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Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the Sinda Excellence Awards

Published Date: 23 September 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1.A very good afternoon. I am delighted to be here this afternoon, happy to celebrate successes and seeing our young going the extra mile and doing well. I am happy to see each of you finding your own path and searching out new possibilities, and we are all here to celebrate our youths’ successes.

Education as a Leveller

2. Education has been a key pillar in Singapore’s success and will continue to be vital to Singapore’s transformation. Over the last few years, MOE has been shifting our education landscape to prepare our students for a fast changing world economy that is rapidly disrupted by new technologies.

3. We are reducing the over-emphasising on academic results. We have made changes extensively across many educational policies like the PSLE scoring and Secondary 1 Posting that will take effect from 2021. We are expanding DSA to recognise students of different talents. We are rolling out Subject Based Banding to all schools so that students can better match their learning to the Express or Normal standards. Importantly, we are making Outdoor Education an essential component of every child’s school experience so that we can strengthen character building, tenacity and resilience in our young.

4. And as of this year, all our Secondary Schools offer an Applied Learning Program, so that our students not only develop strengths in the classroom, but have the space to apply their learning, explore their interests and discover for themselves the joy of learning, and in the process, nurture an entrepreneurial spirit or dare.

5. All these are founded on Character and Citizenship education, to ensure that our students have the moral compass to guide them in their lifelong journey of learning in an uncertain world, while staying rooted to Singapore.

6. In addition, we are also building a more inclusive education system, with compulsory education for all Special Needs children a reality soon.

7. All these are big steps forward in remaking Singapore and our education system.

8. I also recognise that MOE has an important role to give every student a strong start in their educational journey. This is in part why we are expanding the number of MOE kindergartens to about 50 by 2023 and setting up the National Institute of Early Childhood Development to train our early childhood teachers so that they, in turn, can nurture our children into active and joyful learners, as early as pre-school.

9. And with all three mother tongues languages taught in every MOE kindergarten, our children will have more opportunities to interact across the different races from a young age. Doing all these are important to shape our students’ learning both academically and in the areas of tacit learning.

10. To drive authentic learning – learning beyond exams – we must reduce our society’s over-emphasis on academic results. We should instead pay more attention to creating and cultivating a joy of learning in our students that would be that internal engine to spur learning, inside and outside the classroom, so that it works towards life-long learning, even when there are no exams.

11. We want to cultivate in our young a dare to try their hands at new things and explore new ways of doing things. Whilst our students have very good academic grounding, we need to ask ourselves what would be the key ingredients needed to meet the challenges of life. We need to provide them with an environment to have fun in learning, develop their passions and joy, to be always curious and to always explore. And even if they fail in the process, they can develop the tenacity to pick themselves up to go at it again. This will get them accustomed to the innovation process that is critical in Singapore’s new economy where failing is accepted as stepping stones towards success.

12. Together with liked-minded organisations like SINDA, we hope to work towards cultivating in our young to be always curious, always have a zest and passion for learning and to learn for life, to always work hard and to be their very best for themselves, their families, society and for Singapore.

Definition of Success

13. When I accepted SINDA’s invitation for today’s event, I also read up a bit on SINDA’s Excellence Awards. I am glad that SINDA is on the same page as MOE, promoting success in many paths to create new possibilities.

14. The recipients today exemplify how success can be achieved through different paths, to reach the goals that they have set for themselves. Many have treaded on paths that have worked best for them, have worked hard to overcome challenges and obstacles along the way, and opened up new possibilities.

Vanessa Zavir

15. Take for example Vanessa Zavir. She is 25 years old, and she has always aspired to read law. However, Vanessa’s A-Level results in 2010 did not qualify her to do so at a local university.

16. In 2014, at her mother’s suggestion, Vanessa enrolled in the Diploma in Law and Management course at Temasek Polytechnic. At polytechnic, Vanessa was much older than her course mates, and she was very conscious of this. But she did not let her apprehension get in her way. Instead, she studied hard, made it to the Director’s List at the polytechnic, and graduated top of her class last year.

17. Three years on, Vanessa is now a law undergraduate at NUS Law Faculty! Today, she will receive the SINDA Excellence Award in the polytechnic category. Beyond the award, for Vanessa, it was a dream come true. Not being able to go down the traditional path did not stop her. Instead, she charted a different path towards her goal.

18. I hope Vanessa’s story will inspire all of us. That, when faced with challenges, we must not lose heart, but instead, we should persevere and success may be just ahead of us.

Thiruben Thana Rajan

19. Thiruben Thana Rajan from National Junior College is another award recipient today, for excellence in another domain -- Sport. He receives the SINDA Excellence Awards under the Singapore Schools Sports Council Special National Colours category.

20. Thiru exemplifies passion, commitment and discipline towards his sport in Track and Field. Being still a JC student, he has to balance his studies at NJC with his training. It is far from easy. You see, his training sessions range from six to nine times a week and I am told he attended every single training session, without fail.

21. His dedication paid off. In March this year, he broke a 32-year meet record at the 400m race at the Singapore Athletic Championships. If this is not enough, 2 months ago, Thiru set a new national 400m record at the Under-18 World Championships in Kenya.

22. Congratulations, Thiru! You have shown us that when there is passion, matched with an unyielding will, there is a path towards success.

Jasdeep Singh Hundal

23. I would also like to congratulate Jasdeep Singh Hundal, a three-time SINDA Excellence Award recipient. I met him earlier at the President’s Scholarship Award this year. Jasdeep will be reading a double degree in social sciences and history at Sciences Po in France and the University of California at Berkeley in the United States. He is an outstanding young man. I recall he is passionate about languages and is fluent in 6 or so languages. I wish him all the best in his studies and future endeavours.

24. The stories of these recipients share the common threads of passion, perseverance, determination, and discipline. I hope that these are also the same qualities that will inspire all our young here today to pursue their passions and dreams as they have done.


25. As we celebrate your achievements, look around and also see who were alongside you on your journey. Share your success with your families, say a simple “thank you”, perhaps buy your parents a simple meal. They have nurtured and supported you all the way. Show gratitude.

26. Remember also how your community has played a part in your success. I hope all of you will contribute back to your community – by being role models and champions of your community, especially among the youths. I understand that SINDA will unveil a number of new initiatives in the coming year, so the opportunities to give back are aplenty. Some of the initiatives will require your support to inspire and develop your juniors, or even your peers.

27. By all of us coming together as a community, as Singaporeans to support one another, we can build a stronger and more vibrant home for all of us. Regardless of race, language and religion so as to achieve happiness, progress and prosperity for our nation.

28. Once again, congratulations. Continue to aspire towards being the very best you can be. I wish all of you the very best for your future endeavours.