Singapore: Christine Lee

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Christine Lee Of The Tyndale Education Group

Christine Lee of the Tyndale Education Group in Singapore talks to Jim Playfoot about the role private education providers can play in upskilling the workforce

Tyndale Education Group launched in 1990 and has, over the last 20 years, been part of the significant growth in the private education sector in Singapore and the wider region. The marketplace they operate in now is both crowded and thriving. They offer students a United Kingdom-certified education and have partnerships with, amongst others, University of Sunderland, Sheffield Hallam University and University of Wolverhampton. Through their school in Singapore, and joint-venture schools in China, Vietnam and Myanmar, Tyndale students can study at every level of higher education from Foundation courses to MBAs. They are particularly recognised for their Engineering Studies faculty. Christine Lee is Head of Administration & Finance and also plays a key role in the recruitment of, and relations with, academic staff.

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Addressing Workforce Requirements

We begin by exploring the particular profile of the students Tyndale educates within the region. "We deal mainly with adult learners - those who are at least 18 years of age. Students with 12 years of education or 'A' Level or equivalent, could opt for the 3 years British University programmes. For students with Polytechnic Diploma or equivalent, we provide 'top-up' programmes to final year British University programmes with exemption from year 1 and year 2 of the university programmes." Much of their focus is on delivering broadly vocational qualifications to equip individuals - particularly immigrant workers - with the necessary skills and qualifications to work in the Singaporean economy. With universities in Singapore producing around 25,000 graduates a year and the economy creating upwards of 250,000 new jobs within the same period, the influx and training of foreign workers is a significant education paradigm in Singapore, as well as being big business. "Many foreign workers come here as technicians. They then need 'higher education' qualifications in order to up-grade and be promoted to 'professional' level. We provide these 'higher education' qualifications."

The particular courses offered at Tyndale are very much in line with the strategic direction given by the Singaporean government. Connection with industry is vital: "Government demands provide us with the rationale, so we follow those demands while, at the same time, seeking advice from industry. That's how we develop our offering." As a private company in what has become a very crowded marketplace, attracting students is also vital. And the key to this is showing a direct link between the education offered and potential employment: "We have to demonstrate that we can meet the needs of foreign students in terms of whether courses offered will help them in their future. The key question is 'can I get a job after graduation?' At Tyndale, we train students to have strong analytical skills, creativity, practical ingenuity, good communication which coupled with flexibility will enable students to adapt to new fields and careers throughout life. "

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Quality And Relevance

The value of courses offered by Tyndale is, in part, assured by the accreditation process. It is a legal requirement that every course offered in Singapore is approved by the Ministry of Education. Equally, in order to rubber stamp the quality of the course, accreditation is also secured from one of Tyndale's UK education partners. Interestingly, the potential difficulties of satisfying two different accreditation processes are largely avoided. Christine explains how: "The Singaporean and British education systems are actually very similar. Consequently, we don't usually find there is any problem gaining formal course approval from both countries." Accreditation and formal course approval are extremely important to students as it provides insurance against paying for an education that turns out to be below standard or irrelevant. And as many students struggle to meet the costs of their education, they need to know that they are not wasting their money.

A focus on employability skills is also central. Particular focus is given to what Christine refers to as "common skills - these are the skills of communication, teamwork, managing tasks and solving problems, managing and developing self, applying technology, applying design and creativity." Specific common skills modules are a part of many of the courses offered. Beyond that, the mainly Singaporean teaching faculty are guided towards helping their students prepare for the world of work. Christine expands: "We try to make students aware of what is outside waiting for them". As they know that their success as an institution will ultimately be based around the professional success of their graduates, it's in their interests to retain this focus.

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The Direction Of Travel

We conclude by discussing where education, across the board, can improve and where the focus of these improvements should be. We talk about the significant changes that have taken place at all levels of education in Singapore over recent years, something Christine describes as having "varying success". There is still too much of a focus on the old way of learning; "There should be a better balance between academic learning and soft skills," she suggests. She also believes education needs to embrace teaching approaches that are more relevant and applicable to the workplace: "The younger generation today need more career guidance, more training. And there should be more project based work within the curriculum - this will help develop independent thinking."

She notes that industry in Singapore is beginning to take soft skills training more seriously and points to both the propensity for companies now to have in-house soft skills training programmes and the funding mechanisms that are in place from government to support these initiatives. Thinking about the future of Singapore as a global human resource capital, she is cautiously positive. "Singapore has a very global outlook and its citizens are unique in the world in being bi-lingual with English as their first language, as all are trained in both English and Chinese or English and another official language."

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