Singapore school introduces India studies programme

By Nirmala George, IANS,

Singapore : India’s economic growth has spurred one of Singapore’s leading high schools to introduce an India studies programme to give its students a better understanding of the history, culture and politics of Asia’s awakening giant.

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Victoria Junior College (VJC), a much sought-after high school in Singapore, will offer the course as a subject for the A-level examinations in 2009, school officials said.

The India studies programme would give students a broad foundation on the history, culture and political system in India, familiarising them with one of the world’s top economies, says Chan Poh Meng, principal of VJC.

“We see India as the next emerging economic giant. The India studies programme will give students a distinct advantage and the confidence to do business in and with India,” Meng told IANS.

While other schools in Singapore, such as Raffles Junior College, do offer bi-cultural courses on India, students at VJC can opt for India studies for four years instead of the usual two year A-level programme.

“That’s four years of exposure to India, its history and political economy,” said Meng, adding that the additional two years provide a more fleshed out and comprehensive approach.

Many schools in Singapore offer Chinese studies programmes, which have proved extremely popular with students. The course opens up the country and its culture making it easier for former students to go there for further studies, take up jobs or do business.

Apart from India’s economic rise, what has got the students and teachers of the school excited about learning more about the country is the growing engagement between India and Singapore.

Commercial and business ties between the two countries have intensified in recent years.

Bilateral trade amounted to US$16.6 billion, showing a significant rise since the two countries signed a Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CECA) in mid-2005. Some 3,500 Indian companies are registered in Singapore and their numbers are growing. Singaporean firms are exploring, engaging and investing in India in droves, opening up new business opportunities and the promise of countless jobs in the years to come, all enticements for Singapore’s business-savvy high school students.

Fong Yeoh Wah, VJC vice principal, said the course has been structured to give students an understanding of the opportunities and challenges faced by India as a regional power and as an emerging global power. “The syllabus includes courses on Indian politics and governance and how politics in india has evolved, economic growth and the challenges that have caused policy changes,” Wah told IANS.

Singapore’s National Institute of Education prepared a special course for teachers who are teaching the India studies syllabus.

For the students, one of the highlights of the course is the annual trip to India which would include not just the mandatory visits to New Delhi, Agra and Mumbai but also tours of IT centres in Bangalore or Hyderabad and to smaller second tier cities.

A team of 22 students and four teachers from the school that returned from India last week was struck by the diversity of the people, the sharp contrasts of affluence and poverty, and underlying it all the dynamism of an economy on the go. “India is definitely an awakening giant,” said Boy Eng Seng, a teacher who accompanied the students on their 10-day tour of India.

“Once we provide an opportunity for high school students to learn about India and visit the country, all the stereotypes about India will change,” said Meng, VJC principal.