Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the SEC-Starhub School Green Awards Presentation Ceremony

Published Date: 08 November 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

A very good afternoon to all of you.

2. I am delighted to be here to present the Singapore Environment Council-StarHub School Green Awards to our schools, our teachers and students for their passionate and outstanding efforts in environmental advocacy.

Singapore’s Journey Towards Sustainability

3. Singapore has made much progress in our journey towards sustainability. The launch of the Sustainable Singapore Movement in 2016 is an important step.

4. Environmental and green consumption issues are integral in our public policy debate space today. For example, the carbon tax announced at this year’s Singapore Budget to encourage industries to be more energy efficient and reduce pollution. Water prices in Singapore has also been adjusted, reflecting the scarcity of water, a precious resource and indirectly impress upon fellow Singaporeans to conserve water.

5. Indeed, there are many challenges that we must respond to, brought about by climate change. We see much more drastic weather patterns around the world. And it is certainly a concern that we should be involved and do something collectively through the actions of government, communities and individuals.

6. I truly believe that teachers and students make a difference. Amongst all of you here, our youths today will be tomorrow’s inventors, policy makers, writers, engineers and entrepreneurs. You will have the power to bring about positive social change to benefit generations to come. And schools, as communities of learning, play a crucial role in nurturing our students’ passion for our environment from their early years.

Focus on Sustainability in the Applied Learning Programme

7. In some our schools, environmental and sustainability issues are integral aspects of their Applied Learning Programme, or ALP for short. At Queenstown Secondary, students work on projects related to water, energy and food sustainability as part of their school’s ALP. They collaborate with industry partners to come up with low-cost filtration systems, solar powered cars and simple bio-digesters to lower the school’s energy consumption and expenditure, and reduce waste. At Geylang Methodist Secondary, students explore how to reduce the Urban Heat Island phenomena. They carry out urban farming, harvest rainwater for irrigation and share their learning with residents living near the school.

8. Such experiences provide our students with a deeper sense of appreciation of how classroom knowledge can be applied in the world around them. This is really applied learning at its best! Through all these programmes, our students can better understand the important nexus between theory and application. Students will get first-hand experience to see how all these come together, including collaboration with others to develop creative solutions to many of the sustainability questions and challenges they will encounter.

9. Consequently, when the students try and in the process fail a few times and eventually succeed, they will feel a sense of satisfaction that they have accomplished something and they will find the joy in their efforts that they have made a difference to the people and communities at large. This will also better develop their entrepreneurial dare in pushing forward innovative ideas, and help them become more resilient as they work with various industry partners to bring their ideas to life. Failing is the process towards success. And the earlier we expose our students to this process, the better equipped they are to embrace risk and manage those risks, to feel comfortable and launch into their learning journeys to create value for the new and future economy.

Why the SGA is Important

10. Apart from ALP, platforms like the SEC-StarHub School Green Awards are equally important for students to put ideas into action, developing and showcasing innovative solutions to address environmental challenges. Through the process, our students will gain a better understanding of Singapore’s environmental landscape and contribute to our nation’s vision of a sustainable and more liveable Singapore.

11. Just now I met some students from National Junior College. They are a part of a 10 student team who completed a project that advocates effective food waste management and they do this in a very interesting way. Many of the schools I have gone have bio-digesters but the students showed me how they produce compost by using worms. They worked with canteen vendors to collect food waste, such as vegetable scraps, tea and coffee grounds, and eggshells to fertilise their farms with creepy crawlies in the soil. The team not only used the compost for their school garden, they also ventured beyond their school compound to their immediate neighbourhood and got residents to learn from them how to make compost to build bio-sustainable methods to fertilise the estate around the school instead of using chemical fertilisers. Encouraged by how this has benefited the community, the students are now looking to share their knowledge with more communities and schools to promote green gardening.

12. Another inspiring example is Xinghua Primary School where students from the school’s Green Club worked on reducing food waste. In collaboration with a non-profit charity organisation, Food From The Heart, students ran a ‘Clean Plate Campaign’ to encourage their fellow students to finish their food and rewarding those who do with token rewards. Three students I met from Fernvale Primary shared a similar project where they made compost and also reduced food wastage. From the first term where they collected 202kg worth of food waste to 131kg now, it is a significant reduction of food wastage. Take the first step to reduce food wastage, don’t take all the food and change them into compost. Do the right thing first.

13. I am indeed heartened by the commitment of our schools and teachers to raise environmental awareness and nurture in our students that strong sense of environmental stewardship.

14. Today, with up to 410 submissions received by SEC, it is very clear that our schools are becoming more and more proactive and supportive of these green initiatives. Collectively, our schools can help conserve significant parts of the eco-system, including energy and water resources. I was told that this translates to saving enough electricity to power 13,130 HDB flats for a month, and enough water to fill 52 Olympic-sized swimming pools!

15. Through your efforts, we can look forward to Singapore’s steady progress towards sustainability as our youths become tomorrow’s environmental innovators and entrepreneurs.

16. I would like to thank SEC for your hard work in making the SGA a success and to provide such a wonderful and dynamic experience for the students, the teachers and the schools. And to all our schools that participated in this year’s SGA, thank you for your efforts and congratulations to all of you. You are all winners. Good Job and thank you very much!

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