Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at Sembcorp Marine’s Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools Award Presentation Ceremony

Published Date: 23 February 2017 12:00 AM

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Good morning. I am really delighted to be here with you this morning.

2. Sustainable growth is a challenge that Singapore faces, like all cities in the world today. Having a good and strong economy is necessary but having a sustainable environment in support of all these things is critical to our success. And this effort requires all of us to pay continuous attention and must involve all stakeholders, whether you are leaders today or the leaders of the future.

3. That is why I am very happy to lend my support to this event and I am thankful that corporations like Sembcorp Marine, BP Shipping and Shell, are taking a pro-active role in playing their part, not just in doing the necessary work, but in educating our younger generation to appreciate our environment, and to care for it actively.

4. SembCorp Marine’s “Green Wave Environmental Care Project for Schools” really is a good example of how we can inspire our young, our students and youths to get thinking about conservation and also proactively participate. This competition, is into its 15th year, and there are almost 300 projects involving over 900 students that were submitted in 2016. From 2003 onwards, this green message has spread to more than almost 14,000 students through this Green Wave platform.

5. Through this competition, students have gained a broader perspectives of the environmental challenges faced by not only Singapore, but other countries in the region. In understanding this inter-connectedness, I hope our students will develop a sense of personal responsibility, concern and passion for our environment.

6. In the long run, such efforts can also imbue a strong sense of purposefulness in our students’ learning, making them understand what they learn better, not just in the classroom but making the subjects they learn come alive in the real world, applied to real world contexts. And such a competition also shows them how they can play a constructive role in safeguarding the world we live in.

7. The Green Wave competition, specifically, challenges our students to come up with creative solutions, and experiment with novel ideas and technologies to protect the environment. We want to nurture our young to keep exploring beyond textbooks, and innovate to create a better society, and competitions like Green Wave provide them with an opportunity to first identify real-world problems, synthesise the different disparate data sets with the real world, come together, have a thesis and propose a solution. Then they can work in teams, undertake necessary research and come up with practical solutions. This is really good applied learning beyond the classroom.

8. This ability to think out of the box and push the boundaries to find unique solutions is part of what I have been calling “entrepreneurial dare” that we want to imbue in our students. “Entrepreneurial dare” is not just about doing business. It applies to everyday matters we are interested in. Having an “entrepreneurial dare” in our learning and attitude, to ask “why”, “why is it so”, having the dare to question assumptions and looking at real possibilities is a critical component. It takes us out of our comfort zone, not just in the intellectual sense but also how we look at life each day and want to make it better, knowing we come from a position of strength but yet wanting to do better. To me, this is an integral part of education that will better prepare our students for the challenges of a complex and unpredictable world that we are all entering into.

9. Let me highlight two interesting projects that I came across for this Green Wave project competition. First, Northland Primary School’s water saver device. I spoke to the four team members this morning – they came from Northland Primary School and are all in different schools now. They understand that, according to PUB, showering, bathing accounts for more than 25 per cent of water used in households.

10. To save water, these kids built a controller box with a timer to regulate the duration of water that can come out from the shower head. And they even went a step beyond theory of this controller box to make sure it can be attached to any water outlet. This really is a good example of inventiveness and practicality.

11. I also asked them why they came up with this project and one of the team members said that water is critical because Singapore relies, from the very start of our nationhood, on water from friendly countries and these water agreements will eventually expire. I am glad they are applying what they learnt in school into scientific projects and I hope they will also understand from a larger historic context why water is needed to be conserved.

12. Our students from ITE College West also did an interesting study on a Horseshoe Crab propagation system. I understand two Asian horseshoe crab species can be found in coastal mudflats and mangroves in Singapore and there are recent efforts that study their living habitat. This group of four students started work on their project back in 2014, and two years of hard work later, the students’ resilience and focus was well-rewarded. They developed a prototype propagation system which enabled the horseshoe crabs to hatch a clutch of 17 eggs with an encouraging 43% success rate last year. I strongly encourage the team to pass on their knowledge in propagating the local horseshoe crabs, which have been known to have medical uses to detect the presence of bacteria.

13. I am also happy to learn that the Green Wave initiative has been extended to other tertiary institutions in our region since 2014, and we have two teams from Indonesia to share their winning projects with us today. It is heartening to see the cross-sharing of ideas and insights to enhance environmental sustainability for our region. If we can inspire young minds to be inventive, and exploit advanced technologies, we are on the right path towards making Singapore a regional centre for environmental development, and contributing to the betterment of the region.

14. It is never an easy task to sustain and grow an outreach programme like the Green Wave. I would like to thank Sembcorp Marine and its partners, BP and Shell for their public-spiritedness and playing your part in educating the youth and in organising this annual competition since 2003. What you are doing will have far-reaching consequences beyond just today. I am confident that in the next 20-30 years, kids with a strong academic foundation and strong rigour together with entrepreneurial dare will dare to push boundaries and have joy in learning. There are also educators here today - thank you for your wonderful work on the ground.

15. We also need to change parental mindsets to not just focus and over-emphasise academic results, but to also give the kids space to explore other areas in informal learning spaces so that they can be like some of the students here today – applying strong academic rigour into various contexts and complex issues.

16. Finally, I would like to congratulate all of you – especially to the kids who have done the good work. Your green ideas and efforts, whether small or big, will certainly make a difference.

17. Thank you.

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