Speech By Mr Ong Ye Kung, Acting Minister For Education (Higher Education And Skills), At The Signing Ceremony For Memoranda Of Understanding Between Universities Of The Republic Of Singapore And The People’s Republic Of China

Published Date: 07 December 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Singapore, Mr Chen Xiaodong

Mr Robert Ng, Chairman of Sino Group

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

1. I am happy to join you today to witness the signing of three MOUs between three Singapore universities and three Chinese universities - Tsinghua University with National University of Singapore (NUS), Peking University with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), and Zhejiang University with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD). I would like to especially welcome our guests who have made your way from China to join us.

2. This latest advancement in Sino-Singapore partnership between our universities is made possible by the generous donation of RMB 150 million from the Ng Teng Fong Charitable Foundation. I am grateful to the Foundation for this gift. Mr Robert Ng, who is representing the Foundation, is with us today, so please join me to thank him.

Knowledge, Humankind and Universities

3. For centuries, humankind seeks out adventure and exploration by venturing out to the rest of the world. Without automobiles, trains, planes or the Internet, people exchanges were arduous affairs, with the annual switching of the direction of the Monsoon dictating when the travellers set sail and when they returned home. From these exchanges our ancestors opened their eyes and minds to new continents, peoples, languages, cultures and knowledge. In the course of history, such external influences are often embraced for their richness and diversity, but sometimes also feared and rejected for their foreignness.

4. But it is the exchange of knowledge and wisdom that has the most profound impact on, and most long lasting benefits for societies and economies. Confucianism, originating in Zhou dynasty China, was documented in the Analects and spread far and wide throughout China and also to Vietnam, Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia over many centuries. Its teachings of improving oneself and living in harmony with those around you - within family, society and country - have had a deep influence on the textures of societies in many Asian countries today. Similarly, during the Golden Age of Islam, mathematics flourished, and concepts such as Algebra, which is itself built upon the foundation of Greek and Indian mathematics, spread to Europe and played a part in its technological and scientific progress later on.

5. In today’s globalised world, the time taken for knowledge and knowhow to permeate the world has been hugely compressed. The system of transmission has become very efficient. Today, a scientific breakthrough gets patented, licensed to or bought by industries, and then adopted by the rest of the world. Then the knowledge and knowhow will be systematically documented and transmitted to future generations, through the University.

6. Universities today are therefore the neural nodes of a global network for the exchange of knowledge and knowhow. In addition, Universities are bastions of the national life of countries, in understanding the language, history, geography and culture of the country and those around it. They are seized with emerging social issues, such as demographic challenges in both China and Singapore, with economic challenges such as raising productivity in Singapore or restructuring to a more consumption-based economy in China. They are always brimming with ideas, from both faculty and students, and pushing the frontier of scientific progress.

7. We are therefore very pleased that the strengthening of partnerships between universities from China and Singapore is a key outcome from President Xi Jinping’s visit to Singapore last month. It was a momentous visit, during which the two countries launched the third Government-to-Government project in Chongqing, and committed ourselves to upgrade the China-Singapore Free Trade Agreement. In addition, PM Lee and President Xi witnessed the signing of various agreements across broad areas including economic cooperation, urban governance and planning, and education.

Stronger Collaboration

8. This year, we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China. This latest collaboration in education builds upon years of partnership between our universities. Let me list a few existing partnerships that has been mutually beneficial.

9. Because Singapore is small, our experience and lessons learnt in implementing various policies and running our country has always been useful reference for China. Hence, since 1998, around 1,300 Government officials from China have come to NTU in Singapore for the “Mayors’ Class”, where former senior leaders from the Singapore Government share their experiences in tackling governance challenges such as economic development, transportation, the environment, social security and health care. Just as a point of clarification, it is called Mayors’ class not because it is for Mayors, but because many of the graduates have moved on to bigger appointments, including Mayors of Chinese cities!

10. Similarly, since 2010, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at NUS, in collaboration with the NUS Business School, also began to host senior Chinese officials and business leaders for a 10-month Master in Public Administration and Management programme. The programme has since trained over 340 graduates. Last year, the LKY School also set up a centre in Suzhou, where it is offering a Master in Public Governance programme and training courses in areas such as social management, urbanisation, and sustainable development.

11. Chinese universities have also become increasingly popular destinations for Singapore students, including those on Government scholarships. The SUTD, which was founded in 2012 as Singapore’s fourth autonomous university, is in collaboration with Zhejiang University since its beginning, covering education, student exchanges, joint design competition and research.

12. Today, NUS, NTU and SUTD; Tsinghua, Peking and Zhejiang are all shining centres of higher learning in Singapore and China respectively. It is befitting that the latest MOUs will further strengthen and deepen their collaboration.

13. Between Tsinghua and NUS, the latest agreement builds upon a relationship that began 24 years ago in 1991. Under the new MOU, NUS and Tsinghua will conduct joint research and development in areas of mutual interest and complementary expertise. One such area is data science and data analytics. The universities will also work together to identify opportunities to commercialise technology.

14. Peking University and NTU will be establishing a joint Research Institute, focusing on multi-modal big data analytics and human-centred technologies for healthy living and life-long learning. This will be relevant to Singapore’s Smart Nation vision. The new partnership will also feature student, faculty and research staff exchanges.

15. Zhejiang University and SUTD will be setting up a Joint Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Alliance, that will harness the strengths of both universities to jointly advance research in design innovation. The universities will focus on manufacturing, urbanisation and sustainability, which are areas relevant to both China and Singapore.

Conclusion

16. We are living in an era where nations make progress by embracing diversity and learning from others, because this process of learning and adaptation makes our own socio-ecosystem stronger and more resilient. I wish the six Universities strong and fruitful partnerships that will benefit our countries, our peoples and our friendship. Thank you.

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