How Singapore’s schools prime youth for success in HK and mainland China

14-Jan-2020 Intellasia | AsiaOne | 12:55 AM Print This Post

Every time Josh Lim meets up with his friends from secondary school in Singapore, they never fail to ask about his work in China.

“There’s always this buzz and excitement when we talk about what’s going on in China,” noted Lim, who heads his own Shanghai-based investment and advisory firm, IJK Capital Partners.

“I guess our education has helped foster this affinity with China. They’re curious and it’s very easy for us to connect on the topicmore so than when I talk about the same things with friends from elsewhere, who tend to be less interested.”

Lim spent his secondary school years at The Chinese High Schoolan all-boys Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school that was also Singapore’s first Chinese-medium secondary school. It merged with the affiliated Hwa Chong Junior College in 2005 to become Hwa Chong Institution, offering students a six-year integrated programme as opposed to four years previously.

SAP schools were first introduced in Singapore in 1979 with the aim of preserving the traditional Chinese school cultural environment, in turn developing bilingual students who are inculcated with traditional Chinese values.

The number of SAP schools in the city state has grown from nine to 26 (comprising 15 primary and 11 secondary schools). Many of them are also top-performing schools.

These SAP schools have been thrust into the spotlight in recent years, drawing criticism for a lack of racial diversity and for serving as breeding grounds for elitism.

But despite the controversy, the schools also have their meritsespecially when it comes to doing business in China.

It was this focus on the Chinese language, history, and cultural heritage at Chinese High School that helped Lim build a deep and solid foundation in Chinese. Later on, his former schoolmates who were working in China also played an important role in his career by providing mutual support.

His biggest takeaway from school was bilingualism.

“Being more versatile linguistically means I can pick up words, accents, slangs and phrases in Chinese very quickly,” Lim noted.

“This has given me an edge in China because I’ve often been able to go ‘undercover’ to navigate very localised towns in the country, and do business without the other party realising that I’m actually Singaporeanfor some time, at least.”

In the same vein, Kow Ping, director and founder of Hong Kong start-up Well Being Digital, said his SAP school education helped him build a strong foundation in Mandarin. He had studied at Catholic High School, another all-boys institution.


Category: Singapore

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