Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at Shell’s the Bright Ideas Challenge 2017

Published Date: 17 March 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Fostering a culture of creative thinking

1. I am so happy to see so many of our students running around, having fun, and learning new things. I learnt something, that you can actually power a car using seawater! Educationally, I find such events like this very exciting. It fosters a culture of fun learning, learning beyond the classroom, creative learning, and also shows us challenging real world problems. I was having a chat with one of the students, from a group of young students trying to power Changi Airport using airport taxiways and runways to generate electricity. They promised me they can power half of Changi Airport. I did not believe that so I asked them, how many kilowatts of power do you need? He gave me some cosmic number, more than 600,000. Though he might not have succeeded yet, it is nevertheless a very good idea.

2. I’m doubly delighted to be here today because energy is a strategic requirement for any city, especially so for a small country like ours. Our economic activities, our day-to-day living, even sustainable growth in our country requires energy. At the Bright Ideas Challenge today, I’ve come to see how you have sourced out these problems and it is really something I encourage you to do.

3. In this challenge, I’m certain all our students will not only learn things in class on science and technology, but they can use STEM in a creative and fun way to apply it to real world problems and to solve real world problems. I look forward to seeing all of your projects later.

Nurturing Students in STEM innovations

4. It is important for us, collectively, whether you are from the industry or from schools, to nurture our students’ competencies in STEM.

5. In schools today, we have Applied Learning Programmes to help our students appreciate the relevance of what they are learning. In STEM ALPs, students learn through experimentation, and work on tasks based on real world problems and real world solutions.

6. Why is STEM important in Singapore? As we are embarking on the Smart Nation project, there will be many new activities in Singapore where we can definitely make use of the STEM knowledge we have. STEM Inc, a unit in the Science Centre, works with teachers in schools to design and conduct activities and lessons.

7. STEM Inc also links schools up with industry partners, to enhance students’ learning experiences, and enable our students to better appreciate how scientific concepts are used and applied in these industries.

8. Strong industry partners have been partnering Science Centre and MOE to promote STEM knowledge amongst our students for nearly 40 years now. And this year’s event - “Shell: Make the Future Festival” further helps bring Science to life by showing how Science can be applied to solve energy challenges for Singapore.

Seeing failure as a journey towards success

9. Besides the hard knowledge we learn in school, besides applying that knowledge, there are a couple of things I would like all of us here to consider as well. A strong academic foundation is important, but there are other attributes that are equally important in our lives to enable us to succeed.

10. Beyond learning and applying knowledge, it is very important for all our students to develop an entrepreneurial dare – to have the resilience and adaptability to understand and embrace failure as an important process. Do not expect to succeed the first time, or even after trying many times.

11. How many of you here know Thomas Edison? Let me tell you a story. Thomas Edison had a “bright idea” one evening to disrupt the “light technology” of his time. In the past, they did not have light bulbs, they had only candles.

12. He had this bright idea to disrupt the “light” technology of his era, but he did not succeed at his first try. In fact, he didn’t on the second, or 3rd, or 4th. He probably lost count. And in his words - “I have not failed 10,000 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 10,000 ways will not work.”

13. He was a great man who changed how humans organised ourselves, how we used our time. Thomas Edison has an entrepreneurial dare, resilience to failure and the adaptability to get things going regardless of how many times he failed. In the same way, whether you succeed in powering Changi Airport with your school project, or maybe not, it is necessary for the first step that you take – never ever give up as long as you have the passion and entrepreneurial dare. You can work on collaboration with like-minded people, you can push the boundaries, challenge the status quo and push on to succeed.

Fostering a collaborative spirit

14. We all know the happy ending of Thomas Edison’s story - he succeeded and really changed how the world is today. In our schools, as you have heard me in Parliament, this is really the combination of things that we want our students to be through our holistic education, where we are not only confident of the academic foundation we give you, these are also coupled with the value system, coupled with 21st century skills like communications skills and collaboration skills that all of you are experts in today. When I look at you, I am confident that you will succeed. Looking at how passionate all of you are, I look forward to a Singapore where you will lead me in time to come. You can be world leaders creating new technologies and new possibilities to fuel Singapore. Let us continue with this journey, learn and have fun. Should we fail, not a problem, we get ourselves up from the dust, get going again and continue on our journey to succeed.


15. Let me once more thank all the teachers who are here. Thank you for your passion in teaching our children and being role-models for them. Your work on the ground is irreplaceable. For the teachers out there, thank you very much from MOE and from myself personally.

16. To all the students, I hope you not only have gained new knowledge in this series of activities, I hope you have learnt something about your own strengths and weaknesses. I hope that through this whole process, you have learnt to work with people, learnt to communicate, learnt to convince the judges, and put together the whole myriad of skills that your teachers seek to nurture in you. It is the school holidays now, have fun with all these challenges. You never know, one day you may be the next Thomas Edison. Good luck to all of you!

Thank you.

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