Ramping up Singapore's education industryBY DR. R THEYVENDRAN
Singapore has the aim of hosting 150,000 international students here by 2015.
According to the UK Vision 2020 report, Asia is set to account for 70% of the global demand for international higher education by 2025. This presents great opportunities.
But how do we realise this big goal?
In a recent Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand survey 2012, Singapore’s private education institutions, including MDIS, have scored well – winning several top awards in the survey covering 8,000 consumers across 8 countries in the region, including Singapore.
Trust has always been a key consideration in the private education industry. In the past decade, the local private education players have faced some challenges in this area especially with the closures of several high profile private education institutions, which shook consumer trust and confidence in our private education sector.
The subsequent actions taken by the Singapore Government including the Private Education Act in 2009 and the setting up of the EduTrust Scheme administered under the Council for Private Education (CPE) here have helped to
tighten regulations in the private education sector and raise the standards of private education providers.
Today, all private education institutions must be registered with the CPE and they are required to achieve EduTrust certification in order to recruit foreign students. They must also be financially sound and provide insurance for students studying at their schools or institutions. This is to minimise any financial fallout for students and their parents should any “mishap” occur.
These stringent measures have certainly gone a long way to help restore confidence in our private education sector.
But while the Singapore Government has put in place measures to regulate the private education industry and to provide comprehensive information to students and their parents to ensure that they are kept well-informed of private education organisations and their responsibilities, private education institutions themselves must also be committed to build and retain consumer trust in their own organisations.
How can they do this?
Firstly, in addition to meeting the rigorous regulations set by the CPE, it is crucial for private education institutions to focus on quality - which is one of the most important factors in gaining trust.
Private education institutions have to constantly work hard to improve the quality and relevance of our education programmes to meet the aspirations of students and at the same time, cater to global market demands. Without high quality standards, consumer confidence in the education institution will evaporate quickly.
Secondly, keep abreast of technology and create good learning environments.
Technological advancements drive global economies today – so it is important for private education institutions to adopt and use the latest technology to create the right learning environments for students.
The significance of experiential learning in schools is rising and students should learn how to use and leverage
on the latest technologies to advance their knowledge and prepare themselves for global careers.
Thirdly, build passion and inculcate values among management, staff and students. Passion will drive the organisation forward while nurturing the right corporate social responsibility (CSR) values among our people will provide the moral ballast for the institution and its students in the long term.
Fourthly, be financially strong and have good corporate governance. All private education institutions (which do not depend on government funding), must be financially strong to survive and grow. Adopting the best practices in corporate governance to ensure corporate transparency will be critical in ensuring credibility and trust.
Last but not least, building a trusted brand is also vital in transforming companies into successful ones as trust is fundamental to any corporate or product success. You will need to gain trust through branding efforts to illustrate the ability and potential of the brand/product and to deliver its brand promise. Trust must be built over time. It is through the underlying trust in the brand and its management that will stand the company in good stead – at all times – whether good or bad. Should there be a crisis, consumer confidence will be more easily regained for a trusted brand.
In conclusion, a product that has no substance will not last long. A product with substance will not be known unless it is communicated effectively to the right target audience.
Dr R Theyvendran, Secretary-General, Management Development Institute of Singapore (MDIS), winner of the Reader’s Digest Trusted Brand Gold award in 2011 and 2012.