Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Institute of Technical Education Graduation Ceremony on Friday, 12 June 2015 at 3.30pm.

Published Date: 12 June 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, Deputy Chairman, ITE Board of Governors,

Mr Bruce Poh, Director & CEO of ITE,

Members of ITE Board of Governors,

Distinguished Guests, Parents, and Graduands,

Ladies and Gentlemen

Good afternoon

1.It is now Friday. Last Friday morning, an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude struck near Mount Kinabalu in Sabah - something no one has ever seen before.

2.Since then, my colleagues and I have not stopped working. Many of my officers and our teachers have not been able to sleep at night. In MOE and in Tanjong Katong Primary School, all I see around me are grim faces, burdened by the sorrows; but behind these is a steely determination to tackle the many challenges, to do all that we can to bring as many students and teachers back safely as possible. A very dedicated team of officers were with the family members and working with Malaysian authorities at Kota Kinabalu. All of Singapore gave the family members and us support.

3.Even though everyone is accounted for now, there is much to do. We must focus on helping our students and teachers, and their families, recover from this. We must honour the spirit of our students and teachers who challenged themselves to be at their best.

4.I was not sure at first if I would be able to join you today. ITE was kind enough to invite me months ago, and I readily accepted. Last night, I decided I must join you today. The disaster last Friday, and all the resolve, strength and compassion I’ve seen and heard from Singaporeans in the last week, have stirred up many thoughts in me. I hope you will let me share them with you today. Also, I very much want to be here with you today in this special moment to celebrate your achievements.

5.I assure you, I won’t say anything to depress you. All I want to do is to remind you that you are loved, that we believe in you, and that we will give you our all to help you achieve your dreams. And, I hope that you will share with us too your hopes and your wishes, so that I, my officers, our teachers, we can all draw more strength and hope from you to carry on the work that we must do at MOE.

6.I would like to share with you what it means to be a child, what it means to be a parent, and what it means to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. Every one of us here is someone’s child. Some of your parents are here. And every one of us here, as a child, as a parent, is part of something much bigger than ourselves. It is something that is hard to explain, but when you feel it, you know that it is real.

To be someone’s child

7.What does it mean to be someone’s child? It means that someone cares for you, and wants the very best for you. Of course, it is not just your parents who care for you, but also your grandparents, your siblings, your wider family. Their care may come out in different ways. Some of your families say to you: Do this, don’t do that. Be this, don’t be that. Some families say: You go and create your own future.

8.It comes from a place of love. Your parents want the very best for you, and each parent will act on it in the best way that they know how. To be able to receive the care of someone who wants the best for you - that is a lucky place to be in.

9.Your teachers, too, think of you as their child, and care for you. They show their care by doing their best to pass you the educational foundation, the values, and the skills that will help you achieve your goals. They, too, do everything they can to protect and nurture you.

10.Never forget that there are people who believe in you, particularly your families and your teachers. They want the best for you, and they want you to fulfil your potential, to be the best you can be. And when you do this, it is not just for them, but ultimately for yourself.

11.How can you be the best you can be? Let me share some advice - you should learn all you can, at all times, everywhere, from everyone around you. Grab a firm hold of all the learning, upskilling, and training opportunities that are already available to improve yourselves. And know that many more opportunities are being created, under SkillsFuture.

12.Learn not just because jobs are changing, not just because the world is growing more competitive. Do it because your parents and your teachers have so much hope for and in you. Learn, so that you can fulfil the potential they see in you, the potential that you yourself know you have.

13.To learn is to come up against challenges. You may not have this skill today, but you know, if you apply yourself, one day you will master it. You learn not just with the head, but as the ITE motto goes - Hands on, Hearts on, Minds on. Make the most of each opportunity, and give your best in all that you do. Turn each challenge into an opportunity. Strive to make yourself better, in every way possible, so that you can make a better world.

14.As you receive the care of your parents, families, and teachers, do not lose sight of where all this comes from. They work hard to be able to nurture and teach you. Do not lose sight of the friends, guides, and mentors who help you along your way. We reach the next destination in our personal journeys, and we come home to safety and warmth, thanks to the people who walk with us, the people who sometimes carry us when we cannot go on.

15.If we can receive care, we can give care. How do you do this? Be engaged and build real and strong relationships. Love deeply and help others around us who need help. Look around you - Who needs help? Who needs support? Who needs a word, a gesture, from you that can change their whole day, maybe their whole life? See that person, reach out to that person. Live a life of meaning and purpose, with integrity and gratitude, so that others too, can live such lives.

To be someone’s parent

16.Let me speak for a short while on behalf of parents. I speak on behalf also of everyone and anyone who cares for you like their own family - this could be your grandparents, your uncles and aunties, your siblings, even your group of friends.

17.To be a parent is to be prepared to put our child’s happiness before our own. It is to believe in our children - not only that you will be great, but that you can be better than us. Better in many ways - better life, better skills, grow up a better person, a better friend, a better parent, with lots of heart. This is why we give you our best, teach the best we can, nurture in you a zest for life and a love for learning, encourage you to seize opportunities, try to be good role models.

18.In our eyes, you will always be our children. Whether you are 10, 20, or 60, or even when you have become parents yourselves. We will still remind you to take your medicine when you fall sick. We will still ask after you when you have a big day at school or work.

19.You will go on to start your own families, be parents yourselves. You will understand what it means to want to save the best for your children, what it means to love someone more than you love yourself. I hope you will have happy families filled with love, support, and joy.

20.I should add - your teachers care for you like you are their family too. In their eyes, you will always be young students to teach, nurture, and guide.

21.I hope you will remember the life lessons from your teachers. Your teachers have tried to nurture your sense of common destiny and togetherness, build your character, ready you to adapt, bounce back and overcome in the face of challenges.

22.So, knowing how your parents, families and teachers see you, what do you do? You give thanks. You thank them for all the sacrifices they have made. You thank them best by fulfilling their belief in you.

To be a part of something bigger

23.Finally, what does it mean to be part of something much bigger than ourselves?

24.We got a real sense of this in the last week. At one level, we are all part of something bigger than us. Something that is unpredictable and uncontrollable. A world ruled by volatile forces of nature that change without warning. We live on this earth, just like everybody else, and we can only do our best to make our time on this earth count.

25.But at another level - a more hopeful level - we are all part of something that we can shape, that we can contribute to. This thing is also much bigger than ourselves. And this thing is our home, our society, our country - made up of many individual children, parents, students, teachers, family members, all coming together as one. We are all connected as part of this bigger thing, something more powerful than the destructive forces of nature.

26.We cannot stop the earth from cracking. No one can. But we can fight these cracks with our bonds, our friendships, our love and respect and care for one another. This last week, I learnt that the bond between people who truly care for one another - no force on earth can break. This is the human spirit. We can overcome the darkest tragedy with the human spirit.

27.The human spirit is in all of us, and when the moment calls for it, our instinct - as children, as parents, as students, as teachers, as members of one family - jumps forward and guides us. We make sure no one walks alone. We act with love and heroism. We act to protect. We share in the sorrow and pain. We dedicate our triumphs to those who need our strength. Rocks may fall, but our human spirit will never falter.

28.You are a part of this “something bigger”. Give thanks and give back for all the love and lessons you have received. Strive to be a source of joy, strength and light for others in their darkest times. Fulfil your own potential. Fulfil our belief in you. Fulfil your human spirit.


29.I leave you with one suggestion. When you come up on stage later to collect your certificate, hold in your mind someone you care for or who cares for you. It could be your parents or other family members, your lecturer, your friend, your future child. When the certificate passes into your hands, say that name or those names to yourself. Dedicate this moment of success, and your future successes, to them.

30.My most heartfelt congratulations to all of you. We all look forward to the great things you will achieve in life.

31.Thank you.

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