Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister For Education (Schools), At The Opening Ceremony of the 2016 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit

Published Date: 18 July 2016 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Lee Sen Choon, Chairman, Board of Directors, Hwa Chong Institution

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

Mrs Chia Ban Tin, Superintendent, West 6 Cluster, Ministry of Education;

Dr Hon Chiew Weng, Principal, Hwa Chong Institution;

Student Delegates and Teacher Chaperons;

Distinguished Guests;

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good morning to all of you. I am delighted to be here today at the 2016 Hwa Chong Asia-Pacific Young Leaders Summit (APYLS).

2. I understand that this year, we are also celebrating the 10th year of this Summit. APYLS started with the objective to create a high-profile platform for top student leaders from Asia-Pacific and beyond to network with one another. Ten years on, it continues to be an annual gathering of delegates from diverse ethnic, racial and religious backgrounds coming together as one community. The Summit has grown from strength to strength as it brings together youth leaders from 14 countries across four continents to plant the seeds of change for tomorrow. From 19 schools at the inaugural Summit, there are now participants from 28 schools. In Singapore alone, 8 schools have taken part in the APYLS during the last 10 years. Such rich diversity provides a fruitful platform for the exchange of insights among young leaders across different parts of the world.

Summit theme: Auguries of Growth

3. The theme for this year’s Summit is “Auguries of Growth”. Over the last few decades, we have witnessed dramatic changes to the way we live, work and play. We have also seen how economies, governments and cultures have become more integrated and inter-connected, yet forces are also at the same time pulling it apart. As such, achieving growth, while we have all the wonderful opportunities around us, are also laced with different challenges. At the micro level, is no longer just simply about individuals doing well on their own individual areas of study or expertise, but it requires communities coming together, tapping on one another’s strengths and resources to build, to create value for the greater good. So how can growth be achieved? And how can we ensure that this growth is sustainable?

A Call for Cooperation and Collaboration

4. First, it is important to cooperate and collaborate meaningfully. Increasingly, we see that knowledge in our world and expertise in different communities no longer reside solely in particular individuals in their spheres of influence. To succeed, we need to tap on the collective wisdom of the communities we belong to in order to achieve growth together.

5. If we look around us today, we see in the economies different jobs created that were not in existence just a few years ago. You have the privilege and the excitement of living during this time when your choices for career development are virtually limitless. Employment in fields like app development, data analytics and artificial intelligence were not widely available in my time but widely available in your time. And for you, for the next few years before you start work, there may be so many changes in the world that even the things you learn today may become obsolete or in the downward trend. Robotics, artificial intelligence, may well take over many of our current jobs and will bring forth the fourth industrial revolution. How will that impact you? How will that drive growth while causing disruption at the same time?

6. The things I’ve said are already happening in various industries today. To cite one example, Microsoft has just signed an agreement with the National University of Singapore to share its expertise on data-science education and research. This is in the hope of helping communities to benefit from digital technology.

7. This collaboration provides a framework to strive collectively in data-science research and to translate the efforts into tools, which are used by the industry and academia in Singapore and the Asia-Pacific. The nature of this work is inter-disciplinary. This deep collaboration between a leading industry partner and an established institution of higher learning will greatly enhance both teaching and learning, while driving innovation in the industry. From this example, we can see that in order to thrive and be future-ready, you must be prepared to collaborate with people who possess very different strengths and passions from you, and learn from each other to create synergies to move forward together.

A Call for a Values-Driven Future

8. Even as we achieve progress through greater collaboration across different spheres and communities, it is important for us to ground our efforts in the right values and beliefs. All of us must have the passion to make a positive difference in the communities we live as well as the compassion to care for the less privileged. Only then can growth be sustained in a volatile and uncertain world.

9. It is heartening to note that in different parts of the world today, young people are doing their bit to create value for their communities. They do this by applying their skills, their talents and knowledge to address the problems that they observe around them in daily life. Not necessarily big things that will change the world, but things that will be progressively done to improve lives in the community. I read about the inspiring story of Salima Visram, a promising Kenyan student who took initiative to bring about positive change. Salima studies at McGill University in Montreal and grew up in a place in Kenya called Kikambala. She came from a fairly well-to-do family, but Salima started tertiary studies determined to do something to address poverty in her village. At the University, she took a class in social entrepreneurship and realised that she had an idea to help the schoolchildren back home. She wanted to tackle the issue of the students’ lack of access to a simple commodity in many of our homes: electricity. She started a movement to raise funds for an innovative product, the Soular Backpack, which is a solar panel attached to a backpack.

10. This backpack allows children in rural areas to tap on the sun’s rays during their long walks to and from school every day. The solar panel can generate sufficient energy to power their homes for a few hours each day, which is crucial for students who want to do their homework in a conducive environment at night. From a young age, Salima understood the complexities of poverty. She knew that even as she grew up as an individual, she needed to ensure that the people around her are also taken care of. This movement gives the children in her community a chance to take charge of their learning. I know that hers is not the only story of young people making a positive difference on their communities. I am confident that you, too, will be able to generate new areas of growth in your countries.

11. While we look forward to a better quality of life driven by innovative ideas, we must continue to be firmly grounded in good core values. The entrepreneur, inventor or scientist can only achieve true success if he uses his innovation for the good of mankind. For instance, such advancements cannot be exclusive to the rich or only those who can afford it. In the world today, the divergence of income as a side effect of globalization causes tremendous stress on societies. How do we address the distribution of wealth? How do we ensure that society will come together where the capable will share a thought for the less fortunate in society and give back? How will you do your part to make sure that while we seize the opportunities to maximize profit, we will have the compassion and the heart to take care of others in society that require a helping hand? So while you go to your seminar to discuss wonderful opportunities available to all of you, remember the compassion that is needed to make sure that in success, we can hold society together and share wealth so that the social fabric would be the undergirding strength in society even as we explore opportunities. How you act upon your success will greatly depend on your core values and beliefs even as you use your talent to do good.

Conclusion

12. I hope the Summit will reaffirm the common values that you have, regardless of whichever education system that you come from. During this Summit, take the opportunity to make new friends from different countries. All of you have particular strengths and experiences that would be beneficial to everybody in the room. It is my hope that the conversations you have in the next few days will present valuable opportunities for greater collaboration for all of you in the future. Here, let me commend Hwa Chong Institution for its sustained efforts in successfully organizing this Summit over ten years. I wish everyone here a fulfilling experience ahead.

13. Thank you.

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