Speech by Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, for the Handover of the SMVTI Vocational Training Institute, Yangon, Myanmar

Published Date: 19 February 2020 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Your Excellency Dr Myo Thein Gyi, Union Minister for Education

Dr Thein Thein Aye, Principal of SMVTI

Distinguished guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Mingalabar!

1. It is an honour to be here for the handover ceremony of the SMVTI Vocational Training Institute (SMVTI) to the Myanmar government. Four years ago, Dr Myo Thein Gyi and I planted a mahogany sapling during the official launch of this institute. Like the tree that we planted, SMVTI is healthy and growing.

2. The SMVTI is one of many projects and initiatives that signifies the warm and longstanding relations between Singapore and Myanmar. Former President of Singapore Dr Tony Tan first proposed the establishment of SMVTI during his State Visit to Myanmar in 2013. The objective was to impart practical and employable skills for Myanmar youths, to help them secure jobs, and contribute to Myanmar's growth, especially in this period when Myanmar is undergoing reform and transition.

3. The project was particularly meaningful to Singapore, because from experience, we understood the importance of education to nation building and long-term economic development. That is what we went through, post-independence in 1965.

4. With no natural resources, people have been our strongest asset. By equipping our people with the necessary knowledge and skills through education and training, we were able to support the rapid industrialisation of our economy with a skilled workforce.

5. In particular, TVET played a critical role, and I will argue that TVET sometimes plays an even bigger role than universities, because it ensured that the benefits of economic growth and education were inclusive and the fruits enjoyed by the masses. Over the decades, Singapore has never taken our eyes off TVET. That is our main focus and strategy for economic growth. It remained a key strategy in economic and talent development, and ensuring inclusive growth. Today, about three quarters of every Singaporean cohort undergo applied or technical post-secondary education. The other one quarter goes for academic university training.

6. State Counsellor ASSK said in Myanmar's "National Education Strategic Plan 2016 – 2021", that education plays a central role in reducing poverty and inequity, increasing household incomes, improving individual and family health, strengthening communities, expanding economic development and building national unity. I am glad that through SMVTI, Singapore has been able to make a small contribution to Myanmar's nation-building effort.

7. Since training commenced in September 2015, SMVTI has trained over 3,000 graduates in the Engineering and Technology, and Hospitality and Tourism sectors. I remember when I visited this place a few years ago, I was told that the part of the school that trained for Engineering and Technology was called Jurong, and the other parts that trained for Hospitality and Tourism were named after famous places in Singapore. 95% of the students graduated, which is remarkable, and shows how hardworking the Myanmar students are!

8. Many SMVTI graduates have found good jobs in major hotels such as the Pan Pacific, Novotel Max, and Sedona, as well as famous restaurants in Yangon such as SEEDS. The feedback from employers on their work performance has been very encouraging. Even though it has only been four years since the first cohort of SMVTI graduates entered the workforce, some have already risen to managerial positions.

9. For instance, Mr Pyae Sone Aung from the November 2016 intake of the Electronic & Computer Networking Course, is now the Country Manager of the Singaporean IT company QCD Technology (Myanmar), which specialises in servicing Apple products.

10. I believe the success of SMVTI's graduates is due to a few factors.

11. First, the Institute was designed to train students with practical skills relevant to industry. Hence, we designed SMVTI's training environment to simulate real-world workplaces, through close collaboration with companies in Myanmar, which sponsored hardware and offer internship programmes. Today, SMVTI has 19 industry partners, including companies such as Mitsubishi Electric Asia, Cycle & Carriage Automobile Myanmar, Red Dot Brewhouse, and Sedona Hotel.

12. Second, this is one of the first few vocational training institutes in the country to undertake the responsibility to help graduates find jobs, through internships, job matching and regular career fairs. Top graduates from the first eight cohorts of SMVTI also had the opportunity to do a six-month internship in Singapore through the Singapore Internship Programme.

13. Third, the diversity of its student body. Every intake is advertised in government newspapers such as the Global New Light of Myanmar and Mirror, as well as through social media platforms. This has enabled SMVTI to reach out to prospective high school graduates from every state and region across Myanmar, including the rural areas.

14. Hence, SMVTI has had students from every state and region in Myanmar, and many ethnic and religious groups. For example, Aung Khin Sint ("Aung-kin-sin") was a student from the Ayeyarwady Region. To make ends meet, he stayed at a monastery while studying at SMVTI. After graduation, he secured a job at Hotel Parami and now has a place to call his own in Yangon. SMVTI has made it possible for students from all across Myanmar to make a better future for themselves.

15. The handover of SMVTI to the Myanmar government represents a new milestone for the school. Even though Singapore will no longer be involved in day-to-day operations, we remain committed to the success of this institute.

16. After the handover, Singapore's Ambassador to Myanmar Ms Vanessa Chan, will continue to serve on SMVTI's reconstituted Board.

17. Under the Singapore Cooperation Programme, we have also prepared a handover package that includes: (a) train-the-trainer programme for SMVTI staff; (b) sponsorship of Myanmar senior officials to participate in training courses on TVET in Singapore, and (c) a study visit for new Board members to Singapore to familiarise themselves with Singapore's TVET system, from which, we can learn from each other.

18. The Myanmar-Singapore Training Centre, currently located in SMVTI, will also be upgraded into the Myanmar-Singapore Cooperation Centre or MSCC, and is scheduled to be operational at a new location in about a year's time. Other than the existing capacity building programmes under the Initiative for ASEAN Integration, the new Centre will also support projects initiated by Singapore organisations.

19. To give you a flavour of the possible projects in the MSCC, let me share with you some projects that we have already conducted in our centres in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. The centre in Laos recently hosted a Community Based Disaster Risk Reduction workshop jointly conducted by the Singapore and Lao Red Cross; and a Physiotherapy Education Upgrade Programme by the Singapore International Foundation.

20. Even though the MSCC is not yet operational, we have already conducted a pilot workshop with the OECD on SME Policy and Development. We wish to hear from you to explore potential projects together.

21. I hope SMVTI will continue to contribute to Myanmar's rapid change and development. As I was having tea with Dr Myo Thein Gyi, he shared with me the exciting changes that are being implemented in Myanmar's education system – new textbooks, new structures, additional high school education, new certification, and a stronger push for vocational training. I wish you every success and I hope Singapore can continue to play a small part in Myanmar's economic transition and nation-building effort.

22. Thank you.

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