Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen,Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence, at Gan Eng Seng School's 125th Anniversary Dinner on Sunday, 18 July, 2010, at 7.00 pm at Raffles City Convention Centre
Mr Koh Poh Tiong,
Chairman of the School Advisory Committee
Mr Teo Kim Ching,
President of the Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association
Mrs Carolin Tan,
Principal of Gan Eng Seng School
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me great pleasure to join you here at the 125th anniversary celebrations of Gan Eng Seng School which was established in 1885.
Mr Gan Eng Seng, founder of the school, wanted to bestow the gift of education upon the less well-off children in the vicinity. Then, he also recognised the importance of English and added it as another language of instruction to the Chinese students in the school. It was perhaps the only school back then that provided a bilingual education. This proved a valuable asset to students who could benefit from the growth of the region while retaining a sense of rootedness to their community.
21st Century Competencies
Our educational mission today remains the same as when this school was founded. It is to provide all Singaporeans opportunities to develop their capabilities, skills and knowledge. It is to provide them the wherewithal to improve their lives, contribute actively to families and society. It is to help them cultivate good values and sound beliefs for life.
While the mission remains timeless, our education system must evolve as society and indeed the world at large changes. New demands have been put on our children as they enter the workforce or live in a more complex and networked world. We must maintain our standards in literacy, numeracy and language competencies. But we also need to equip students with better communication skills, ability to lead teams and handle different people from varied backgrounds. Sound values will always be needed to underpin these skills and knowledge. Our students must possess integrity, compassion, civic and global responsibility, for them to live productive lives and build a wholesome society.
Laying the Foundation
This is similar to the foundation Mr Gan Eng Seng tried to lay for the school, which was to develop students who would give their very best in whatever they undertook. Over the years, through the leadership of the various principals and commitment of the teachers, the school has built upon this foundation to produce eminent alumni with a heart for public service. These include Dr Yeo Ning Hong, former Minister for Communications and Second Minister for Defence, and, Dr Khoo Kay Chai, former Principal of Singapore Polytechnic. Today, Gan Eng Seng School remains a popular school in the neighbourhood which recognises its rich heritage and strong foundations in grooming well-balanced students of excellence, standing and significance.
Collaboration with Partners
Each school requires the unwavering support from all its stakeholders to fulfill its mission and potential. Undoubtedly, the partners of GESS have played a key role in its progress. The School Advisory Committee (SAC) and the Old Students’ Association or GESSOSA, as it is fondly called, are two such partners who have given of their support both in terms of resources and time to participate in the school’s events. The Gan Eng Seng School Parent-Teacher Association (PTA), which incidentally was the first PTA to be formed in Singapore in 1950, also works closely with the school. The PTA has been a loyal supporter of school events such as the school’s Sports Day, Graduation Night, and the Paper Boat Activity and Carnival, with the last two events being part of GESS’ 125th anniversary celebrations. The PTA has also been active in organising workshops on parenting skills.
Gan Eng Seng School also works with other institutions. The school is currently part of a research project with NIE on Social-Emotional Learning. It collaborates with NLB in its school-wide reading programme as well as the school’s Reading Marathon.
Gan Eng Seng School has also formed partnerships with educational communities overseas, such as in Thailand through the Singapore-Thailand Enhanced Partnership Programme. The school sees itself as part of the larger community within the Tanjong Pagar GRC. For example, the school invites the elderly to its events and celebrations such as the Total Defence-cum-Chinese New Year celebrations.
Tradition of Commitment and Passion for the Good of the School
On this 125th anniversary, we acknowledge the good progress and achievements that Gan Eng Seng School has made. The school has attained several awards including the Sustained Achievement Award for Aesthetics, Sports and Uniformed Groups, Niche school for Uniformed Groups, and the People Developer Standard Award. These achievements have come about because of the commitment and sacrifices made by both staff and students. The Principal, Mrs Tan, has shared with me how she has been inspired by the dedication to excellence in the staff as well as the students and how they have demonstrated the goodwill and professionalism required of them to attain these peaks of excellence. Moving forward, this will certainly stand the school in good stead as it continues to prepare students for the 21st century workplace and society.
I understand that the school has revised its mission, vision and values as part of the regular review that all organisations undergo to stay relevant. I believe these will serve as a reliable compass for Gessians to become active and responsible citizens of both Singapore and the world. I hope, too, that Gessians will lead productive and exemplary lives while being cognizant of their past and heritage and their responsibility for a better tomorrow.
In conclusion, I would like to wish all staff, Gessians and their partners continued passion and commitment to the tradition they have inherited and which they will enrich over the coming years.