And finally, knowledge and skills must be anchored by values and strong character development – the aptitude for lifelong learning, resilience, integrity and compassion.”
Dr.Ng Eng Hen also reiterated that Singapore’s education system is well in its next phase, having progressed from a well-oiled and extremely efficient machine from the early 1990s, one key pillar of the next phase in Singapore’s education system would be having a global outlook.
The advantages of an overseas experience will help students achieve an expansive world-view and by getting them out of their comfort zone and experiencing other cultures, this will not only enrich their life experiences but also go a long way in terms of their personal development.
For this article, we interviewed Joel Fong, a final year student from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He will be sharing with us some of his invaluable experiences during his one year stay in Shanghai. This trip was part of NUS Business School’s Entrepreneurship programme.
Verztec: What is one thing you found that you appreciate about Singapore when you were there in Shanghai?
Joel: I can say that Singapore is a really safe place and my things are safe, one simple example is that I can leave my belongings at the table while I leave to order my food at a coffee shop and still expect my things to be there. However in places such as Shanghai or any other parts of the world, we definitely can’t take such things for granted, I experienced it first hand when my money was stolen while I was not paying attention.
Verztec: Did you experience culture shock when you there initially?
Joel: Yes definitely, language was a huge barrier for me, and when I was first there, I felt that there was a huge lack of information as I had too many options and limited ways of finding things out. An example would be issues such as buying stationery, in Singapore we would usually just go over to Popular or any neighborhood stationary store and prices for such stuff are usually around the same. But over there in Shanghai, there are simply too many places that sell the same things and the problem is, the prices vary so much, you wouldn’t know where is the best place and when you make a purchase you will start to ponder if the shop owner has actually ripped you off.
Verztec: After spending about a year in Shanghai, what do you think has changed in you?
Joel: I learned to be a lot more independent. Initially I did feel lost without my family around. A lot of things which I had depended on them previously, I had to learn to do it myself. For example, things like planning my own finances. I had also understood the importance of networking, being alone in a foreign land, I had to learn how to to leverage on my network of contacts.
Verztec: What are some things you loved about being in a place like Shanghai?
Joel: Not only is Shanghai a very beautiful place, it presents plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurship, as there is so much more you can do. Another thing I love about Shanghai is the night life, it’s much more vibrant as compared to Singapore, i.e. there are much more options there, and not to mention, beer is cheap over there!
Verztec: To conclude this interview, tell us some of the important events that have defined this overseas experience as a whole.
Joel : It would have to be the chance to work with the company which I was attached to during the course of the trip, from which I really learnt a lot from my colleagues there, their corporate culture and the way business is done there. The fact that I’m so far away from home and having to live away from my family would also be another thing that defined my overseas experience. All in all, this overseas experience has certainly pushed me beyond my comfort zone and I believe this sort of experiences can never be replicated in a classroom or campus.