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SPEECH BY RADM (NS) LUI TUCK YEW, MINISTER OF STATE, MINISTRY OF EDUCATION, AT AI TONG SCHOOL’S 95TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATION DINNER ON FRIDAY, 12 OCTOBER 2007, AT 7.00PM AT AI TONG SCHOOL


Mr Chua Thian Poh,
Deputy President, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan

Mr Ng Keng Song,
Principal, Ai Tong School

Teachers and staff

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and gentlemen


Good evening,

INTRODUCTION
1.     It is my pleasure to join all of you this evening to celebrate Ai Tong School’s 95th Anniversary.  This special occasion commemorates decades of rich history, your school’s achievements, and a strong school spirit that has strengthened over the years.  More than just a celebration, it is an occasion to take stock, reflect and embark on plans for the future.

2.     These long years with its many ups and downs, from colonial days to independence, through merger and separation, war and peace have helped its staff and students develop resilience, adaptability and character, and also laid the strong foundation upon which present day Ai Tong is built.  The past 95 years has indeed seen Ai Tong play a crucial part in preparing successive generations for the life ahead of them, shaping your students into capable, as well as culturally and globally aware young men and women.

PROVIDING A HOLISTIC EDUCATION

3.     It has been said that education is the best gift that we can give to our children, to prepare them for their future.  Education is not about preparing them for examinations or getting them ready for a job.  Instead, it is to help develop them to their full potential, to infuse in them the joy and love for learning and nurture them into good citizens, conscious of their responsibilities to family, society and country.

4.     Ai Tong provides a holistic education catering to the academic, physical, moral, social and aesthetic development of its students.  It is heartening to note that Ai Tong has remained steadfast in its undertaking to nurture the whole person.

5.     The school has, in particular, also adopted a school-wide approach for inculcating values in its students.  Under this approach, values such as integrity, teamwork, embracing diversity, and generosity, are infused into both the core curriculum and co-curricular programmes.  This approach helps students to effectively internalize the values which are carefully translated into observable actions to guide pupils in their daily activities so that they learn to practise these values in tangible ways.

6.     Ai Tong also conducts leadership training for its students.  I am told that some of the student leaders serve as conflict managers, monitors of energy conservation, and are also encouraged to initiate school activities. This training will serve to prepare them for the future, and stand them in good stead when they go on to secondary schools, tertiary institutions, and even when they join the working world.

7.     At the national level, the school has also been doing well in CCAs, particularly in sports such as gymnastics, volleyball and table-tennis, and also in the arts such as dance and music, during the Singapore Youth Festival.  I am heartened by the good work that you are doing, and urge you to continue in the holistic development of our young.

AI TONG’S BILINGUAL POLICY

8.     In addition to developing our young holistically, the preservation and promotion of the Chinese language and culture have always been among Ai Tong’s priorities. This is noteworthy and the school must continue to persevere in this endeavour.

9.     In Singapore, we recognise that fundamental shifts have taken place in our social landscape. The majority entering Primary 1 comes from families that use English as their main language. Our approaches to teaching Chinese need to take this into account even as we continue to uphold those with the potential, interest and ability to immerse themselves more deeply in the language, culture and traditions.

10.    While learning the various Chinese skills is important, our key objective must be to stimulate and cultivate in our students an abiding interest in the language. We have also moved to make Chinese an enjoyable, living language for our students, regardless of their final level of achievement in learning the language.

11.    The changes we have made to the Chinese curriculum and how we approach the teaching of this subject  are part of how we ensure that bilingualism continues to thrive in Singapore. We cannot allow successive generations of young Singaporeans to gradually lose their competence in the Mother Tongue or their instinctive sense of identity with the culture and traditions that the MTL represents.

12.    Over the years, Ai Tong’s bilingual programme has been an admirable achievement. It has borne fruit and the school counts among its alumni six Prime Minister’s Book Prize recipients.  I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Mrs Teo-Mok Ling Ling, Ai Tong’s Chinese Language Level Head, who was one of the recipients of the 2007 Inspiring Chinese Language Teacher Award.

13.    In Ai Tong, the school aims to develop students’ linguistic skills in terms of listening, speaking, reading and writing, as well as instil an appreciation of Chinese culture and traditional values in the students through the study of the Chinese Language.  A flexible and realistic approach to teaching and learning the mother tongue will help our students keep in touch with their heritage and maintain their identity in a rapidly changing world.  I encourage parents and the community to support and work jointly with the teachers of Ai Tong so that the school can achieve its goals.

AI TONG’S SAP-PLUS PROGRAMME

14.    As an SAP school, Ai Tong took a step further by adopting the SAP-Plus Programme which is aimed at creating a Chinese-culture enriched environment to strengthen the love for the Chinese language and culture in its students.  Two years ago, the school established a twinning programme with a primary school in Suzhou, as well as mount cultural immersion exchange programmes for Primary Five students to cities such as Beijing, Nanjing and Hangzhou to widen the horizons of its students.  To further promote the Chinese language and culture, the school is now exploring ways to teach non-examinable subjects such as art and music in Chinese.

15.    This year, I understand that the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan has also initiated a Bi-Cultural Chinese Elective Programme (BiCEP) in its five affiliated primary schools, including Ai Tong School.  I was told that this is a pilot programme that places strong emphasis on our Asian heritage, and will develop a core group of students who are both effectively bilingual and bi-cultural, and cultivate and nurture their passion for Chinese culture and the language.

CONCLUSION

16.    The Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan's role and continued efforts in promoting education throughout its 167 years of existence is commendable.  It continues to pursue its noble mission by constructing a Chinese Cultural Centre within Ai Tong School.  I am confident that the Centre will be put to good use, not just for students of the BiCEP programme but for the school’s entire enrolment of about 2000 students. As we move forward in helping our young Singaporeans be responsible citizens, I urge the Huay Kuan to continue its good work.

17.    Ai Tong School has a long history and rich heritage to draw from.  I believe that with its visionary leadership and strong support of all its stakeholders, the school will continue to thrive and contribute to the education landscape in Singapore.

18.    Congratulations once again to Ai Tong School on your 95th Anniversary.  I wish you continued success and excellence.

19.    Thank you