Opening Remarks by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at Launch of the SG50 Public Exhibition: “Good Morning ‘Cher: Our Schools, Our Teachers, Our Stories”, at 2:40pm on Saturday, 11 July 2015, at Changi City Point

Published Date: 11 July 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Friends, Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls

A very good afternoon to all.

1.Being here at this exhibition really takes me back to my own schooldays. When I think about those days, I really appreciate how far we have come.

2.Let me share a favourite memory of mine. It’s a story about this - a rubber ball. When I was a kid in the 1960s, my school, like most schools, had very little in terms of sports equipment. But we had a big field. And a ball just like this. Some of us kids would save up for weeks just to buy this.

3.That’s all we needed to have our fun. A simple game, called “hantam bola”, involved throwing the ball as high as you could, but whoever caught it earned the right to ‘hantam’ somebody - to aim it at somebody. I certainly got hit many times by boys many times my size. And I am still okay!

4.These games taught us inventiveness because we had to create our own rules - for instance, you cannot hit somebody if he is too near you. You count to three and let him run as fast as he can. Looking back, I now realised that when we played these games, we were learning to be thoughtful, to care for others, and to play fair.

5.Today, our students have wonderful sports equipment and fields to play in. They now have games like dancesport and tchoukball and many exciting sports as well as the arts, drama or uniformed groups for their CCAs. If you don’t know what these sports are, you can find out right here at our exhibition.

6.So things have changed, we have improved. But some things have not changed. Because in our schools today, like in my schooldays, our students continue to learn how to play fair, how to take care of one another in the team, and how to push the boundaries and be creative and inventive.

7.And this is exactly what MOE’s SG50 Public Exhibition, Good Morning, ‘Cher, is about. It looks back on how our schools, the education system and the people involved in this important work have grown and changed over the last 5 to 6 decades. When we were putting this together, we realised that some things have changed - for instance the type of schools we built, the way our teachers teach, the sheer diversity of options in programmes, school types, and pathways to success. But other important things have stayed constant in guiding our work in education - our commitment to nurturing the whole child, our belief that values and character are an important and vital part of becoming an educated person, or the way we ceaselessly try to innovate, create and improve what we do for our students and schools.

Appreciation of how far we’ve come

8.So throughout the exhibition, you will find both the familiar, and the new. One thing you’ll notice is how much has changed since the 1960s. Our schools today are much better equipped, of course, as you’ll see in today’s exhibition. From not even having enough school buildings to house our students, we now have indoor sports halls, and even recording studios where primary school students get to be Radio DJs.

9.In 1968 half the children did not have toothbrushes! Hands up, everyone who has a toothbrush at home? And who remembers getting milk packs from school because they were too skinny?

10.Our pioneers had to focus on the basic and important things: like oral hygiene and general nutrition for our people, because in the early days, our education system was new, our nation just turned independent, and our people were a young citizenry who had come together as different races, with many cultures, languages and religions.

Reflection on how we got here, and where we are today

11.We faced many tough challenges over the years; and at each turn, our pioneer educators pushed on, doing their best with what they had. You can read their stories in this exhibition - or better yet, you can ask them yourselves, as some of them are here today.

12.This includes Mr Jumaat Masdawood, who signed up when MOE called for more technical teachers. He had to study woodwork and metalwork in the evenings, after teaching for a full day at school, so that he could also be a technical teacher!

13.There’s Ms Tan See Lai. Many of you in the audience would remember ETV in school, and going to the TV room to watch educational films. At a time when each school only had one TV set, Ms Tan helped lead the Educational Technology Division - producing, directing, and filming education programmes for students.

14.Today, technology for learning is a standard feature in all our schools now, and it started with Ms Tan and her team, working in the early 1980s to get more TVs and video recording machines into all schools. (I was going to say VCR machines, but I suspect half of our young audience might have no idea what that is!)

15.Then there’s also Mr Wee Fui Twee, who, as a principal, went around fast food outlets and bus interchanges to remind students to be on their best behaviour.

16.Round of applause for our pioneer educators, and the thousands of teachers and school leaders, who built our system into what it is today.

17.Our education system has changed a lot since 1965. What has remained constant is that we are focussed on bringing out the best in every child, and developing the values that our pioneer educators embodied - values like resourcefulness, resilience, and responsibility.

18.So today’s exhibition isn’t just about nostalgia for the past. It’s a chance to learn about what’s happening in our schools today, and reflect on how we can best prepare our children for the future.

19.At the school showcase, do try out some of the activities our students are exposed to. You can use QR codes to learn about the life-cycle of animals, create bags out of recycled materials, and weave ketupat and Chinese knots. Take home the beautiful postcards to learn more about education in Singapore.

20.Also, students from over 100 schools took pictures of their everyday school life, and shared them with us. Take a peek into our schools - through their eyes. To our students who are here today, perhaps you might find a picture of yourself in there! We also have our schools here, and our students are ready to perform and share with you what they are learning in school, and how they are growing up as one Singapore identity.

21.As with all the experiences we send our students on, we make sure they have fun - but we also ensure that learning takes place. So today, I was told we have prepared some goodie bags - but to get your goodie bag, you’ll need to complete an activity card with interesting facts about the exhibition. And yes, that applies to me too.

Inspiration to build our collective future, together

22.This exhibition celebrates “Our schools, our teachers, our stories”. And the word I want to draw your attention to is the one that appears three times - “Our”. These are not just any schools, teachers, or stories. They are ours. It’s often said that our future is in the hands of our young, but I would say the future is for all of us to build, together.

23.Education in the future is not just about what schools can do. The future of education belongs to all of us. We all have a child, nephew, niece, brother, sister in school.

24.I hope that as this exhibition prompts us to appreciate the past, and reflect on the present, we will also be inspired to do our individual part, to build our collective future. I am very happy to launch this first ever MOE public exhibition as part of the nation’s efforts in SG50 to celebrate our golden jubilee.

25.From now till end-August, this exhibition will move across the island into our heartlands in all 4 zones, the east, west, north and south, to reach out to Singaporeans. I hope many Singaporeans will visit and reminisce the old school days.

26.No matter which generation we belong to, this education story is yours as much as it is everyone else’s. Good Morning, ‘Cher is a story that traces our common journey, a journey every boy and girl has taken in Singapore. But the story does not end here. In fact, how this story continues to be written lies in the hands of our next generation of young Singaporeans.

27.The future of education belongs to all of us - what would we like our future to look like? How will you write the Singapore story of the next 50 years?

28.We welcome you to pen your thoughts down - in fact there’s a space for this at the back of your activity booklets, asking you what you think school will be like in 2065. Looking forward to reading more of your ideas about how you envision school in SG100. Who knows, maybe a future Minister for Education is among us!

29.Our individual future, our collective future, depends on the education we receive, and our enthusiasm to keep learning. We can create a better future for everyone in Singapore if we continue to create a better education system - one that is inclusive and holistic, one that offers many pathways of hope and opportunity to success. That way, we bring out the best in every one, we nurture a sense of national identity, and we will truly moulding the future of the nation, one child at a time.

30.Thank you.

Share this article: