Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools) at the Hwa Chong Institution 97th Founders’ Day Dinner and Investiture of the Board of Directors on Monday, 21 March 2016

Published Date: 21 March 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Lee Sen Choon, Chairman, Board of Directors, Singapore Chinese High School

Mr Desmond Ong, Chairman, Board of Governors, Hwa Chong Institution

Professor Tan Kim Seng, Chairman, Board of Hwa Chong International School

Dr Hon Chiew Weng, Principal, Hwa Chong Institution

Mr Bob Koh, Principal, Hwa Chong International School

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. A very good evening to you.

2. It is really a great pleasure to be back here to commemorate Hwa Chong’s 97th Founders’ Day. I am delighted to see so many familiar faces from my seniors to my classmates of thirty odd years. I come back to my alma mater with great pride. It never fails to bring warmth to my heart.

3. Every year on 21st March, Hwa Chong commemorates our founders’ pioneering spirit and selfless efforts in providing quality education. Our school’s founder, Mr Tan Kah Kee, continues to inspire our Institution to nurture each generation, each child under her care.

4. In her ninety-seven year history, Hwa Chong has established a first-rate reputation. Our school has established a strong foundation for her graduates to succeed.

  • Many have.
  • And many of you are here tonight and have succeeded in many different ways.
  • I have seen all of us applying ourselves to improve society and to enable our nation to progress.

5. However, as we cherish the past, we need to focus our hearts and minds on the future as well. The world is rapidly changing, and is changing at an exponential rate.

  • How prosperous and successful will Singapore be?
  • What will the fabric of our society be like?
  • How then would Hwa Chong need to do to continue its educational and nurturing role?

Preparing Students to be Future-Ready

6. No one can predict the kinds of jobs that will exist in the future, or the types of industries that will flourish. Now, even a machine AlphaGo has beaten a top-ranked Weiqi player. This is really foretelling the future, where we are at the threshold of inventions and discoveries that will change the shape of our very lives as we know it today. We also cannot forecast with precision how other economies may develop, or know how complex relationships between countries may unfold, and in turn, foretell how many of these may impact Singapore.

7. But what we do know is this: that our students must be future-ready for the challenges that lie ahead. We must continue to prepare our students well, grounded on sound values and strong character. They must have integrity, resilience, resourcefulness, teamwork and people skills, be confident learners, and most importantly, concerned citizens.

8. I will elaborate on two important aspects.

Instilling Entrepreneurial Excellence

9. First, our students must be nimble and enterprising.

10. They must develop the instincts to be innovators, inventors, path-blazers, people who can push the envelope, who can create value for Singapore.

11. I am glad that Hwa Chong students have good role models for our students here tonight, to emulate, to learn from, in innovation and entrepreneurship.

12. Let me mention a few enterprising alumni.

13. Ms Olivia Lum, the Executive Chairman and Group CEO of Hyflux Group, is a household name. Ms Lum graduated from Hwa Chong in 1980, and is a trailblazer in water innovation. Today, the company is a global leader in providing desalination plants. Recently, Hyflux was awarded a contract to construct an Integrated Water and Power Project in Egypt. This showcases Singapore’s innovation expertise and reflects our international acclaim.

14. Another example is Mr Ye Gang was from the Class of 1998 in The Chinese High School. He is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of Garena, an online-gaming powerhouse of Southeast Asia. It has since branched into different aspects, including online payments, social networking and e-commerce. Garena has grown into a billion-dollar company in Singapore over a span of only seven years. Ye Gang is really an example for our students to emulate.

15. Another alumni entrepreneur is Mr Royston Tay, from the class of 1999 in Hwa Chong. Mr Tay is a co-founder of Zopim, a Singaporean start-up that provides live chat software for websites. The company has transformed from its humble beginnings at an NUS incubator office to being acquired by San Francisco’s Zendesk in 2014.

16. More recently, three gentlemen, Seah Ying Cong, Oswald Yeo and Looi Qin En, secured seed money for their start-up, known as Glints. The company is a recruitment site that connects fresh graduate job-seekers with employers. Glints was featured by The Straits Times this year as a start-up to watch. These three young men, only in their early twenties, had their entrepreneurial roots developed and nurtured right here in Hwa Chong.

17. I am deeply heartened by these examples.

18. Hwa Chong must continue to instill such an entrepreneurial spirit in its students, where they will challenge frontiers and chase the rainbow.

  • The Entrepreneurial Leadership Programme, which connects Hwa Chong students with their seniors in the industry, is a powerful initiative.
  • By linking learning to real-world experiences and challenges, you will enable your students to push boundaries, take calculated risks, be path-blazers, lead in new inventions and innovations, and boldly bring Singapore and our economy forward.

19. So, Entrepreneurship and innovation is the first aspect.

Nurturing a Heart for Singapore

20. The second aspect is nurturing a heart for Singapore. The future of our nation can only be bright, if our people are committed to fellow Singaporeans, to our communities and to our Singapore.

21. Why do I feel a sense of pride when I come back to my school?

  • Simply because Hwa Chong has not only given me an education, it has also given me a set of values - 自强不息,学以致用, 饮水思源
  • I have never forgotten these words.
  • Hwa Chong has always emphasized this and in my humble opinion, must continue to do so –
  • from Mr Tan Kah Kee’s generous contributions to start The Chinese High School, to the present Board members and governors, there is a melody that runs through in our school, and a motif that keeps repeating itself. Very simply put, our seniors always contribute back to the community and nurture the next generation to do the same. That is the strength of Hwa Chong and our values. We must never fail to inculcate this in our kids.

22. In so doing, Hwa Chong is unique. Hwa Chong not only produces outstanding students who have unique talents and abilities, but also students

  • With the heart, compassion, and love, for Singapore and for our fellow Singaporeans.

23. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of character and values education in our schools. While parents and the family continue to be primarily responsible for imparting values, our school and our school communities also are instrumental in shaping one’s values.

24. Values inculcation happens in small and big ways.

  • Keeping common spaces clean – getting your hands dirty and recognizing that all of us have a part to keep our community clean.
  • Raising funds for friends who may be less financially well-off – empathizing and learning to appreciate what you have.
  • Going one step further, giving back to the less advantaged in our society, our larger community, through befriending the elderly, or helping children with special needs.
  • There is much we can all do, to make a difference in others’ lives.

25. For Singapore’s society to grow stronger, let us look not only at our individual needs and aspirations, but also about the needs of others, as I have learnt in school. 在我们学校所说的, 有时要牺牲小我,完成大我, 为国为民。

26. Hwa Chong is well placed to inspire our students to act for the common good of our community. In the rich history of Hwa Chong, our alumni have shown the way for our juniors to contribute their talents for the service of our community.

27. Hwa Chong is also uniquely placed as an institution that emphasizes bilingualism. Let me elaborate on this in Mandarin.

28. 双语政策是我国教育体制的基石。学习一种语文,不仅仅 是学会掌握运用语文的能力,更重要的是从语文蕴含的文化中培养正确的价值观。中华文化里的精髓,就是特别强调这种人文素养,比如:自强不息、饮水思源,爱国爱民。语言是开启世界大门的钥匙,我希望华中的学生,善用你们掌握双语的优势,回馈社会、为民 服务,让新加坡的未来更加温馨与和谐。

29. In conclusion, I would like to thank the Board of Directors and Board of Governors for your commitment and contributions to the school and to education in Singapore.

30. I understand that you have not only generously given your time and talent, but have also made substantial financial donations to start the Hwa Chong Holistic Education Centre. Thank you for your contributions.

31. I would like to encourage the Boards to offer their ideas and efforts to enhance Hwa Chong’s journey to instill innovation and entrepreneurial excellence, and to nurture in Singapore and our students a Singapore heartbeat to contribute back to Singapore, so that we can secure a bright future for our people. May Hwa Chong students continue to “live with passion, and lead with compassion”.

32. I would also like to thank all our teachers for not just teaching us, but caring for us and being role models, moulding us into the people we are, that we have become. I want to especially thank the principals, who guided us and challenged us to chase our dreams.

33. Finally, my sincere congratulations to the Board of Directors and Board of Governors, alumni, school leaders, teachers, students and parents on this joyous occasion to celebrate our school’s 97th anniversary.

Share this article: