The world’s fastest-growing region, Asia has remained the main driver of the global economy for nearly half a century. At the heart of the continent’s impressive growth have been value-added manufacturing, high tech innovation and, in the last decade, education.
As the leaders of Asian technological innovation, Japan, South Korea and mainland China continue to impress the world with life-changing gadgets and planet-saving technology developed by locals in laboratories and R&D centers at home. That strength has naturally spread to neighboring Asian economies, like Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand.
With the emerging dominance of Asia, the West found itself looking East, strengthening trade ties and forming partnerships with the education sector. Today, some very prestigious universities in the United States have established a presence in the region, like NYU in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai; and Yale and Johns Hopkins University in Singapore.
Belying its size and defying the consequent geographical limitations, Singapore has evolved into a formidable economic power that many countries across the world aspire to become. Without the abundant natural resources, The Little Red Dot focused on developing its human resources, building over many decades a knowledge-based economy.
“We have been providing development programs that enable our workforce to update their skills or acquire new ones. This prepares them for moving from years of formal education into continuing education while they are in the workforce,” explained National University of Singapore Institute of Systems Science CEO Khoon Chan Meng.
With the emergence of high-tech industries in the 1980s and digitization of industries today, the city-state’s universities have played a crucial role in strengthening its economy. In the latest QS world university rankings, National University Singapore (NUS) topped all its Asian counterparts, while Nanyang Technological University (NTU) came in second place.
The second-oldest public autonomous university in Singapore, NTU also was ranked No. 1 in the QS Top 50 Under 50 index and No.1 in the Times Higher Education Young Universities list.
“As a public university, NTU plays an important role in developing the workforce and nurturing the economic vibrancy of Singapore. As a globally acclaimed university, we seek to address some of humanity’s grand challenges through our research, education and innovation. We strive for impact within the borders of Singapore, across the region, and around the globe,” said NTU President Subra Suresh.
“The Ministry of Education certifies every school teacher in Singapore. The Singapore curriculum is very highly ranked. That, combined with lifelong learning and engaging alumni for upskilling and reskilling, gives us an opportunity to leverage the power of education in new and unique ways,” Suresh added.
The SARS-COV2 pandemic hit the global educational sector very hard in 2020. But fortunately, for millions of students, some schools were more agile than others in adapting to the unprecedented health crisis.
By establishing strict safety protocols and investing in hybrid class capabilities, Nanyang Business School was able to increase its enrollment of international students.
“The university worked with immigration authorities to bring in students in a batch system, so that entry was controlled. We provided quarantine facilities for students. Our students were able to come and spend about two-thirds of their program here,” said Nanyang Business School Dean Christina Soh.
On the other hand, Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine sees this time as an opportunity to increase international collaboration and capitalize on its strong reputation as a research partner.
“LKCMedicine is a joint venture between NTU Singapore and Imperial College London, one of the world’s top medical schools. We have been working together in establishing the medical curriculum and focusing on various research areas like neuroscience and infectious diseases.
Moving into our second phase of development, we want to expand our international partnerships with other medical schools in different parts of the world,” said LKCMedicine Dean Prof. Joseph Sung.
Because its history, Hong Kong became a leading center of trade and finance between the East and the West and a melting pot of several cultures. Positioning itself as “the world city of Asia,” Hong Kong continues to attract international students looking for a world-class education in a diverse environment.
“There is an element of Hong Kong being an attractive place. It has this interesting blend of Chinese culture and the influence of the British educational system. Hong Kong also has a very distinct, inclusive and global atmosphere,” said Hong Kong University of Science and Technology President Wei Shyy.
In neighboring Taiwan, the ministry of education stepped up efforts to attract more international students to partially address its decreasing birth rates. International students are vital in keeping Taiwan universities. To achieve that objective, universities have implemented changes to make their programs more inclusive.
“We are pushing very hard to make our university bilingual. The only reason is we want to draw more attention from foreign students and hopefully welcome them to Hualien County,” said National Dong Hwa University President Dr. Han-Chieh Chao.
Like other universities dealing with the SARS-COV2 global pandemic, Taiwanese universities had to adopt digitalization strategies, such as equipping all classrooms and laboratories with 5G Wi-Fi to be able to conduct lectures within the campus.
“We need to keep the university running and adapt to this new normal. So, we are establishing a so-called new era classroom where we can do physical teaching activities and conduct remote online teaching simultaneously,” explained Ming Chi University of Technology President Dr. Thu-Hua Liu.
Perhaps not on the radar of the typical international student, Brunei boasts an excellent education system funded by its multibillion crude oil and natural gas exports. Since gaining independence in 1984, the sultanate has ensured that higher education remains affordable.
“Our mission is to nurture socially responsible individuals with a deep respect for the Malay Islamic Monarchy. We are committed to building a global and entrepreneurial society that pursues innovation and industry-relevant capabilities,” said Universiti Teknologi Brunei Vice-Chancellor Dr. Hajah Zohrah binti Haji Sulaiman.