Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at the Joint Opening of the S2010 Youth Sports Conference and the 3rd International Conference of Physical Education and Sports Science (ICPESS) 2010, at Suntec International Convention & Exhibition Centre on Tuesday, 25 May 2010, at 7.25pm

Ms Ho Peng,
Director General Education, Ministry of Education

Mr Ng Cher Pong,
Deputy Secretary (Policy), Ministry of Education

Mr Ng Ser Miang,
Chairman, Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee

Professor Neil Armstrong,
Deputy Vice Chancellor, University of Exeter

Our partners from the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC),

Colleagues from the Ministry of Education and the National Institute for Education (NIE),

Distinguished Guests,

Boys and Girls,

Good evening.


It is my pleasure to be here with you at the joint opening of the 3rd International Conference of Physical Education and Sports Science 2010 hosted by the National Institute of Education, and the first ever Youth Sports Conference hosted by Victoria Junior College.

These conferences are organised as a lead up to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August this year. They promote sportsmanship, sports education and the Olympic values to students in Singapore and the region. Both events focus on youth in sports — one from the educator’s point of view, and the other from the student’s perspective. Sports offer our youths opportunities for not only character development, but also physical and mental conditioning as well as fun and enjoyment. Sports should therefore be an integral part of the lives of our youths.

Education and Sports

Sports and education are inextricably linked, with physical education (PE) and sports having a crucial role in the holistic education of our students. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), of which Singapore is a member, International Charter for PE and Sport stresses that “education systems must assign the requisite place and importance to physical education and sport in order to establish a balance and strengthen links between physical activities and other components of education”. MOE affirms this belief and educational philosophy.

The YOG too embodies this nexus between sports and education. The President of the International Olympic Committee, Jacques Rogge, in mooting the idea of the YOG, noted that the Games should “encourage an increase in sports participation and broaden the scope of an education based on Olympic values.”

Importance of Sportsmanship

Youth pick up life values through sports and sportsmanship. Teachable moments abound on and off the field, even when our sportsmen do not live up to ideals or are not at their best behaviour. I am sure you would have heard or read about the recent incidents of bad behaviour in the school sports scene. Sport teaches us about the human spirit and how to give our best. But we should never pursue victory at the expense of breaking the rules or injuring other players. Former world number one tennis player Jim Courier once said,

“Sportsmanship for me is when a guy walks off the court and you really can’t tell whether he won or lost, when he carries himself with pride either way.”

The Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect strike that balance between striving to win and sportsmanship. We have embedded Olympic education as part of their school curriculum here. Schools use creative ways to foster understanding of the Olympic values. For example, some schools have infused Olympic Education in Science by examining the physiology of Olympians who have achieved high levels of performance, or in English through song-writing, debates and blogs. School-wide efforts range from mural, banner and flag painting, to service learning projects with the Singapore Disability Sports Council and Special Olympics, and even organising a health education seminar for parents.

MOE’s PE and Sports Development Framework

The Ministry of Education realises the importance of PE and sports for the physical, cognitive, social, emotional and character development of every student, not just for our top athletes. Students can pick up skills like self-management, responsible decision-making and social awareness, which will not only help them in sports, but will also be transferable to their daily lives. PE and sports also contribute towards developing psychomotor skills, health and fitness, particularly in the early years.

With this in mind, we have developed a PE and Sports Development Framework which articulates our philosophy. Sports initiatives offered by MOE can broadly be referred to as “Mass Participation Programmes”, “Specialised Sports Programmes”, and “Talent Development Programmes”. Let me briefly outline the framework.

“Mass Participation Programmes” aim to inculcate in all students the knowledge, skills and attitudes of games and sports to enable them to lead a healthy lifestyle even after they leave school. “Mass Participation Programmes” include the PE programme, the Sports Education Programme, Programme for Active Learning and individual school programmes.

“Specialised Sports Programmes” aim to develop students who will contribute to sports as advocates, leaders and organisers of sports events, or by becoming PE teachers, coaches, sports administrators, lecturers, sports scientists and sponsors of sports. “Specialised Sports Programmes” include sports CCAs, intra- and inter-school competitions at the school level, as well as zonal programmes organised by Centres of Excellence for the respective sports.

“Talent Development Programmes” strive to develop young sporting talents to create a pipeline of athletes to represent the nation. “Talent Development Programmes” are offered at the Junior Sports Academies, Youth Sports Academies, and the Singapore Schools Sports Teams (SSSTs) squads, which are run with coaching inputs from the National Sports Associations. Students in these programmes are likely to become national or professional athletes, coaches, PE teachers, sports administrators, lecturers and sports scientists in the future.

All three segments of the framework lead to a common goal, which is to develop in our students qualities such as responsibility for self, positive self-esteem and sportsmanship, and highlight the importance of respecting others, fair play and teamwork. At the core of infusing these essential 21st Century skills are quality teachers. That is why we have set up the Physical Education and Sports Teacher Academy to build a dedicated and distinct community of PE and sports teachers through strong pedagogical leadership, ownership of continual professional development and a system-wide mentoring of teachers by teachers.

Coaches also play an important role in sports CCAs, and MOE has been running courses to help coaches develop awareness of our educational policies and equip them with basic pedagogical skills. Facilities are another important enabler for sports and we have been upgrading our schools with facilities such as indoor sports halls and synthetic turf fields, all of which have greatly enhanced opportunities for sports participation.

Possibilities in Sport

Besides hearing about the benefits that sports can provide, I hope that the Youth Sports Conference will also expose students to the myriad of career possibilities that sports have to offer. From becoming professional athletes or educators like your teachers seated here, to careers in fields such as sports medicine, sports science, health and nutrition, and even sports journalism, all are open to you. Let me use some familiar names to remind you how these individuals have forged their own unique path through sports.

Joscelin Yeo, our swimmer who represented Singapore at four Olympics, the most by any Singaporean athlete, now represents the people in a different way as a Nominated Member of Parliament, putting her passion for changing the lives of youths into action. After 20 years in swimming, she may have left behind her daily training routines, which I am told started at 4.30am, but I am sure the life-skills, perseverance and discipline which she has gained has stayed with her and continue to be put into good use.

Dr Benedict Tan, a three-time Sportsman of the Year award winner, was once among the top 50 sailors in the world. Dr Tan is currently Medical Director of the Singapore Sports Medicine Centre. His success in sailing in Secondary 1 gave him confidence and started him thinking that he could do equally well in exams. Dr Tan retired from competitive sailing in 1996 and took up marathon running recreationally in 2002.

Mr Oon Jin Teik, who represented the Singapore swim team at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, has been the Chief Executive Officer of the Singapore Sports Council since 2004. As a young swimmer, passionate about the sport, his perseverance and discipline had led to a successful and meaningful life. To date, with his understanding of the Singapore sports system, combined with his business background and experience, he pioneered initiatives such as the Let’s Play brand. Let’s Play focuses on the social aspects of sports as an enjoyable way to spend time with friends and family.

Over the next two days, you will hear more from such experts and role models. You will also have the opportunity to pick up a new sport, and make friends with athletes from different disciplines. Being able to play different types of sports can also keep us interested in sports in the long run by injecting variety into our exercise routines.


I believe this conference will raise your enthusiasm and awareness of the endless possibilities in sports and in the upcoming YOG. I trust that students and teachers alike will be our YOG ambassadors in your schools, helping to educate, inform, and drum up support for the upcoming Games.

I wish you all a fruitful time at your respective conferences and bid our visitors a warm welcome. Thank you.