Speeches

Opening Address by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development and Ministry of Education at the 33rd Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival Opening Ceremony on Tuesday, 25 May 2010, at 10.00am, at St Andrew's Junior College

Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng
Chairman, Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival Organising Committee and
Chief Executive, Science Centre Singapore

Mrs Nora Teo
Co-chair, Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival Organising Committee and
Chairman, Science Teachers Association of Singapore

Mrs Teo-See Beng Chu,
Refinery Operations Manager, Shell Companies Singapore

Distinguished guests,

Teachers, parents and students,

Ladies and gentlemen.

Good morning. It gives me great pleasure to be here at the opening of the 33rd Shell Singapore Youth Science Festival (SSYSF). This annual festival has attained standing among our schools over the years. It is an event where exchanges of creative ideas, intellectual and social interactions take place among thousands of students nationwide.

The festival has been held for over 30 years garnering 2 million participants in the duration. This is by no means an easy feat. The organisers are to be commended for the achievement. The longevity of this festival is a clear indication of the broad based support from the schools, and the students’ avid pursuit of their interest in the sciences.

Purpose and theme of festival

Indeed, the purpose of the festival is to give students a greater insight into science by providing a platform to exchange ideas and views; discuss pertinent problems and their solution through science; impact of science on society. This year being the International Year of Biodiversity, the organiser has chosen the theme “Biodiversity: Nature’s Design and Technology”. Our students are urged to understand the importance of biological diversity to the conservation of plant and animal life on Earth as well as the balance of our ecosystems. This is especially relevant now, when the world is facing an environment filled with challenges such as global warming, limited water and energy resources and environmental pollution.

Indeed, the festival has helped nurture in our youths a deep and abiding interest in the sciences, which is an important foundation for knowledge, inquiry and innovation to tackle the complex issues of tomorrow.

Our rich natural heritage

Despite being a small city state, Singapore is a haven for biodiversity. To-date, we have recorded over 2,000 native plant species, 57 mammal species, 98 reptile species, over 350 bird species, more than 280 butterfly species, and nearly 120 dragonfly species in Singapore. This is a result of our conscious efforts to conserve our rich natural heritage while we grow and develop our economy. To sustain the quality of our nature reserves, nature areas and parks, we have made considerable efforts to restore wildlife habitats and replant degraded areas.

For example, Pulau Ubin is a refuge for many species of animals in Singapore. One of the rarest mammals to be found in this nature area is the Greater Mousedeer. Also, there is the Sun Fern, which has existed from pre-historic times. It is slowly dying out but efforts have been put in place to protect it. As a result of our intensive conservation efforts, the number of species of mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians recorded in Pulau Ubin has increased since the 1990s, by about 100 to 270 now.

Nurturing a passion for nature in our young

Our biodiversity conservation efforts can only be sustainable in the long-term, if our future generations understand why we do so, and continue to build on what we have achieved today. We can nurture a passion for nature in our young, by creating opportunities for them to have intimate contact with the natural world. This is why we are making our parks and nature reserves conducive outdoor classrooms. Sungei Buloh has become a popular destination for schools to conduct lessons on wetlands and mangroves ecology. Dairy Farm Nature Park has the Wallace Education Centre where students can conduct interactive experiments to learn more about nature.

Similarly, the festival activities serve as a springboard to get our students thinking about the challenges facing our biodiversity conservation, and how we can tap on science and technology to create a positive impact on the balance of life on Earth.

For example, a new competition this year is “Let’s Explore!”. The competition encouraged students to document, investigate and explore the theme of biodiversity using digital new media. I am pleased that the competition is well received as nearly 200 teams consisting of over 400 participants from primary, secondary and post-secondary levels had submitted their entries.

Conclusion

I would like to commend the Science Centre, the Science Teachers Association of Singapore, and Shell for bringing this event to our students. I would like to congratulate all students who have participated in this festival and urge you to continue to pursue your passion for Science through discovery and learning. Also kudos to all the teachers who helped guide their students on this scientific journey of discovery. I am sure the festival has helped everyone to develop a better understanding of biodiversity and deepen our appreciation for all living things on Earth.

Thank you.