Education, Training and Economic Growth in Pacific Asia: A New Model of Skill Formation

Award No. L324253015

Period of report: 1/1/97 to 31/12/97.

Aims and Methods of Research: 



The prime purpose of the research is to examine the character of the institutional links between the economy and the education and training system in Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea. The objective is to compare, contrast and evaluate different versions of the distinctive route to high skill formation that has been developed in the region. We are carrying out a historical and conceptual analysis of the perceived role of education and training institutions in the developmental strategies of the governments of these economies. The main methodology is through semi-structured interviews with government officials, academics, researchers and business and employee representatives in these countries, and through collection and evaluation of local materials.
Highlights of the research and important findings:




During this period, we have through follow-up visits further confirmed that the four countries do have similarities in the way that the education and training systems have been and are being moulded by their governments according to the stage of development of the economy. This link seems to be a distinctive characteristic of these newly-industrialised economies, and constitutes an aspect of the role of the "developmental state". But there are differences between the countries in the inputs of the various actors to the policy process. In Hong Kong (unlike in the other countries) there has been no attempt to provide an industrial vision and strategy. But its education and training system has been made closely responsive to economic needs through government actions.

We have also further analysed the contradictions and problems facing the four tigers in reforming their education and training systems to meet the needs of the modern economies, now that: a) they have (to varying degrees) caught up on the industrialised countries, and b) modern technology and work organisation is said to bring a need for creativity and flexible skills. 


Research Staff:



Donna James, Research Officer, 1/10/95 to 30/9/97. 

Ms James had primary responsibility for most of the field work, and is sharing on an equal basis the task of writing up and dissemination. 

J. Sung, who was mentioned in the original application, though not an applicant as such, is playing a full part in the project.



  • Education, Training And Economic Development. The Political Economy Of Skill Formation In East Asian Newly Industrialised Economies by David Ashton, Francis Green, Donna James and Johnny Sung. Forthcoming with Routledge. Manuscript to be delivered to Routledge soon; circa 80,000 words.
  • Goh, E. and F. Green (1997). "Trade unions as agents for skill formation: the case of Singapore." International Journal of Training and Development, 1(4), December, 230-241.
  • Ashton, D. and J. Sung "Education, Skill Formation and Economic Development: The Singaporean Approach" in A.H.Halsey, H.Lauder, P.Brown and A.S.Wells, Education: Culture, Economy and Society, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.
  • Ashton, D., J. Sung, F. Green and J. Donna (forthcoming). The Link Between Education, Training and Economic Growth: The Distinctive Experience of the "Tiger" Economies of the Pacific Rim. Shaping Human Resources and the World of Work. J. Lasonen, Institution for Educational Research, University of Jyvaskyla. This paper was presented to the International Vocational Education and Training Association Annual Conference, entitled "The Challenges of the 21st Century for Vocational Education and Training" in Helsinki, August 1997.
  • Green, F., D. James, D. Ashton and J. Sung (1997). Skill formation for a Late Industrialising Economy: The Case of South Korea, Centre for Industrial Performance, University of Leeds.
  • Articles are in preparation reporting findings on each of the countries. Papers have been specifically invited from: The Journal of Education Policy; The Asia-Pacific Journal of Education.
Engagement with Potential Research Users:


  • Ashton Johnny Sung and Donna James "Training and skill Formation in Hong Kong, CLMS Annual Research Conference, 6 November, 1996, Leicester.
  • Ashton, "The Distinctive Approach of the ‘Tiger’ Economies to HRD", Penang Productivity Lecture, Penang, Malaysia, February 1997.
  • Ashton, "Singapore: A New Model of Skill Formation?", paper presented to the ESRC Learning Society programme meeting on Skill Formation, Bristol University, School for Policy Studies, 28/29 May 1996.
  • A talk entitled "Skill formation for a Late Industrialising Economy: The Case of South Korea" was presented by Professor Green to the University of Leeds Centre for Policy Studies in Education.
  • Professors Green and Ashton were invited speakers at a convention in the Republic of Korea in November 1997 entitled "Improving the Economic Performance of Education" organised jointly by APEC and the Korea Development Institute. Other participants included academics from East Asia and North America, and representatives from the World Bank. 
  • Donna James organised a session and presented findings from the project to the Political Science Association, Dublin, April 1997.
  • We have proposed a seminar/workshop for representatives of the Department for Education and Employment, with the intention of reporting directly to policy makers the findings of the project.
  • The results of the project are being be fed into the background preparation for the ILO World Employment Report, 1998/99, entitled "Training for Employment". Both Professor Ashton and Professor Green have been consulted.
Detailed Progress: Since the start of the project, all four countries have been visited twice. Singapore and Hong Kong have been visited several times, using the opportunity of teaching visits to further the research in addition to the budgeted visits. A second visit was made to Taiwan during July 1997, in order to fill a number of gaps which we had identified in our knowledge, in particular in relation to how the training system had evolved and how it was now working. A second visit was also made to South Korea, this time at the expense of the Korea Development Institute, who invited us back to share some of our findings about the region as a whole; this visit afforded the opportunity to undertake some further fact-finding. We also visited Malaysia and interviewed officials in Singapore about the extent to which the Singapore model of skill formation is being adopted there.

It turned out that there was no point in visiting Suzhou: we were able to learn sufficient in Singapore concerning problems encountered in that region. It also seemed likely that in this case we would not get the access we would need.

During the course of these visits a considerable number of people have been interviewed, and the interview notes constitute a major source of our evidence for the findings and interpretations we are now writing up. For the most part, our interviewees were government officials of one kind or another, whether from central ministries or from various education and training institutes; however we also spoke with industrialists, trade unionists and members of parliament, especially when we felt it was important to gain an independent verification of what we were learning, or simply to get an alternative point of view. At the same time, during the visits we collected a large amount of unpublished reports and other materials, either from libraries or directly from our interviewees. These also have proved to be indispensable source material.

The project has, overall, continued to go to plan and has kept to its timetable, the one hold-up being over Suzhou, which was only a peripheral part of the research objectives. It has generally been a remarkably successful project so far. A lot of interest in our findings has already been generated, from the various presentations we have made. The last few months of the project are being spent completing the manuscript for the book, writing up academic articles that go into various detailed aspects of our findings, and continuing with disseminating the research.