Speech by Minister for Education Mr Lawrence Wong at the Virtual Opening Ceremony of Shopee Code League, 6 March 2021

Published Date: 06 March 2021 06:00 PM

News Speeches

Ladies and gentlemen,

Participants and teams,

1. I am very happy to be here today with all of you for this year's Shopee Code League. It's wonderful to see companies like Shopee and its many partners doing their part to support our coders, and to level up the skills of the Tech community across the region.

2. And despite the restrictions imposed by COVID-19, I am glad that we are still able to meet virtually and to engage one another.

3. As you heard from Agatha just now, we have more than 15,000 participants from Singapore and all over the region signing up for this year's Code League.

4. It certainly reflects the very keen interest in coding all over the region. The youngest participant this year is just 9 years old, and the oldest is 51. So it's a reminder that no one is too young to pursue their passion, and no one too old to embrace the spirit of lifelong learning.

5. All of you might have heard of the saying that "there are decades when nothing happens, and then there are weeks when decades happen".

6. And I think that sums up the impact of COVID-19 and the recent acceleration of technological trends we've seen over the past year.

7. Because, for decades, we've talked about the importance of technology. Companies invested in equipment for virtual meetings, we were all looking forward to the promise of tele-medicine and remote learning, but not much happened.

8. Then, when COVID-19 struck last year, in a matter of weeks everything moved online, and it completely changed the way we live, work, study and play.

9. This acceleration of technology brought about by COVID-19 is here to stay; it's not just a temporary blip, but it's really an acceleration of a permanent trend.

10. Tech used to be just a narrowly identified industry consisting of companies that made hardware and software, but Tech is now ubiquitous, it's everywhere, and the power of Tech is harnessed across all industries of the economy and in all facets of our lives.

11. So all of you as coders, I think you should be gratified and heartened that you possess valuable skills that will be in demand, both now and in the future.

12. And it's important that you continue to hone your skills and keep on improving. I'm not an expert coder like all of you, but as someone interested in education, let me perhaps suggest some ways for you to improve.

13. First, we should recognise that programming languages come and go, so it's important to focus on the architecture and the fundamentals, rather than just the language itself, because the basics never change.

14. For example, when I started to learn programming in the 80s as a child, I learnt the language BASIC at that time. When I was in university in the early 90s, I learnt C and then I learnt how to use Gauss which is a programme for economic modelling. Today everyone wants to learn Python, but in 10 years' time, I'm sure there will be new apps and languages that you will have to confront. And that's why it pays to get as much as experience as you can with as many languages and frameworks as possible.

15. Second, to learn anything in life, you need discipline and hard work to excel. To truly master something, you often have to push your limits and go beyond your comfort zone. That's how you can advance to the next level.

16. You know, sometimes, you hear people say "I've written a code that works. That's it. Job done. Mission accomplished!" But in fact, the work doesn't stop once you've written a code that works. It just started, because you have to review the first iteration, and make it better. You have to keep writing software that works. Sometimes, it means throwing out the first versions and re-doing from scratch. But it's that constant practice and review that enables you to get better. This applies to coding, it applies to so many other things, anything you would like to learn, a musical instrument or a new hobby. You always have to keep on working at it and improving.

17. Also don't confine yourself to coding, because the solutions to real world problems often cannot be solved by software alone. We often need inter-disciplinary teams and multiple skill-sets. For example, when you look at a successful app, yes the software is very important, but equally important are the business model, the design, the UX and many other features, so you really need to collaborate and work together with many people.

18. This brings me to my third point which is that we should always go out there and collaborate, get involved in projects, and learn from one another. Learning is not an individualised endeavor we do by ourselves. In fact, we all learn more when we learn together.

19. And that's why we are very appreciative of initiatives like this Shopee Code League, and I hope you will all make full use of the opportunities in this event to learn new skills and to solve problems, and also to network with one another and engage in knowledge-sharing.

20. So on that note, I wish you all the best for the next three weeks of competition. May you all have a fruitful and enjoyable experience full of the joy of learning. Thank you very much.

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