Asia offers young Singaporeans big opportunities: Edwin Tong
Students and future leaders must be in sync with Asia, its customs and ways of doing business, he says
Singapore's system creates the "scaffolding" for young people to reach higher and achieve success.
And the next frontier for Singaporeans to make their mark is on the country's doorstep, Asia, says Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong.
In 2019, the Asia-Pacific region's share of global foreign direct investment outflows was the largest for the second year running.
Said Mr Tong: "One of the government initiatives is to be more Asia-ready. We look at the investments, foreign direct investment, anywhere in the world, the trend in Asia is rising.
"I believe young Singaporeans will benefit from being more exposed. We need to have our students, our future leaders in sync with Asia, and I mean the customs, the way business is done, the way laws are done in these countries.
"Grappling with a counterparty in Singapore is very different from grappling with a counterparty in other Asian nations.
"So I hope young people will be more exposed. Covid makes it difficult, but we try to hook up with internship secondment programmes - opportunities to get people out of comfort zone."
Mr Tong insisted that the Singapore system does provide a conducive environment to produce youngsters who make their mark on the world stage like 18-year-old Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg and 22-year-old American poet laureate Amanda Gorman.
"When I say interventionist, it is not about prescribing what you must do. But rather, it gives you the scaffold," he said.
"When I say interventionist, it must be taken in context. We fund education. Many countries do, some don't. We fund healthcare. We intervene in the way you buy a flat, who can buy a flat, but within this, you have the ability to flourish. And they are really meant to help you to scaffold up, not cramp you down."
The 51-year-old, who became a full minister after the General Election last year, was a successful lawyer. He studied at St. Michael's School and then St. Joseph's Institution before reading law at the National University of Singapore.
He believes the Singapore education system is top class and equips the youth with the necessary tools.
"What is increasingly coming into the mix is the fact that you are now moving into a more free-form economy; self-styled entrepreneurship," he said.
"When you move into that, perhaps the weightage you place on life experience, worldliness, good EQ - there is a premium on it, and I think that premium will grow.
"Young entrepreneurs today don't necessarily come from universities, but they are doing well. Conversely, those who do go to universities may not necessarily do as well all the time.
"The point is, the education system gives you the platform, but everyone must take on the opportunity of going out there and getting experience.
"It means working from the bottom and joining a start-up perhaps (and) not necessarily taking the traditional route."