Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Education at the Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony

Published Date: 07 May 2021 07:00 PM

News Speeches

Ms Janet Ang, Chairman, Singapore Polytechnic Board of Governors

Mr Soh Wai Wah, Principal and CEO, Singapore Polytechnic

Parents and family members

Graduands

1. Good afternoon. I’m delighted to join all of you today on this very special occasion.

2. Today marks a significant milestone for all of you, the 146 graduands from the Media, Arts & Design School, as well as the nine graduands receiving SP’s Institutional Medals. Congratulations to all of you for your hard work and success.

3. I would also like to acknowledge those who have supported you in this journey – your faculty members, family and friends, many who are celebrating this milestone with you virtually today. In a typical year we would have been gathered in a large hall to celebrate in the physical presence of our family and friends. Unfortunately, with COVID-19, we are unable to celebrate all together, physically. But the silver lining is we are able to reach out to a larger audience through an online format.

Building Resilience Through Trying Times

4. The pandemic has resulted in us making many adjustments to the way we work, we live and we learn. It will continue to change the world that we live in. But the pandemic has underscored the importance of resilience, self-care and fostering a stronger community spirit of helping one another.

5. In the past year, we were forced to venture out of our comfort zones. All of you went through home-based learning for almost an entire semester, and everyone pulled together to ensure that teaching and learning were not compromised.

6. Lecturers followed your academic progress and well-being throughout the home-based learning period. Lectures were conducted online, and assessments redesigned to allow for online submissions. Your lecturers made use of interactive formats, such as online quizzes and live polls, to gather timely feedback and customise their teaching to your learning needs. Virtual breakout sessions were put in place to encourage collaboration and creative discussions in many of your project teams. Many of you also came up with innovative ideas to continue school activities – for example, the Music & Audio Technology students live-streamed their performances when they could not return to campus to perform on stage. Kudos to all of you for your innovation and creativity!

7. The pandemic affected our way of life. When we headed into Circuit Breaker, it became very difficult for some of your peers to continue with their internships. It has been especially challenging in the arts and entertainment fields, as well as adjacent sectors like events management and hospitality. Your lecturers responded quickly by contacting their industry partners to secure more internship placements. They also worked closely with employers to design alternative work arrangements in lieu of in-person internships to ensure that learning outcomes were still met, with minimal impact to your academic progression.

8. Among us today is Josephine Kuan Shu Jun, a graduand from the Diploma in Landscape Architecture. Josephine’s father passed away when she was just six years old. Her mother worked tirelessly to raise four daughters and the close-knit family pulled themselves together through their challenges. Josephine started working since Secondary 4 to put herself through school and polytechnic studies, and also to supplement the household expenditure. To this day, she continues to support herself and contribute to her household. Josephine has also been actively contributing to the community. Tapping on her creativity and love for design and nature, she started an online business selling customised stickers and has donated a portion of the revenue to organisations providing aid to children and women.

9. Today, I am delighted to announce that Josephine is the recipient of the Low Guan Onn Gold Medallist and she plans to pursue a degree in Landscape Architecture at the National University of Singapore. She aspires to be a landscape architect to contribute to Singapore’s development into a green city and improving the living environment for the community. We wish you all the best, Josephine!

10. It heartens me to see so many Singaporeans come together to support one another during this very difficult period. It is also because of all of you, and your parents and your family members and friends online, that as a nation we can emerge stronger and become more resilient.

Media, Arts and Design in our VUCA World

11. Designers and creatives like yourselves have an important role in helping us rise to the challenges of these uncertain times. Good examples are all around us. We rely on clear infographics and videos to stay updated on the latest safe management measures, as well as to understand the rationale for vaccinations and TraceTogether. Everyone’s contribution matters. We look to our writers, producers and film-makers to bring to light stories of resilience and grace in the face of challenges brought about by the pandemic, to uplift our spirits and rally us together.

12. COVID-19 has fundamentally altered the way we live, work and play. Many of the changes we have seen over the past year, like the rise of working from home, are likely to remain with us for many years to come. As we work towards a post-COVID new normal, we will need to look to our designers and creatives, like yourselves, to help us imagine new ways of staying connected with one another. As a Media, Arts and Design graduate, I am confident that SP has prepared you well for this exciting journey. I know we can count on your expertise and skills to make a difference to the lives of those around you.

Transdisciplinary Learning for the Future Economy

13. In the future economy, jobs will increasingly require graduates to work across disciplinary boundaries to solve complex problems. Some of the finest thinking happens when different fields, ideas and disciplines intersect, and this is the reason why it is important to expose students to different ways of thinking to develop multi-disciplinary skills.

14. The impact of COVID-19 on the media sector has been keenly felt. The Government’s highest priority has been on the one hand, to help the industry deal with its immediate challenges, and at the same time, to ensure that we are preserving and enhancing the sector’s capabilities for the long term. This is crucial because this crisis will pass one day. When it does, we have to emerge from this stronger and with our capabilities not just intact, but where possible, enhanced.

15. I am confident SP has prepared you well to embark on fulfilling careers in the creative industry, not only in “traditional” jobs such as writers, producers, directors, online content creators and games developers, but also in emerging careers that straddle that intersection between media and technology, in areas such as digital media, data analytics and user experience design.

16. In this regard, I am heartened that SP has made strides in developing these emerging multi-disciplinary skills, by combining its existing diploma courses across the Media, Arts and Design sectors into a single Diploma in Media, Arts & Design. This new course saw its first intake in April 2021, and takes a similar approach to the Common Entry Programmes (CEP) in that it equips students with cross-cutting skills and knowledge in their first year, before they go in-depth into one chosen specialisation from the second year.

17. SP’s vision is for the Diploma in Media, Arts & Design to transform the way creative professionals are developed for our future economy. In their first year, students go through “Foundry Modules” to develop in them the foundational skills and knowledge, and offer taster modules which will help them make an informed choice of their specialisation. As they progress along in their course, students will also have the opportunity to work on transdisciplinary projects anchored in real-world tasks, designed to help them appreciate connections between the specialisations, and build a strong professional portfolio that will give them a head start when they graduate.

18. This is one step towards nurturing a generation of creative professionals who are resilient and versatile across multiple disciplines, possessing deep skills and qualities that will not only position them well to embark on their creative careers, but also stay relevant for years to come, in an evolving business landscape marked by volatility and disruptions.

19. Beyond the Media, Arts and Design sectors, SP also introduced a Transdisciplinary Project (TIP) elective in September 2019, to give students from all diplomas the opportunity to hone and utilise their design-led creative thinking skills to try to solve complex real-world problems. The latest TIP run has seen over 120 students from 29 different diplomas working together on real-world project challenges, supported by seven industry partners. Feedback on the TIP has been encouraging, and a number of projects have gone on to be implemented by the industry partners.

20. One example of a student who benefitted from the TIP is Kiu Li Ling, one of the Diploma in Experience & Product Design (DXPD) Silver Medallists. Li Ling worked together with fellow graduate Fang Qian from the Diploma of Electrical & Electronic Engineering, and second year students Lim Jun Yu from the Diploma in Infocomm Security Management, Clavance Lim from the Diploma in Accountancy and Rachel Lee from the Diploma in Integrated Events & Project Management. Li Ling and team were tasked to help local food SME Lee Lum Huat & Co. design a marketing concept to help make “Vitamee”, a noodle brand, the choice of noodles for millennials. Drawing from their collective passion for food, Li Ling led the team to think about how traditional noodles can be designed to appeal to the younger generation. The team drew on skills and knowledge gained from their respective courses, to incorporate the health benefits and texture of “Vitamee” noodles into creative sticker packs on the social media platform, Telegram. The experience of consuming noodles is blended into these stickers and as millennials send these stickers over Telegram as a form of self-expression, the brand’s online presence is strengthened.

21. Li Ling has said working on a project as part of a transdisciplinary team has empowered her to understand how design can be applied not just to products, but also in creating meaningful experiences. Even though she did not have knowledge and skills in food development, she stepped out of her comfort zone to develop a new marketing concept with the team by being resourceful, open to ideas and adopting the “fail fast, learn fast” mentality. I hear the team’s project was well received and Lee Lum Huat & Co. has plans to roll out the marketing concept. Well done, Li Ling and team!

22. As you all think back about the time that you have spent in SP, I am sure it will bring back many fond memories and challenges which you have had to experience and overcome. It is through these peaks and troughs, valleys, that strong bonds are forged, with friends who are there to celebrate your achievements and to support you through challenging times. As you venture into different education and career pathways, treasure your family, friends and the SP fraternity, and keep them close to your heart always.

23. In closing, I would like to encourage you to find your voice and use what you’ve learned as stepping stones to your next adventure. I believe you have so much more to give and I am very excited to see what you will achieve in the future.

24. Congratulations, Class of 2021. Thank you!

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