Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education (Higher Education and Skills), at the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM) Service-Learning Festival 2017, at Singapore University of Social Sciences

Published Date: 27 August 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

Friends, students, ladies and gentlemen

1. Welcome to the People’s Association Youth Movement (PAYM) Service-Learning Festival 2017. It is my pleasure to be with you today.

2. Let me begin by describing a situation that most, if not all of you would have faced at some point in your life. You would recall having to decide, at the Secondary and Pre-University levels, what subject combination to take up. Similarly, as a student in one of the Higher Institutes of Learning (IHL), you would have pondered over which course to pursue. Very often, you may find yourself in a dilemma, unsure of how to proceed on something that you know would have an impact on your future career. Eventually, you may decide based on how much you liked particular subjects, what subjects you scored best at, or what most of your friends decided to do.

3. I have found myself in similar quandary, and made decisions in the same way that you did. But looking back, I wish I had used this question to guide my decision making, which is: What is it that I want to do for others?

4. The most successful public servants want to make life better for Singapore; social workers want to help the disadvantaged; doctors and nurses want to cure and soothe the sick; engineers want to create and make things that improve lives for people; artists bring joy to their audiences; entrepreneurs create jobs and bring new products and services to their customers; lawyers uphold justice for the people and our society; bankers are custodians of our savings and fulfill dreams of people wanting to own homes to start businesses. Many successful entrepreneurs and corporate executives did not start off simply wanting to earn money, but were instead driven by a desire to make life better for others. That's why they are an inspiration to listen to.

5. So yes, what you decide to do, be it a course to study or career to pursue, is not about you. It's about what you want to do for others, for the people around you. I think if mentally, you can't get pass that question, you are actually not ready to decide on your education and career choices. That is why Values in Action and Community Service in schools are important, because they open up your minds to the concept of being in service to others.

6. The Service-Learning Champion (SLC) is another valuable programme that the PAYM and MOE have jointly introduced to help our students discover their purpose in life, fulfil their keenness to serve, and uplift the community. Inaugurated in 2006, the Programme was first introduced to our Secondary Schools. Last year, it was extended to the Junior Colleges and Pre-University. This has allowed even more students to contribute to, and benefit from, community building and strengthening.

7. Today, I am happy to share that 103 Schools, including 6 JCs and 1 Pre-U, are now on board the SLC programme. More than 40,000 students initiate about 70 projects each year to reach out to the residents and the less privileged in the community.

8. I am also happy to announce that the PAYM SLC programme will now extend to the IHLs, starting with the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS). Being a university specializing in social sciences, it is befitting that SUSS is the pioneering IHL. With this extension, I look forward to seeing more IHL students contribute actively and passionately to the betterment of our community.

9. Several service ambassadors are being recognized today. Let me share a couple of their stories.

10. Cheng Kiat currently studies at Millennia Institute. He first received the S.T.A.R. Award in 2014 when he was in Kranji Secondary School. After receiving the award, he continued to serve the community and dedicate himself to meaningful causes. Besides volunteering in the PAYM Community YOUthCare Festival Walk for Wishes, he also rallied more than 40 of his peers to volunteer with him. Passion and service is indeed contagious. Under the guidance of Yew Tee CC YECs, Cheng Kiat has grown from a Service-Learning practitioner to become a leader who inspires his peers to do good for the community. From an SLC mentee, he is now a mentor to his juniors from Millennia Institute. Good job, Cheng Kiat.

11. Many of our youths today are passionate about contributing to the community, but they may lack the experience and the know-how. Mentorship is thus a great way to bring these youths on board. Recently, students from Holy Innocent High School organised Community YOUthspark, a carnival that aimed to foster a stronger community spirit amongst residents. The YEC members from Punggol CC YEC attended all their project meetings and provided valuable guidance to the students. With the YEC’s help, the project was successfully implemented. I was told that Phoebe, one of the project members of Community YOUthSpark, has now become a member of the YEC. She wishes to follow the footsteps of her YEC mentors to pay it forward and inspire her peers to volunteer, just like how she was inspired by her YEC mentors. For its effort, the team from Holy Innocent High School has been awarded the PAYM SLC Project Accolade.

12. As we applaud the good work done by our youths and our YEC volunteers, let us also recognise those who have made all these possible. The parents and teachers have played important behind-the-scenes roles – as mentors, cheerleaders, supporters and caregivers. I am happy to see that they are here today to share the happiness and success of the award winners. Let us thank them.

13. We have come far in this journey of community building. I hope as more of our students do good together, we can ignite their passion to serve others, and develop that compass that will guide their life decisions. It's like an internal GPS that will always show us the right path when we feel lost and confused. Keep up the good work, everyone, and I wish you all the best.

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