Speech by A/P Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim, Senior Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Education, at the Opening Session of the 46th Ngee Ann Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony at Ngee Ann Convention Centre

Published Date: 03 May 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Clarence Ti, Principal of Ngee Ann Polytechnic,

Colleagues, parents and graduands,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.


1. I would like to thank Ngee Ann Polytechnic for inviting me to join you on this special day. Hearty congratulations to the students who will be graduating this morning. I understand that over 200 of you will be receiving your Diploma in Electronic & Computer Engineering. This is an exciting point of your life – you are not only graduating from your diploma course, but also graduating to the next stage of your life, and you are probably pondering your next steps as a young adult.

2. Let us take a moment to acknowledge the people who have walked with you on your journey so far - your family, lecturers, mentors, and friends – people without whom you would not have become who you are today. As you enter an increasingly uncertain landscape, it will be even more important for you to have strong anchors to your beginnings. Never forget where you came from, never forget the people who made you who you are today. To me, that is the essence of appreciation, gratitude, and rootedness. These are important attributes of a good person. I have met many parents, from before their children even enrol in polytechnics, as appellants, and some who have also shared the success of their children. The love, happiness, and sorrow I often see touch my heart and deepen my belief as an individual, as a son, that whatever outcome, my parents are core to my development. I urge you to appreciate and deepen the love you have for your parents. The least you can do upon graduating is to thank your parents. When I bring such messages to primary schools, many cry. I know at your age, it’s harder to cry. But that show of appreciation means a great deal to your parents. I urge you to do this, and hope that it will strengthen the bonds in your family, so that together, we can continue to build stronger families in Singapore.

First batch of PFP graduands

3. Most of you here have had the experience charting unfamiliar waters. 132 of the graduands this year are from the pioneer batch of the Polytechnic Foundation Programme, or PFP. When we began this programme four years ago as an alternative progression pathway, we had faith that our outstanding Normal (Academic) students would continue to do well as they progress on to polytechnic, especially with the applied learning and practice-oriented curriculum I am pleased to note that our PFP students have gone above and beyond expectations: 9 of you from the pioneer PFP batch have topped your cohort as gold or silver medallists.

Strong aptitude and interest help students shine

4. One of them is Biomedical Engineering student Rachel Tan, who obtained a gold medal while pursuing a variety of interests. She took up two Diploma Plus programmes, one in Korean and the other in advanced engineering mathematics. She was actively involved in the NP Voices Club, and had gone on several overseas community service trips. To make this happen, Rachel not only had to balance study and play, but also work hard for her goals. Like Rachel, many of our PFP students have worked very hard and succeeded. We are encouraged by your positive attitude and are all the more confident of the good outcomes of this pathway. Apart from the students’ attitude and effort, these would not be possible without the planning and guidance of the lecturers and staff of the school. We applaud the efforts put in by the polytechnic for developing and conducting the one-year foundation programme for our PFP students.

5. Creating multiple pathways and providing more educational options have enabled us to better meet the diverse needs and aspirations of our students. Other than the PFP, the Early Admissions Exercise, or EAE, which was introduced last year, gave students with strong interests and aptitudes more opportunities to enter a polytechnic, and more importantly, to study a course which they were interested and strong in. We recently expanded the percentage of places available through this exercise because we believe that students tend to do better and excel in programmes of their interest and choice.

Lifelong learning

6. I would like to highlight one such student from your school who had entered the polytechnic because of his passion, and performed well by following his interest: Justin Ong from the Electronic & Computer Engineering diploma course. Justin’s interest in electronics was piqued during his secondary school days when he joined the Robotics Club. After getting into Ngee Ann Polytechnic via discretionary admissions, he had more opportunities to dabble in electronics, which further fuelled his passion in the area. He even took part in the World Skills Singapore competition which opened his eyes to the broad spectrum of opportunities in the field of electronics. He also deepened his skills in electronics and won a silver medal in the competition. Another rewarding experience was his final-year project which involved developing a new audio system for Dialogue in the Dark, a social enterprise in Ngee Ann. He was so passionate about the project that he volunteered to work further on it even after graduating. Today, Justin is a gold medallist who is all set for a career in the electronics field. I hope that with the EAE, more young people can pursue and do well in what they are passionate about, much as Justin has. To the parents here, including myself, it is important for us to observe and notice what our children like, what they are passionate about, so that together as a family, we can help them pursue their happiness. I believe that when you love what you do, it’s no longer just a career, it’s a life. This is the essence of not just success, but also of happiness.

Lifelong learning

7. But it is not just young people who can pursue their dreams. Today, amongst the award recipients, we have Liaw Lay Kian from the Diploma in Health Sciences (Nursing). Not only has Lay Kian returned to her studies after a 30-year break, she has also excelled in her work, serving as a role model to her younger classmates. Lay Kian discovered her passion for palliative care nursing after she became a full-time caregiver to two of her loved ones: her father-in-law, and her husband. Lay Kian decided to train to become a nurse, first at the Institute for Technical Education, then at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Her experiences as a caregiver taught her the importance of dignity at the end of one’s life. Lay Kian is now an assistant nurse at Dover Park Hospice, where she used to volunteer even as she juggled her roles as a student, and as a mother. Awarded the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal, as well as St Luke’s Silver Medal & Prize, Lay Kian is testimony that one can not only learn at any age, but start anew at any age. This is very important. As we move into lifelong learning, we want to bring different paths to every Singaporean, regardless of how old they are, and where they start.

Preparing for a bright future

8. As you close this chapter of your educational journey, and look forward to a bright future, I hope you can continue to pursue your interest in engineering, deepen your skills in your area of specialisation, and perhaps, even use it to contribute to the greater good. Our drive to become a smart nation will lead to Singapore’s digital infrastructure being expanded. New engineering and infocomm technology solutions will need to be created. You will have many exciting options for a rewarding career, and this is due to the strong foundation provided by your diploma course. In our rapidly changing world, with emerging technologies and evolving industries, how can you rise up to the challenges ahead? I would like to suggest three areas which you can focus on.

  1. Continue to acquire and utilise deep skills

    9. First, continue to acquire and utilise deep skills. Continuous learning will be critical in today’s world as what you’ve learnt today may be obsolete tomorrow, particularly in the world of technology. Some of you may choose to further your learning in a university, some of you may wish to ‘learn by doing’ in the workplace, while some of you may wish to deepen your skills through the SkillsFuture Earn and Learn Programme. As you can see, there are many options for you. Whatever your decision may be, I urge you to keep abreast of trends in your area of work or study as well as enhance your life skills which may become even more critical as you grow in your career and take on greater responsibilities.

  2. Venture beyond Singapore

    10. Secondly, be adventurous and strive to get valuable exposure to international business practices, cultures, and market conditions at a young age. Be willing to work in far-flung places including emerging growth markets like Africa, Latin America and Central Asia. You will not only become more valuable as an employee but also be more agile, adaptive, and better prepared to succeed in a rapidly evolving global economy.

    11. At Ngee Ann, you have been given ample opportunities for overseas exposure. I hear that Electronic and Computer Engineering students have gone to a myriad of places in China, Japan, Korea, USA, Hong Kong and Germany for immersion programmes, study trips, internships or youth expedition projects. This is amazing. As a Singaporean, I am deeply thankful for our pioneer leaders who have developed our education system so far, and I believe it will benefit future generations as well. I am sure that such exposure provided insights into how people from other countries live and work and stretched you beyond your comfort zone.

  3. Nurture a positive mindset

    12. My third point is about having the right mindset – one that energises you and opens your eyes to see possibilities, even in the bleakest moments. A positive attitude is also something that employers will value in an unpredictable, idea-driven economy. Resilience, the ability to embrace changes, and the willingness to innovate, fail, and re-invent, will enable one to bounce back, and ultimately achieve success.


13. Never stop learning, be adventurous, and stay positive. Another thing I hope you will make a conscious effort for – I hope you develop into capable professionals who obtain knowledge, skills, and deep mastery of your industry. In addition to capability, I hope you will also be a responsible professional. With your capability and your knowledge, you could go two ways – contribute to the good of society, or misuse your abilities to affect society adversely. Being a responsible professional means being a responsible person, as well as a responsible member of society and the wider global community. This builds a more compassionate society. At a national level, we are trying to bring out the goodness in each Singaporean. It is my strong belief that goodness lies in the efforts of the individual. Be good, do good, and I hope that even as you receive goodness, you also give of it. I hope this advice will keep you strong as you take the next step in your journey. On this note, I would like to once again extend my congratulations to the Class of 2017 and wish you all happiness and fulfilment in your journey ahead.

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