Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great honour, as well as a great pleasure, to be invited to join you at this wonderful event, the inaugural BETT Asia Leadership Summit in Singapore.
I am very conscious that there are a number of eminent speakers coming after me but let me just highlight three reasons why I am delighted to be able to say a few words to open this event.
The first is quite simple, it’s because of the enormous emphasis that we place on doing all we can to support the UK’s education sector in all its forms.
This itself has to be seen in the context of my government’s broader drive to help our companies export more and, indeed, to get more companies exporting.
Singapore and SE Asia are of crucial importance to this.
The UK’s total exports to Singapore were worth £6.5 billion in 2013. This is 11% higher than total exports in 2012 (£5.9 billion).
Trade with Singapore contributed £2.4 billion to the UK economy in 2013, also a new record and five times larger than the trade surplus of 2012.
Singapore remains the UK’s largest trading partner in ASEAN and accounted for half of our total exports to the region in 2013.
And what makes Singapore particularly important is the shared commitment between our countries to create knowledge economies founded on world class education
This is increasingly recognised as vital to a nation’s global competitiveness. It is the ultimate enabler for extending our global reach and influence.
In the UK we are pursuing this objective in many ways, including through an Industrial Strategy that consists of 11 sector strategies rooted in partnership between the public and private sectors.
One of those 11 strategies covers International Education and was launched in July 2013. It aims to ensure British academic institutions and education businesses continue to stay ahead in the global education market.
It also aims to increase UK education exports, worth £17.5 billion a year in 2011, by winning an extra £3 billion worth of contracts for our education providers overseas, and attracting almost 100,000 extra overseas university students by 2018.
Through the International Education strategy we will position the UK as an international leader in higher education by working to enhance learning, teaching, research and knowledge transfer, and to increase the international competitiveness of the UK.
In this context I’d also like to highlight the importance for the UK of Transnational Education.
While we aim to attract many more students to come to the UK, and the figures for 2012/2013 recorded over 6,500 Singaporeans studying in the UK, an increase of 14% on the previous year, many more want to access good quality UK qualifications in their own countries.
Partnerships and collaborations with UK universities and education providers make this a realistic aspiration.
The UK has a number of truly international and world class brands, many of them with a long tradition behind them. Their qualifications are valued by businesses and governments for the depth and breadth of skills they teach, and by students because they open up a wide range of international career opportunities.
According to the British Council, there are over 50,000 students from many nationalities taking courses for UK qualifications offered here by Singaporean institutions.
With over 1000 UK TNE qualifications to choose from to study locally, Singapore continues to hold more than 10% of the global market share for such UK TNE courses, second only to Malaysia in the world which, to state the obvious, has a somewhat larger population.
The bottom line is that through UK transnational education, thousands of Singaporeans have benefitted from a UK qualification without leaving home.
And our aim is to help even more of them do so, which is why the education/training sector is a priority for the UK Trade and Investment team at the British High Commission, working closely with the British Council and the British Chamber of Commerce.
Their work includes helping UK companies and universities to access local opportunities in educational technology, e-learning, continuing education and training and many other areas.
The education sector is also a particular focus of our discussions with the Singapore government through the UK-Singapore Economic and Business Partnership.
And that sense of partnership takes me to my second point.
Supporting UK success in international education is not just about exports.
It also helps us to build partnerships with people from around the world, to understand more about each others’ cultures and opens doors to greater trade, investment and political relationships.
By internationalising our education provision, the UK can also attract intellectual capital – enriching our capacity for research, technological growth and innovation.
For the UK/Singapore relationship, our mutual strengths in, and focus on innovation, creativity and education has been a recurring theme in recent years.
When President Tony Tan Keng Yam recently visited the UK for the first ever State Visit by a Singaporean President we celebrated the links between the UK and Singapore that have developed over almost two centuries.
But we also highlighted common future interests, especially in education, research and innovation, the building of cultural ties and the deepening of the bonds between our people.
We launched a new Innovation and Research Partnership, signed by our two Prime Ministers, building on the now decade old Partners-in-Science programme.
And President Tan visited not one but two of our finest universities, Bristol and Imperial in London. Both have excellent, and burgeoning links with Singapore.
If you will forgive a rather naked plug for one way that we aim to take this agenda forward, next March the British High Commission and the British Council will be holding a ‘GREAT British Week’ in Singapore
This will be the culmination of a year-long ‘Knowledge is GREAT Britain’ campaign, anchored around the key pillars of Innovation, Creativity and Education.
A highlight of the week will be an Education UK Exhibition (7 Mar) – with over 60 UK universities, institutes, organisations and local providers on hand to talk to Singapore students.
As well as building the profile of UK education overall, the exhibition will also showcase the UK’s expertise in specific areas such as creative education, design and innovation.
As with other GREAT Britain campaign activities around the world, we believe that this is an excellent opportunity for UK companies to be associated with a high profile series of events showcasing the very best of Britain.
My third and final point is about the event that you are all here for today, BETT Asia.
The BETT (British Education Training & Technology) Show is recognised around the world as a showcase for the latest educational technologies and solutions and has been held in London for the past 30 years.
I think it is wonderful that BETT is now launching BETT Asia to better equip educators from Asia Pacific with the tools they need for the 21st century classroom.
I am really pleased to see that i2i events, the BETT organiser, has been collaborating with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) to run the EdTech Excellence Award 2014, a competition for outstanding companies with the results to be announced tomorrow.
This will celebrate and showcase the most innovative small to medium sized education technology solutions and companies operating in the Asian education space. I have no doubt that this, and the other outputs of the next couple of days will be the beginning of a strong and lasting relationship which is of great importance in sharing high-level knowledge and ideas at an international level, to achieve a common goal of internationalising education practices and ultimately improving student outcomes.
Ladies and gentlemen, thank you again for your time.
Please make the most of the experience today and tomorrow, whether it be hearing the latest trends at the main conference or gaining fresh insights at the complementary events such as the Exhibition, School Leaders’ Academy and the interactive workshops focusing on innovations in pedagogy, process and products.
And then please come and tell us at the High Commission how we can help to turn those insights into a reality.
I would close by sharing a quote that I found on the BETT website when I was thinking about what to say this morning.
It goes “Imagine a world in which every single person on the planet is given free access to the sum of all human knowledge. That’s what we’re doing.”
Now, that was Jimmy Wales, talking about Wikipedia, but actually that’s also what you are all here to talk about, too, using technology to spread access to education, and knowledge to all.
I wish you every success!
Follow BETT Asia Leadership Summit on Facebook
Follow the British High Commissioner to Singapore on Twitter @HCAPhillipson
Follow the British High Commission Singapore on Twitter @ukinsingapore
Follow the British High Commission Singapore on Facebook