Singapore’s coding education shows how much HK is lagging behind

May 02, 2019 10:24
In Singapore, it is compulsory for students to study coding, alongside English and Chinese. Photo: Bloomberg

Earlier, we talked about a team in Singapore that develops teaching resources on computer coding, which were then localized and introduced in Hong Kong.

Many people are curious to know: why do these people choose Singapore as a base for a coding project?

The answer cannot be simpler: in terms of startup spirit and emphasis on computer coding, Singapore is far ahead of Hong Kong.

When I met with people from the Consulate of Singapore for lunch, I listened to their ambitious plans about the future – that all civil servants will have to undergo retraining in Big Data management, basic coding, etc., to help maintain the competitiveness of the nation.

When I asked them about funding, they said funding support not only comes from the government, but that it is a duty of the universities to sponsor such initiatives.

After all, the concept of tertiary education has changed from the earlier idea of a three-year education for those aged 18 to 21, to the latest concept of life-long education.

It is almost unthinkable for Hong Kong to carry out similar reforms. 

In Singapore, even  Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is himself a coding expert. One remembers how he shared his coding knowledge via his Facebook page, and challenged citizens to find out the errors in his work. Several Singaporean students gamely took up his dare. Again, this is something that would not happen in Hong Kong.

According to the consul general, the concept of a "smart city" will be fully launched in Singapore in a few years’ time.

Right now it is compulsory for students to study coding in Singapore, alongside English and Chinese. In Hong Kong, it is hard to imagine that authorities would reform the traditional syllabus and exam evaluation system.

In Singapore, the talented are enthusiastic about joining the civil service, and some of the bright minds in the cabinet have the potential to become the next Steve Jobs.

In Hong Kong, however, our secretary for innovation and technology is excited enough just talking about having the chance to meet Steve Jobs.

In supporting innovation and entrepreneurship, the Hong Kong government has taken a top-down, bureaucratic approach. And so young people who are really in need of help are hindered by the lack of channels and opportunities.

Singapore offers substantial support for startups. That's why many young, innovative entrepreneurs have chosen to operate in the city state.

If we just look across the border, we will see that even Shenzhen is a way ahead of Hong Kong in this respect.

A few days ago, at a dinner hosted by the Office of the Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, a diplomat talked to me about how Shenzhen started to promote the "cardless era" and "mobile banking" a few years ago.

In Hong Kong, we still see plenty of advertisements for credit cards. This gives us an idea of how big the difference is.

This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on April 26

Translation by Jennifer Wong

[Chinese version 中文版]

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal