S'pore, M'sia forge stronger links in education
Sandra Davie
Tue, Dec 04, 2007
The Straits Times

THE occasional bilateral friction between Singapore and Malaysia has not discouraged young people from both sides of the Causeway to forge better ties.

Since 2005, such exchanges have taken place in school camps, sports meets, and student forums.

With this in mind, Education Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam and his Malaysian counterpart, Hishammuddin Hussein signed a government-to-government memorandum of understanding on Tuesday to deepen bilateral educational links.

A joint working group will be set up to review and monitor the progress of the collaboration.

Mr Tharman, speaking at a Malaysia-Singapore business forum here on Tuesday, said the exchanges started two years ago when 13 Singapore secondary schools were paired with Malaysian schools.

Singapore's Raffles Girls' Secondary partnered Malaysia's premier girls' school, Tunku Kurshiah College.

Some other pairs include Singapore's Catholic High and Malacca's famed St Francis' Institution, and Victoria School here and Penang Free School.

Over the last two years, they held friendly sports matches, joint workshops and forums. But more needs to be done to 'deepen' the linkages, Mr Tharman said.

The 13 local schools, all premier schools, were carefully chosen.

Many of their students will become business and government leaders, he said, adding that there must be regular exchanges if schools are going to impress on their young charges that Singaporeans and Malaysians are 'not that different from each other'.

He suggested that non-Malay students interested in picking up Malay can benefit from the language immersion opportunity they will have during such exchanges.

Besides the students, teachers and principals will also have more opportunities to come together to share their expertise and experiences.

On his part, Mr Hishammuddin said Malaysia has been following developments in Singapore's education system.

He cited the integrated programme here, which allows certain schools to offer alternative curricula.

He said Malaysia too has started its own cluster schools, referring to the 30 Malaysian schools which have been given the autonomy to vary their curricula.

Lauding the efforts to step up cross-border school linkages, he felt that, with economic progress and increased living standards, it was important to instill values of tolerance and acceptance of different cultures.

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