Speech By Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Nanyang Technological University Confucius Institute (CI-NTU)’s 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner at the Grand Ballroom, Singapore Marriott Tang Plaza Hotel

Published Date: 28 July 2015 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Professor Bertil Andersson President, NTU

Professor Su Guaning President Emeritus, NTU

Professor Alan Chan Chairman, Confucius Institute Board of Directors

Dr Neo Peng Fu Director, Confucius Institute, NTU

Mr Yu Yun Feng Education Counsellor of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Singapore

Professor Wang Qilong Executive Vice-President, Shandong University

Distinguished Guests

Ladies and Gentlemen

Introduction

1.A very good evening to all. Thank you to NTU’s Confucius Institute (CI-NTU) for inviting me to this special occasion.

2.My heartiest congratulations to CI-NTU on your 10th anniversary.

3.The institute has done a lot of good work in the past ten years. It has established good links with Shandong University.

4.At the official opening of the CI-NTU in 2007, then-Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew noted that CI-NTU had done well in promoting Chinese language and culture - your programmes and events were well-received by schools and local grassroots organisations.

5.  Let me now say a few words in Mandarin before I continue.

6.首先,我要衷心祝贺南洋理工大学孔子学院成立10周年。

7.南大孔子学院除了提供优质的汉语课程外,它最突出的一点,就是在辅助和加强我国学生的母语学习上,扮演了一定的角色。

8.已故内阁资政李光耀先生在2007年7月14日为南洋理工大学孔子学院主持揭牌仪式时,曾指出:儒家学说中的伦理思想对建立一个成功、和谐的社会能起着至关紧要的作用。

9.李先生的理想是:在华文教学的实践中,除了语文技能外,也要把儒家思想融入其中。

10.孔子的教育着重个人品德的提升,更强调德行的实践。教育部在制订课程时,把孔子的一些思想和言论纳入我们中、小学的课文里。儒家的经典作品《论语》,也成为高中华文文学主修科供学生选修的特定教材。

11.新加坡的母语教学,不仅注重培养语言能力,也强调提高学生的人文素养;不仅让学生吸收语文知识,也强调给学生树立正确的价值观。

12.总的来说,这对我们“以学生为本、以价值观为导向”的教育大方针,确实做出了积极的贡献。

Creating A Harmonious Singapore

13.Let me now continue in English.

14.The philosophy and values that underpin Chinese society over thousands of years draw from many important strands - Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. These strands interweave and interact in rich, complex ways.

15.Singapore, as a multi-racial and multi-cultural society, is fortunate to weave a rich tapestry from the many strands of our cultural heritage.

  • We are at the confluence of three major Asian civilisations - the Chinese, Indian and Islamic.

  • At the same time, we are very global. With English as our common language, we are able to connect with the key thinkers, past and present, across the world. Our students with strength in languages take their mother tongues at a higher level, and may also offer a third language in German, French, Japanese and Spanish.

  • Singapore is therefore in a good position to weave from the best strands from these philosophical traditions and cultural traditions, and build our unique identity and cultural values.

  • To do that, it is important that the languages and cultures of different groups be shared with one another to promote deeper mutual understanding.

16.In this regard, I would like to commend CI-NTU for playing a special role,

  • While it caters to the Chinese community to promote the Chinese language and Confucian ideals and precepts, it has also sought to promote understanding of different value systems, cultures and philosophies.

  • This is something that CI-NTU can be proud of and is a direction CI-NTU should continue on.

Book: Singapura: Kotaku, Kampung Halamanku

17.The book Singapura: Kotaku, Kampung Halamanku, or “Singapore: My City, My Hometown” is an example of this effort, and an example of how literature can foster closer ties between members of different communities.

  • The book is a collection of the works of over 30 Singaporean poets, presented in both Malay and Chinese.

  • Two professors - Professor Leo Suryadinata and Professor Hadijah Bte Rahmat - worked together to translate poems written in Mandarin into Malay and vice versa.

  • This book celebrates Singapore’s rich multi-lingual, multi-cultural heritage. Even as we read in our own languages, we can continue to enjoy and appreciate each other’s culture.

The Next 50 Years: Relevance of Confucius Principles

18.Over the years, we are building and evolving a distinctive Singaporean identity,

  • Yet we are able to connect with many societies around the world.

  • Because of the common values and philosophies that we share.

19.Confucian values and precepts,

  • Have, for thousands of years, been valuable and endearing.

  • The key themes relating to human relationships - how we relate to one another, how we relate to our families, to the community, and to the broader society are evergreen themes.

  • The fact that these precepts remain valuable over thousands of years speaks to the depth of the insights of Confucius.

  • At the same time, these precepts need to adapt to suit specific local and cultural context, and evolve to keep pace with changes in our society.

  • Particularly for Singapore, the interpretation and implementation of Confucian values in our daily lives can and will continue to be enriched through dialogues with the major schools of philosophy from our multi-cultural heritage.

20.This year, we celebrate our Golden Jubilee as a nation. As we celebrate our past achievements and as we look forward towards the next 50 years,

  • We are reminded of the critical role that our value system plays in uniting us as a people, as a nation. The values of respect for others, responsibility for oneself and one’s family, and harmony in society, are much emphasised in the Confucian tradition. I believe these are values that have served us well.

  • It is important to continue to build on the foundation that we have achieved and continue to shape and nurture the values that have allowed us to come so far.

21.I am confident that we can synthesise our different strands of cultural heritage, and refresh the relevance of these Confucian principles so that we can build a unique value system that speaks to Singaporeans, while still holding on to what has kept us going for the past 50 years, and to connect with people and societies from all over the world. Our children are going to grow up in a much more globalised world. Helping them to stay rooted in Singapore and at the same time to be connected to people from around the world will be critical to their future.

22.I am optimistic that CI-NTU can continue to play an important role in promoting Confucian ideals and values, and in stimulating dialogues on the values that will enable us to build an even more successful and harmonious society in the coming years. I strongly encourage CI-NTU to continue engaging the young and other members of our society, in the Chinese community and beyond, to build a stronger Singapore and to build stronger links with our friends from the region.

Conclusion

23.Once again, I would like to congratulate CI-NTU on its excellent run in the past 10 years. I wish CI-NTU all the best in the years to come.

24.Thank you.

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