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Speech by Dr Janil Puthucheary, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Education, at The Grand Opening of Global Community Day at Temasek Polytechnic’s Global Connect Village

Published Date: 07 July 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Mr Peter Lam, Principal and CEO of Temasek Polytechnic,

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,


1. Thank you for inviting me to join you here at the festivities at the Grand Opening of this year’s Global Community Day. I am looking forward to an afternoon full of vibrant activities, from a food bazaar, to performances and cultural workshops. Very impressive is the fact that all this was organised by student volunteers. I have always been intrigued and impressed by the innovation and enthusiasm that each cohort brings to these experiences. They make it different every time, and they give their whole heart to this, so I applaud the staff and students who have come together to celebrate the rich diversity in front of us.

Unity in Diversity

2. We live in uncertain times. We live in times where, looking outside of Singapore, looking around the world, you would be worried about the state of international relations, you would be worried about the state of politics. And what can make us a little bit more anxious is the way in which we choose to communicate. The way in which information flows can enable us to learn more about each other, and more about what is happening around the world. But it can also allow us to become more tribal and divided, should we choose that route.

3. We must remember that, for Singapore, our diversity is one of our pillars of strength that has served us well for the last 52 years. That diversity, that choice we made to come together, are choices we have made since our forefathers came to these shores as immigrants, bringing with them unique cultures, languages, and core values: to reach out the hand of friendship to people who were not quite like them, to make a home together here in Singapore. Today, we speak each other’s languages, we celebrate each other’s festivals, and eat each other’s foods. We harmonise. We understand that coming together despite our differences will only make us stronger and serve us well. We need to live in harmony, and not create a cacophony.

4. We cannot speak of a Singaporean identity without referring to the geographies from which our forefathers came, without understanding the different threads that come together to build our unique Singapore fabric. This is shaped by the regional diversity of Southeast Asia, of ASEAN.


5. This year is the 50th anniversary of ASEAN. In 1967, when we were still a very young nation, Singapore joined four other countries to start ASEAN, with the goal of joint economic development. But ASEAN, in the last 50 years, has become so much more than a platform for economic development. It has become a platform for a shared heritage and history. It has become a platform for student exchanges, for sporting competitions. It has become a way for us to reaffirm the ties that stretch back over generations, in terms of our history, our culture, our heritage, ties which are so relevant in today’s world.

6. The 50th anniversary is a good occasion to revisit this motto of “One Vision, One Community, One Identity”. Now double its original membership with 10 member nations, ASEAN’s role in promoting economic growth, social progress, and cultural development in the Southeast Asian region through multilateral cooperation has grown more important with each passing year.

7. In a way, today’s festivities mirror the richness of ASEAN networks and interactions. You have a market place showcasing products from Southeast Asia, opportunities to try your hand at traditional games which have their roots in the villages and provinces across the region, and vibrant performances by artists. There will be art demonstrations by the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, and workshops by Urban Sketchers, a group of foreign and local artists across the 10 ASEAN nations. We have Inter-Polytechnic Integration Ambassadors who, together with beneficiaries from Project BECAUS (Befriending Elderly Cleaning Aunties & Uncles of Singapore) and All Saints Home, will be making cards in different ASEAN languages. Through your work, this year’s Global Community Day highlights ASEAN’s economic interdependence, our cultural intersections, as well as the social progress that we have made over the last 50 years as an association.

The Role of Youth

8. The youth continue to play an important role in ASEAN, as they do in the polytechnic landscape. And your annual Global Community Day celebrates diversity by bringing together different groups of people under the ambit and enthusiasm of youth. The diversity that our youth have, and that our youth bring to this effort is a key part of its success.

9. Our post-secondary education institutions have continued to support such youth diversity. It is something we are proud of, and something that we should drive as an education system: to learn about the diversity across ASEAN, as reflected in our local Singaporean context, and also to reach outside our borders and make friends. The classes that are offered to help students better understand cross-cultural differences will only help us to become better communicators. The opportunities to venture overseas, through exchange programmes, internships and service-learning projects, will mean that our students will develop skills to make them more ready for the workplace. There is a cultural value, there is a social value, and there is a personal value for our students to be involved in these projects.

In Closing

10. In closing, events like today’s serve to remind us that we are different, and yet the same. There are ways to bring us together, and for us to celebrate the diversity as a way of being stronger. A way of enjoying all the things that make life interesting through our differences and our diversity. To the staff, our students, and all the partners involved today to make such a vibrant and exciting event, I extend my congratulations.

11. Thank you very much.

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