Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Ministry of Education, at the 2010 National Day Observance Ceremony at MOE HQ on 6 August at 0910hrs

Mrs Tan Ching Yee
Permanent Secretary

Ms Yeoh Chee Yan
2nd Permanent Secretary

Ms Ho Peng
Director-General of Education

Dr Choong May Ling Mimi
Deputy Secretary (Services)

Directors, colleagues,

Ladies and gentlemen

National Day Message 2010


On Monday, we celebrate 45 years of nationhood, and the exceptional story that is Singapore. We continue to progress despite the many challenges that we have faced, including the recent global financial crisis. The physical transformation of our city skyline reflects the deeper resilience and dynamism of a nation with a can-do spirit. We have good reasons to be optimistic and excited about the future.

Founding Aspirations

Our success today has been built on the sacrifice and hard work of the founding generation and leaders. When Singapore first became independent, we faced mass unemployment, racial unrest and political upheaval. Our then Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, together with a team of ministers including Dr Goh Keng Swee, Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr S. Rajaratnam and Mr Othman Wok, led Singapore through those tumultuous times.

Their shared aspirations are encapsulated in our national symbols which we acknowledge in our schools daily. Our national pledge, crafted by Mr S. Rajaratnam in 1966, is a stirring articulation of our collective aspirations to become a happy, united and prosperous people, undivided by race, language or religion. Our national flag signifies our desire for continual progress built on the ideals of democracy, peace, progress, equality and justice — the five stars. Our national anthem — “Majulah Singapura” which means “Onward Singapore”, rallies Singaporeans to step forward and contribute to our nation’s progress.

Our Aspirations for the Future

Our founding fathers have laid a strong foundation but it is up to each generation to preserve and build on on this legacy. The late Dr Goh Keng Swee famously said when he retired from politics in 1984 that “we should always regard the present condition of the Republic not as a pinnacle of achievement but as a base from which to scale new heights”. Each generation must write its own exciting new chapter in the Singapore storybook.

Our education system exemplifies this progressive spirit. The consistent and sterling efforts of principals and teachers have continually improved educational opportunities for all students. 30 years ago, only 60% of our students completed secondary school. In contrast, today, 93% of each Primary 1 cohort progresses to post-secondary education. We now have an internationally recognized education system that imparts to students valuable skills, knowledge and wholesome values for life. Academically, our students are recognised world-wide for their high standards in literacy, numeracy and science. We will continue to invest in strengthening and transforming our education system to prepare our young for a globalised future.

Our goal is to develop every child into a confident person, a self-directed learner, an active contributor and a concerned citizen. These are competencies that will prepare our students for a globalised future. Our students must have sound fundamentals and the ability to bring together knowledge from varied areas, which will allow them to work well in different environments. However, even as we prepare for a global environment, we must continue to build on our Singapore identity especially as we seek to integrate new citizens. Our schools play an important role in this regard, by providing the common space where students of different backgrounds can interact and build common values and identity.

Later this month, Singapore will play host to the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. Youth athletes from around the world will gather in Singapore for this major sporting event. We are all proud that Singapore was chosen as the venue for the first YOG. It will be an opportunity for us to see the world’s best young athletes in action, and for the world to see us. Many of our teachers and students are involved in the preparations for the Games. I want to thank all of you who are working hard to make YOG a resounding success. I am sure that you, and indeed all Singaporeans, will be extending warm hospitality to our foreign friends. For those of you who are not directly involved in the Games, I urge you to take the time to cheer on Team Singapore.


The theme for this year’s National Day is “Live our Dreams, Fly our Flag”. Take a moment to think about this: “What are your dreams for Singapore?” “What will you do to live the dreams you have for Singapore?” Our lack of natural resources, including a small land area, has never stopped Singapore from flying our flag nor from daring to dream. We must have the courage and determination to transform challenges into opportunities and work towards realising our Singapore Dream. As we do so, there is indeed much we can look forward to as we celebrate Singapore’s 45th anniversary.

I wish you all a happy and meaningful National Day.