Speech by Minister for Education Mr Chan Chun Sing at the Special Awards Presentation Ceremony

Published Date: 24 August 2021 04:00 PM

News Speeches

Colleagues, award recipients, ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

1. I am delighted to celebrate this special occasion with all of you. Let me begin by congratulating all Special Awards recipients on your achievements. I would also like to extend my appreciation to the parents, principals, and teachers for your care and commitment towards our students. Your collective efforts play an important role in nurturing them, and encouraging them to grow as confident young people who enjoy learning and have sound values.

2. The Special Awards Presentation Ceremony is an annual event that recognises the outstanding achievements of our students in various domains, including their contributions to our community. The multi-faceted nature of the 11 categories of Special Awards reflects our belief that there are different definitions of success and peaks of excellence in our society, and our commitment to provide multiple pathways in education. Our recipients exemplify many of the qualities we aspire to nurture in our young people who come through our schools.

3. First, holistic education is a cornerstone of our education system. Our recipients are well-rounded students who not only do well academically, but also put in time and effort to develop essential life skills, broaden their experiences, and pursue their passions through different undertakings. In addition, they demonstrate a strong sense of civic consciousness and service to others.

4. One such student is Siti Nur Zhafirah Binte Mohd Fadzil, who is receiving the Lee Kuan Yew All-Round Excellence Award. During her time in Seng Kang Secondary School, Zhafirah was known to her teachers and peers for her strong service in leadership – she was a Class Chairperson and Student Councillor. Her dedication in Girl Guides saw her appointed as Patrol Second and Company Leader.

5. In addition to her commitment to school activities and her studies, Zhafirah participated actively in various Values-In-Action community projects. Using the skills acquired from her leadership experiences, she led her peers to organise craft activities and performances to bring cheer to the senior residents of Sree Narayana Mission Home. Well done Zhafirah!

6. Second, it is important for our students to have an innovative spirit, to dare to dream and be creative. They should not let their dreams stay as dreams, but have the gumption to be positive change-makers. Some of the award recipients today have harnessed the wizardry of technology to improve lives. They include Kee Yen Cheng, Tejpal Aniket and Yong Huey from Temasek Polytechnic.

7. The team noticed the anxiety and discomfort that diabetics feel when they have to regularly prick the side of their finger to take their blood glucose reading. This spurred them to seek out a painless solution. This led to their innovation – the Smart Diabetic Breathalyser. Diabetics just need to blow into the device for the detection of the acetone levels in their breath to monitor their blood glucose level. Innovation is never easy. When developing the device, Yen Cheng, Tejpal and Yong Huey experienced failure in the initial stages, and had to overcome several hurdles in finding the optimal hardware.

8. But they pressed on. They eventually found a suitable sensor that detects acetone levels. They also developed an Android application to collect readings via Bluetooth, and created a web-application that will allow doctors to remotely monitor the health condition of their patients. This innovation is close to the heart of the team. Amongst those who have benefitted from this device, is the grandmother of one of the team members, who has Type 2 diabetes. Moving forward, they hope to collaborate with hospitals when the pandemic eases, to help more diabetic patients. Congratulations, Yen Cheng, Tejpal and Yong Huey! You are deserving recipients of the Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award.

9. Third, education is also about nurturing our students to be grounded in sound values and have resilience. Some of our recipients have risen above the odds to become exemplary role models to their peers. One of them is Rex Chan Jun Rui, from Canossian School, who receives the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award.

10. Learning is not easy for Rex because he has severe hearing loss in both ears. However, Rex's virtues of self-discipline and resilience have helped him in his pursuit to learn. Empathising with some of the challenges his classmates may face with learning, Rex readily helps them. He will patiently explain the work to his classmates, and encourage them not to give up. His care for others was felt by the new students whom he buddied in school.

11. Rex is a natural leader, and does not allow his challenges to limit what he can do. He serves his roles dutifully as a prefect and a leader of the Percussion Band. A good role model, he influences his juniors to do the right thing and be faithful to the small things, even as simple as keeping their instruments tidy after each practice session. Rex also motivates others with his earnest commitment to learn every instrument assigned to him. I am impressed by the number of instruments he can play – the drums, xylophone, glockenspiel and marimba. Through his quiet and unassuming ways, he has won the hearts and respect of his peers and teachers. Rex, you are certainly an inspiration to us all.

12. These 3 stories are just a snapshot of the outstanding and talented young people whom we are recognising today. They have all excelled in different ways. We must continue to value every child; provide diverse pathways to allow them to reach their fullest potential; and very importantly, view and define success in different ways as a society.

13. Today, our 194 recipients will join the alumni of Special Award recipients. Since the first category of the award was introduced 47 years ago, we are heartened to see many past recipients who continue to be an inspiration in their own ways; who continue to learn; and who continue to use their passions and abilities to serve the larger community.

14. To all our recipients – just as your seniors have been an inspiration, you too can be an inspiration to others. I am confident that you will blaze your own trail of excellence, and make a positive impact on others in your own way. As you continue your journey in life, let me share some words of encouragement with you:

15. First, appreciate those who have journeyed alongside you. Some of us will be familiar with the Chinese idiom – 饮水思源, which literally means, when you drink water, remember the source. Its deeper meaning is this – that it is important to have an "attitude of gratitude"; and appreciate the people who have supported and journeyed with you.

16. Second, embrace lifelong learning even if it takes you out of your comfort zone. A healthy spirit of excellence will propel you to try new things even if you may need some time to find your footing. Don't be deterred from learning new skills, or be too hard on yourself when you do not succeed.

17. Finally, care for others. Always use your talents and abilities to be a positive influence on others, and to do good. Don't underestimate how much you can uplift others through your actions and your work. I wish you the very best in your future endeavours. Thank you.

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