Statement of the Problem
Singapore, a city-state with the size of no more than 750 kilometer square had become one of the Four Asian Dragon beside South East Korean, Taiwan and Hong Kong in the past century. Despise having no natural resource whatsoever yet this island country hold a strategic location for sea trading from between Euro, India and south East Asia. Thus it had developed into a highly urbanized entrepôt with extremely strong exporting and refining imported goods which contributed 26% of the total Singapore GDP on the year 2005 as quoted from statistic gathered by the Singapore Department of Statistics.
However, with the emerging of the new century and globalization, Singapore economy and its government realized that changes need to be made. It is certainly unwise to rely the country solely on one specific industry. Alternative business models have to be found. Hence tourism surfaced as the new choice for the economy. Tourism stand on the high position of the list of the fastest growing industries in any developed and developing countries worldwide, said Ritchie B. W., Carr N., Cooper C. (2003). The country have been focus heavily on tourism and service industry, pouring millions of Singapore Dollars on infrastructures, marketing, branding so on and so forth in order to attracting foreign tourists to come to Singapore. Along the time, today tourism has also evolved into a complexity industry with various niche and several specialty forms, for example, ecotourism, cultural tourism and medical tourism …et cetera.
Educational tourism comprises various form of market, for example culture learning, English language tourism where non-native English speakers spent their time learning English. And from the economical perspective, international students including university students is the most important market involved in educational tourism. Now in the twenty first century, more and more realized knowledge is a crucial key to successful. In addition to the increase of living standard, parents have become more concerned about the education of their children. Plus adults are also encouraged by the society to learn, improve their skill and enrich their lives.
Thus educational tourism inevitably goes under spotlight as a very potential travel form, not only in profiteering but also giving various benefits for the host country. In most of all tourism form, the tourists travel and stay in the country for one month at maximum. However for international students, for example a bachelor degree student will have to stay and spend money in at least 3 years, not just for his academy expense but also housing, food, transportation, entertainment so on and so forth. Not mention these students will bring their friends and family visitors to the host country during their studies. Certainly the economically gain from educational tourism is undoubtedly immeasurable. Moreover, the educational tourists are highly likely to want to stay back and work for the host country which contributes to the pools of high skills worker with their bachelor degrees, master or PhD.
So in the several markets for Singapore educational tourism, Vietnam raised as a promising customer base. Vietnam, a developing country in Asia which was damaged badly after the Indochina war and only opens its market for foreign investment since 1986, have been regarded as one of the world’s fastest growing economy. The country grew 8% annually from 1990 to 1997 and 7% from 200 to 2005 in GDP like clockwork. On December 2005, published in the Global Economic a Goldman Sachs study by O’Niell J., Wilson D., Purushithaman R., Stupnytska A. pointed out that Vietnam is expected to become the 17th largest economy in 2025 with $436 billion nominal GDP. The middle class and above in Vietnam society appear like mushrooms after the rain. In addition, the country itself is stuck with trying to reform the teaching quality issues and qualifications from Vietnamese universities are not recognized worldwide. Hence, the demand for Vietnamese student to study oversea have developed into such a proportion that Singapore can ignore no more.
In conclusion, Singapore is one of the countries that have tourism as its forte. It is firmly believed that tourism stands an important position in the economy growth and related business, employment and even government’s policies. Educational tourism and unique sector of tourism with its tremendous potential gains is very concerned about. In addition to Vietnam being an attractive market, there is a significant need of insightful and accurate data, information and understanding about this new business model and its new target customer’s base. Assessment created on the foundation of appropriate analytical methods is crucial to for the policy’s makers and Singapore in order to have effective decisions on many vital issues. As a result, this study aims to analyze the Singapore educational tourism with the from the Vietnamese student perspective with the support of statistics, surveys breakdown.
Objective of the Study
Because of the importance of the tourism industry and educational tourism in particular, maintaining and increasing the growth of the market share are essential. To able to do so, a better comprehension of the industry and the target market need to be made by achieving the following criteria:
- To measure the strength and weakness of Singapore educational tourism.
- To expose and analyze the receipts about Singapore educational tourism from the view point of Vietnamese student.
- To evaluate and recommend appropriate action for the Singapore educational tourism industry.
Hypothesis and the Range of the Study
This study analyzing will based on the following hypothesis:
- Singapore has a very strong educational tourism industry.
- Singapore is an attractive destination for Vietnamese student to study oversea.
In addition, this study is limited to only Vietnamese student who are having education programs in Singapore and shall not cover other international national student.
Benefits of the Study
Because of the plausible demand of the Vietnam market, added with the overwhelming undeniable economical gain from educational tourism, this study would lead to several benefits:
- Provide a review about current status of Singapore educational tourism industry
- Provide better understanding and basic knowledge about the demand of the Vietnam market for Singapore educational tourism industry
- Could be applied as a guideline in policy planning, marketing and various management actions for both private and public sectors.
- Could be adopted for further study in future as guideline
The media in Singapore has focused on how it can use its expanse as an advantage to engage the youth and young consumers in Asia by promoting it as the “world’s most populous and fastest-growing media market” (Ward, 2002, p. 12). This projection of Asia as a major market in the world is then being used by Singapore to its potential advantage due to the proximity in geography and culture that it has with Asia, in particular with the Asian giant – China. Ward (2002) in his study quotes Han Se-min who is the director at one of the most profitable and successful record labels: the SM Entertainment in Korea, to have said on record that China is the easier target for most of the Asian states as they are geographically close, hence share similar cultures which influences the inspirations of artists and their productions in similar patterns.
Furthermore, the market in Singapore is engaging more and has more young talents promoting the use of movies as beyond mere fun and profit making machines but also as tools to build the socio-economic stature of the country (Carey, 2002; Cheil Communications, 2004). Furthermore, the government appreciates the efforts of the media by using the creativity in the country to promote commerce and to build the service industry in terms of not just tourism but also logistics and the economy irrespective of the rising competition from more established markets like China.
In Singapore, concepts of power and authority have been central throughout its public education history. In the traditional schooling system, the decision making authority rested with the district and state governments. In the centralized system, large numbers of bureaucrats play a central role in making decisions. Education administrations in states, school districts bodies and individual school boards all played a key role in designing curriculum, drafting and executing public education policies including budgets, financing, expenditure and operations.
However, non-traditional high schools (NTS) have sprung up throughout Singapore wherein the role of the bureaucracy has been reduced considerably and decisions are made by small administrative units. Cuban (1990) in his study concluded that this shift from centralization to decentralization has been triggered by the urge to find the best possible system of educational governance. He found that this shift from larger bureaucracies to small administrative units in NTS has helped administrators make well informed decisions (Cuban, 1990).
Establishing non-traditional high schools (NTS) are the current method of decentralization adopted by Singapore especially for the adjustment of the foreign students from Vietnam. Under this schooling system, the decision making power has been transferred from the district offices to individual schools with the aim of improving school governance in order to enhance Vietnamese student learning within the settings of Singaporean schools. Individual schools in turn, establish school councils which include principals, teachers and community members to guide and ease the transition of the Vietnamese students into the Singaporean culture. These councils make decisions with regards to curriculum, pedagogy, school operations and student learning. Walker (2007) found that the main assumption in NTS is that the school principals, teachers and community members are directly involved in students’ lives and therefore are in a better position to make well informed decisions about how best to utilize the available funds (Walker, 2007).
Some examples of NTS are Charter Schools, Community Based Schools, Magnet Schools, Multi-Aged Classrooms, School/Community Economic Development and E-schools. In all of the aforementioned setups decision making power has been delegated to the Principal, teachers and community members. The state and local district bureaucrats have little to no role in the decisions being made at the school level; the only responsibility for the local bureaucrats is to make sure that the educational tourism is good enough to still bring the foreign students and international investments. For instance, in Charter Schools the overall educational tourism structure can be operated after permission is given by the district school board and the state’s Board of Education.
Thereafter, the community members and the school staff are given the authority to design school curriculum, pedagogy and other school-related policies, rules and regulations. Similarly, in Magnet schools, the strengths of the local community are taken into consideration whilst developing the curriculum so that maximum help can be acquired from outside the community. Likewise, in Multi-Aged Classrooms the senior students teach the young Vietnamese students and the teachers constantly rotate their shifts to cater to the needs of the foreign students. In all of the aforementioned non-traditional high schools, the decisions about education efficiency and curriculum development is being made by the school staff in collaboration with the local community (Shuttleworth, 2003).
In the traditional school financing system, districts are responsible for raising money for imparting education in their locality. Due to prevailing poverty in some districts, school resources are scarce and therefore proper utilization of available resources is imperative. Bureaucrats in Singapore who are not in touch with the impact and importance of educational tourism and its impact on students’ and institutions’ performance cannot make accurate decisions about their wellbeing in the long run.
With the mode of expenditure in their control, they are bound to make some, if not most, irrelevant decisions. King and Ozler (1998) assert that the involvement of community members, in particular, can turn out be the most beneficial aspect of the impact that educational tourism has on the performance of NTS. Parents will be directly involved in decision making and they will be aware of the funds required to impart high-quality education. In this way, they can support either the increase or decrease of local taxes. Furthermore, parents can help both teachers and principals make more effective and accurate decisions on the adjustments need of foreign students (King and Ozler, 1998).
Both principals and teachers are now at the helm of decision making about most, if not all, areas related to education tourism affairs. They are in the best position to distribute resources and fulfill Vietnamese student learning needs. They also interact with community members to discuss reforms initiated and the progress being made on all fronts. Both community members and teachers are now able to make decisions that directly benefit Vietnamese student adjustment and achievement. Leithwood, Edge and Jantzi (1999) in their research point out that current rationale for the implementation of NTS under the promotion of education tourism includes higher administrative efficiency, professionalism, cost-effective school operations, community participation, financial accountability, student achievement and school effectiveness. This line of reasoning has motivated Singapore to execute profound education reforms and decentralize the decision making authority to individual schools (Leithwood, Edge and Jantzi, 1999).
The decision-makers of school affairs in the current educational setup in Singapore need to take into account the available resources and their social responsibilities, as well as, hold themselves accountable. Adequate financial resources at the disposal of the school council are vital for this education tourism system to function successfully. In turn, accountability of those resources is equally vital for consistent and steady growth of the education sector. How school councils spend those resources? What has been the spending impact on foreign student achievement? Are parents of students and other community members satisfied with the progress being made? Is school staff satisfied with the resources available to them? These are all vital questions that need to be taken into account when holding the school councils responsible. Both Ball and Smyth propose that NTS has to be understood within the context of three fundamental principals; access to tourist resources, sense of social responsibility and strong accountability of education tourism standards (Ball, 1993; Smyth, 1993).
If education tourism councils combined with input from school administrations do not receive adequate funds for managing school expenses then NTS is doomed for failure. Frequent disagreements will most likely be witnessed in between the councils and school administrations about where the resources should be spent. Both teachers and principals will have additional burdens of satisfying the community members. Conflict will prevail over concord and the system will collapse. Weiler (1990) argues that decentralization of decision making authority and relying on education tourism has served two broad purposes.
First, it has made way for certain socio-economic arrangements where the political leadership at the top can take in charge of foreign students and their necessary transitions to attain higher achievements. Secondly, it has increased the propensity to settle complex educational issues through conflict management strategies and tactics (Weiler, 1990). Whether the principals and teachers of schools, that receive inadequate funds, are capable of managing conflict and satisfying community members remains to be seen.
The role of popular Singaporean Television Dramas in promoting Singaporean as a suitable, safe and exciting Tourism Education within the Asia countries for studies as well as leisure has been tremendous. This can be clearly seen when analyzing the star marketing strategy used and aim to answer the research question – Is the star marketing strategy for tourism in Singapore really helpful in maintaining a healthy and profitable tourist activity within the state? Furthermore, the impact of the Singaporean Wave that influences other Asian tourist destinations is also tremendous and the use of TV miniseries for promoting and marketing the education tourist market in Singapore has been very successful as well.
The rationale for this research to analyze the impact that the television’s programs in Singapore have in their education tourist market is based on numerous studies that ensure the dependency of the education tourist industry on the media (Onishi, 2002; Kapner 2003; Dupagne & Waterman, 1998). This is done through examining and studying the country’s national television programs and advertising patterns that have existed in the last two to three decades.
The fact is this: Singapore is one of the very few cases in the global community today that shows promise for a developing country to move towards a commerce setup that will move them closer towards self-reliance especially in the education tourism industry (Appadurai, 1996; Hagiwara, Joshi, Karthigesu, Kenny, Lee & Pernia, 1999). Hence, this case study will aim to identify, analyze and highlight the many patterns and inclinations in the international and national education tourism programs in and out of the media. This particular approach has been primarily sidelined by many studies and hasn’t been focused on much in recent years either. But this case study is important in highlighting realizing that Singapore is one of the very few developing countries surrounded by industrial power houses and/or other developed nations, hence its emulation and choice of commerce serves a great interest to the country, its economy and the government.
Shuttleworth (2003) believes that decentralization of decision making authority to the school level has created puzzlement for school administrators in Singapore. Schools districts are now facing a problem of either raising taxes to avoid any form of devaluation in the services being given by the schools; and on the other hand they are facing a mounting discontent from the public with regards to the declining public education. This discontent, after the implementation of the NCLB act, has been directed primarily towards school administrations as they are responsible for dispensing and using the resources. The federal government has decentralized the fiscal responsibility to the districts and ultimately to schools; but they have done so without downloading comparable financial supplies. This one-sided decentralization of decision making authority has deepened the problems and education equality seems a distant reality (Shuttleworth, 2003).
Furthermore, the federal government has kept the decision making powers with regards to what is taught in Singaporean public schools. They have done so by enforcing an external standardized testing mechanism. Furthermore, school administrators and teachers are also subject to random accountability inspections by central authorities or by their appointees. The results of tests will be regularly published in the media to justify local district decisions such as reduction or increase in taxes, closing down or opening up of schools etc. Both school administrators and teachers have come under immense pressure and stress to meet these educational standards set forth by the federal government, e.g. Within the U.S. the NCLB act is a prime example of this (Shuttleworth, 2003).
There are many researches that have highlighted numerous reasons that explain why some of the structural changes in the education sector have failed to show substantial results. One of the very common methods that have been used in these studies has been the systems theory which basically is the combination of only the theoretical and statistical data representing mathematical models without considering the timeline of the study or the demographics. Heylighen and Joslyn (1992) found that systems theory has been repeatedly used by researchers to reveal the loopholes present in the past and current education tourism systems (Heylighen and Joslyn, 1992). Similarly, Cuban (1990) and Tyack (1991) have also analyzed the tendency of researchers to use systems theory to highlight the flaws and loopholes in the current system (Cuban, 1990; and Tyack, 1991).
The main idea behind the formation of the systems theory is that an education tourism system is not simply based upon numerous different modules put together to work as one; in fact a system is actually a series of the different interactions and associations between different modules in a structure. Hence the key word or element of an education tourism system is communication. With a constant and efficient level of communication all systems can grow simultaneously and by complimenting each other. Numerous researchers like Heylighen and Joslyn (1992) have been instrumental in proving that a system and its success are based upon communication. Hall and Fagan (1956) in their study also showed that a system can only work if all the modules can communicate the goals to each other to move forward as single unit. De Rosnay (1979) explained that this communication of the objectives also allowed the modules and the structure as whole to reform itself from within as well as externally.
Communication is the bedrock for growth and development of any educational organization. It acts as a fastening mechanism that connects and maintains all the components of a system together as one. It allows all members to work as one unit and move towards the accomplishment of both individual and organizational goals. Education tourism organizations that allow effective and casual communication have been found to progress and develop at a much faster pace than those organizations that have rigid hierarchical structures that prohibit effective communication. Gamage (2003) concluded that communication is an unavoidable aspect of any organization and only ineffective communication is avoidable (Gamage, 2003).
In addition, a systems theory mainly highlights that everything is connected and the actions or choices of any one element within an education tourism system affects the entire education system and if/when changes or alterations are made within a system, they are implemented on all elements and not just one. Van Slyke in his study (1998) supported that the entire system was a web of networks with each thread representing an element and how modules were co-dependent on each other to find success. Senge (1990) explains the same point in terms of behavioral designs i.e. with the passage of time the atmosphere and behavior of the modules grows and the entire structure grows with it simultaneously.
Current educational decentralization programs taking place all over the world delegate decision-making authority with regards to school affairs to principals and teachers; and in some cases to students and community members. For this educational reform to work effectively, all these stakeholders need to not only communicate effectively but also move towards a common goal at a steady pace. The World Bank (2007) report indicates that current decentralization programs will fail to yield any constructive results if any stakeholder is left behind and/or their opinions considered unimportant and irrelevant (as cited in Cook, 2007).
The fact of the matter is that all schools structures, whether they are analyzed at the national or regional level, are extremely intricate organizations because of not only their managerial setup but also because of their heavy reliance on the humanistic facets. These humanistic facets not only include the administration and the students but also the community members and investors – local and foreign. The aspects of the community and the investors add numerous complex aspects that not only affect the structure of the school but affect all its academic and peripheral decisions. Fullan (1996) found that communication between all these components helps the school in re-organizing the system for durable success (Fullan, 1996). Other researchers too have come to the same conclusion (Vinovskis, 1996).
All of the schools in Singapore are also influenced by the phenomenon of systems theory, which simply means that now schools can use the efficient communication setups as opportunities to study and implement only those ideas and strategies that will eventually lead them to achieving their goals without employing those techniques that have previously been tested and been futile. Van Slyke (1998) explained that if the schools did not take advantage of the education tourism structure and the opportunities, it brought then they would only be creating more hurdles for themselves that would hinder any level of foreign investment, growth or reform.
To a large extent, effective communication can eradicate most of the complexities faced by school staff, students and community members. In fact, effective communication is such an integral part of the school process that without it one member of the organization cannot share his/her opinion, ideas, thoughts and attitude with other members. Gamage (2003) found that within the educational setting, complex communication structures exist because many stakeholders are involved and each one has a different perspective. Furthermore, not all members are effective communicators and are unable to convey their message properly (Gamage, 2003). For NTS to work successfully, all stakeholders must learn to put across their ideas ns an effective manner.
A method is referred as a tool or a way to solve a problem in a systematic way in order to acquire new knowledge Holme and Solvang (1997). The methodological procedures used in this survey acts as guidelines on how necessary data and information should be gathered from the respondents by the researcher. This increases the possibility to obtain necessary responses to the pursued research questions and make valuable conclusion.
In this part of the study, research methodology with its processes including the planning process, selection of sample size and research group, creating survey, execution of the plan and lastly data gathering and interpretation, shall be described.
A well-formulated survey plan is essential to conduct a successful study. It helps the researcher focus on the study by guiding the implementation and analysis of the obtained responses. Firstly, the researcher understands the scope and intentions of the study clearly. The study is set to obtain a better understanding of Singapore educational tourism with emphasis from Vietnamese students studying in Singapore. The researcher will determine specific objectives to be pursued and help to keep the study always on the track.
Review of the relevant literature is essential to provide insight and understanding on educational tourism in Singapore. This will lay a strong foundation for the study by establishing gaps and aligning the study to fill those identified gaps. Thus, intensive research about previous works on education tourism in both theory and empirical studies will help to keep the study in perspective.
Questionnaire, which is the data collection instrument, will need to be well planned and developed for the purpose of reliability of the responses collected from the field.
Sampling technique is the process concerned with individual observations intended to yield some knowledge about a population of concern for purpose of inference Mahmoudi (2008). The researcher will use convenience-sampling technique to determine sample size. Convenience sampling also known as opportunity sampling is based on the fact that study population selected is readily available and convenient for the researcher. The researcher can easily reach out and collect necessary data from study objects without unnecessary constraints.
Sample Size and Research Group
The target population of the study is Vietnamese university students from MDIS, NTU and NUS studying in Singapore. The researcher believes that this category of students can provide necessary responses and make inferences on the nature of Singapore education system and tourism. Using a confidence interval of 95% and a margin error of -+5%, a representative sample will be 100 students.
This is the process of gathering relevant data for analysis to make informed judgments. According to Saunders (2000), “there are two main approaches to data collection, primary and secondary data.” This study will sorely rely on first hand data from the field to make appropriate inferences. Data gathering will be done to obtain information to make decisions on important issues. For the purpose of this study, data will be collected from Vietnamese university students by the researcher. This will be done by use of a questionnaire to collect quantitative data. Data gathering will be pursued in line with the objectives of the study: To measure the strength and weakness of Singapore educational tourism, to expose and analyze the receipts about Singapore educational tourism from the view point of Vietnamese student and to evaluate and recommend appropriate action for the Singapore educational tourism industry. The researcher will use contact persons to help in distributing and collection of the survey.
There are different approaches for a researcher to conduct social science research. These include experiments, archival analysis, surveys, history and case studies. Saunders and Thornhill (2000) state that it is important for the approach chosen to address research questions and objectives of interest the researcher. This study will use survey research.
A survey is a systematic technique of gathering data from a study population. It is useful when a researcher wants to collect data and information on phenomena that cannot be directly observed. It uses questionnaires and interview as data collection tools. The researcher will identify a sample and distribute standardized questionnaires to the respondents. The choice to use questionnaires for data collection has many benefits including ability to collect responses from a large geographical location and from many respondents within a short time, generalize study results to the entire population and less time required to analyze structured questions. The researcher will use closed ended questionnaires for easy interpretation and analysis.