Speech by Ms Sun Xueling, Minister of State, Ministry of Education, at the Young SEAkers Inauguration Day

Published Date: 07 August 2021 12:30 PM

News Speeches

His Excellency Suryo Pratomo, Indonesian Ambassador to Singapore,

His Excellency Dato Paduka Haji Sidek Bin Ali, Brunei High Commissioner to Singapore,

Ambassador Ong Keng Yong, Ambassador-at-Large,

Mr Royce Wee, Director, Head of Global Public Policy, Alibaba Group,

Mr Ryan Yap, Head of Growth, YCH Group,

Advisors, members and friends of The Young SEAkers,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Introduction

1. It is my pleasure to join you this morning for The Young SEAkers' (TYS) Inauguration Day.

2. My warmest congratulations to TYS for reaching this milestone. The past year has been challenging, with many interactions and activities moved online. The team has made commendable efforts in building a cross-border organisation that empowers our youths, in spite of the pandemic.

3. With the support of the National Youth Council's Youth Action Challenge Project, and through learning journeys, dialogues, and friendships forged over meals, you have brought together youth leaders from across ASEAN and China who are passionate about advancing connections within the ASEAN-China region. I am heartened to know that these early efforts have borne fruit and some of these youth leaders are here with us today.

Asia-Ready Exposure Programmes for Students

4. The global economic centre of gravity is shifting towards Asia and our youths are the future of this fast-growing region. The more they know about the broader region beyond their own countries, the more opportunities they will be able to discover for themselves. And as they forge friendships with peers across borders, the greater the likelihood that they will be able to seize these opportunities together.

5. What we do in education can help lay strong foundations for our people to develop the skills and dispositions to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world. To this end, Singapore's Ministry of Education launched the Knowing Asia thrust in 2020.

6. Through enhancements to the Humanities curriculum, providing opportunities for interaction with overseas peers, and increasing the uptake of Conversational Chinese and Malay programmes, our schools will help strengthen early exposure and interest of students to engage the region.

7. Our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) also strive for 70 percent of our local students to have overseas exposure, via programmes such as internships, academic exchanges, service learning trips and overseas immersion, and for 70 percent of this group of students to have exposure to ASEAN, China or India. The "70-70" target remains our longer-term goal and we will press on with this when safe travel resumes.

8. Even with travel curtailed because of COVID-19, our schools and IHLs are continuing with virtual programmes with overseas counterparts, so that we can continue to nurture our students' cross-cultural skills and keep them connected to the world at-large.

9. For example, some Primary 4 students from Anderson Primary School had a series of Zoom interactions with peers from their Bruneian partner school last year. The students also did lesson activities, such as paper weaving, together through the virtual medium. Our students from ITE also took part in an Asia-Ready Exposure Programme with School of Gumption, a social enterprise conceived with a vision of empowering individuals to collectively design sustainable solutions. The students learnt about business and market research skills, while meeting and building cross-border collaboration skills through digital platforms with their Vietnamese counterparts.

10. Like our schools and IHLs, TYS has continued to connect youths across borders through engaging programmes such as SEAkers Passport, where ASEAN youths can network with one another on an interactive virtual space Gathertown. Besides government-led efforts, civil society organisations like TYS play a complementary role in fostering linkages between youths, by providing additional opportunities for them to connect informally and build friendships with one another.

11. We welcome these efforts, which are timely given the current context. With ongoing uncertainty over when travel can resume safely, we will need to work harder to avoid having a generation of youths who will grow up lacking familiarity with their peers from the region. Such a scenario would be a great loss for our shared people-to-people ties, which we have taken many years to build up.

Conclusion

12. As a platform by youth, for youth, and being entirely volunteer-run, TYS has given us a good example of how there can be a myriad of possibilities when our youths pool their collective wisdom together to pursue their passions.

13. I am optimistic about the network and friendships forged between the members of TYS, and I am sure they will continue to strengthen over time. I wish TYS all the best in its endeavors and look forward to the future that you may create together with youths in ASEAN and China. Thank you.

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