Speeches/Interviews

April 25, 2013

Speech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister For Education, at Ngee Ann Polytechnic 50th Anniversary Celebrations Launch Event on 25 Apr 2013, 1700 hrs, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Convention Centre

Mrs Deborah Ong
Deputy Chairman, Ngee Ann Polytechnic Council

Mr Tan Kien Lip
Vice President, Ngee Ann Kongsi

Mr Chia Mia Chiang
Principal, Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Faculty members, Alumni and Students

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good afternoon.

I am pleased to be with you here this afternoon. Unearthing the Time Capsule earlier brought back memories of my time as a member of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s (NP) Council in 1997. As NP celebrates its Golden Jubilee this year, we see a vastly different higher education landscape, which has helped to shape our progress over the past 50 years.

NP’s Journey

I think the theme of “A past to cherish”, is very apt for us to think about how we got here and using this moment of celebration to think about what is the future we want to create and how we go about creating the future. NP is just a little older than our nation. It started as Ngee Ann College in 1963. Back then, it had only 116 students and was located in the Teochew Building at Tank Road. In 1967, the College offered a small number of diploma programmes in commerce and technology to support our largely labour-intensive industry needs. It subsequently changed its name to Ngee Ann Technical College in 1968 to reflect its strong advocacy of technical education in training skilled manpower to support the foundations of our economy after our national independence, and our transition to manufacturing industries.

Today, NP has a full-time student enrolment of about 16,000, offering a comprehensive suite of 48 diploma courses spanning engineering, media, applied sciences, business and humanities that cater to the aspirations of our young and the needs of our modern knowledge-driven economy. Continuing Education and Training courses launched more recently have also been well-received, with an enrolment of about 2,000 part-time students. To date, NP has produced more than 130,000 graduates, and we celebrate their achievements in their respective fields. Indeed, we see many alumni members here and we celebrate your achievement as well.

Despite the growth of the polytechnic sector and the evolution of each polytechnic over the years, our basic approach to polytechnic education has not changed. We remain committed to providing a practice-oriented education with high standards and rigour. This is a key reason for the success of our polytechnic education. Supporting this mission is the longstanding partnership between polytechnics and industry. And, I know that among you here, many have served on advisory committees and I thank you for this role. In tandem with changes in the economy and labour market, our polytechnics have introduced courses in Engineering Science, Business Intelligence and Analytics and Social Enterprise Management, equipping our graduates to seize opportunities in the evolving industry.

Celebrating our Polytechnic Sector

Our polytechnic system is our pride and joy, and they play a critical role in preparing students not only for work in our vibrant economy, but also for life beyond work.

More Articulation Pathways to Polytechnics

Currently, about 43% of each Primary One cohort attend our polytechnics, and we are on track to raise this to 45% by 2015. Most of our polytechnic students are ‘O’-level students entering directly from secondary school. A smaller proportion articulate from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE). This year, we introduced two new progression pathways, namely the Polytechnic Foundation Programme, or PFP, and the Direct-Entry-Scheme-to-Polytechnic Programme, or DPP.

The PFP draws from the top 10% of the Secondary Four Normal (Academic) stream. Instead of going on to Secondary Five, they do a preparatory year in the polytechnics themselves, before entering the diploma courses proper. Under the other programme, the DPP, well-performing Secondary Four Normal (Academic) students in the top 30% of the cohort may enter into a Higher Nitec programme at the ITE instead of entering Secondary Five, and then progress on to a related polytechnic diploma course upon completing their Higher Nitec programmes. These new pathways add to the ways to get to a polytechnic, and we will continue to strengthen progression pathways to our polytechnics and beyond. In doing this, we are creating multiple pathways for Singaporeans to achieve success in school and ultimately at work, and allowing each Singaporean a better chance to be the best that he or she can be.

We are very encouraged by the good response to the PFP and DPP. The first batch of students from these programmes has just started their lessons, and I look forward to hearing many success stories from those who have gone through these programmes.

Equipping students with 21st Century Competencies

Just as our polytechnics have developed over the years to where we are today, we must continue to stay abreast with the rapidly changing global economy. Beyond domain knowledge and skills, young Singaporeans must equip themselves with 21st century competencies and a thirst for lifelong learning. We need to develop students who possess a global outlook, are versatile, innovative and enterprising, and are able to work well with others across diverse fields and diverse cultures. This is the strength of Singapore.

NP prides itself to have coined the term - ‘Global Smart’. I quote NP’s definition of this - “Global smart is not just about being tech-savvy and mobile. It’s about embracing diversity, loving innovation, and pioneering change. It’s about seeing the power they have to change the world.” Now this is what we hope to see in all our youths who pass through our education system.

Whether through student participation in General Education modules or student development activities such as co-curricular activities, community involvement projects and overseas experience, our polytechnics should strive to enhance their curriculum, pedagogies, and programmes, so that they can best fulfil their mission of building up the capabilities of our students and positioning them well for work and for life.

Values and Community Support

Besides the skills and knowledge, our polytechnics must nurture students with strong character and who can exemplify empathy, integrity, resilience and harmony. These values root our students and graduates across economic cycles and preserve cohesion in our society.

We see such values in action when our community contributes to education causes. It is heartening that many key stakeholders and individuals feel that in addition to government support, they too can make an active contribution to our polytechnics. Let me share a story of an NP alumnus who has come forward to help our next generation of students.

William Cai graduated from NP’s Network Systems and Security course in 2007. He has helped NP set up a remote access system for a specialised laboratory, so that students may have round-the-clock access to state-of-the-art network equipment to conduct their project work. Three batches of students have already benefitted from this. William also actively volunteers to conduct remedial lessons for NP students in the evenings, and has offered guidance to students for their final-year projects.

NP has received support from many individuals like William, as well as industry partners and organisations, such as Ngee Ann Kongsi. I would like to thank all of you for recognising the important work that our polytechnics do, and stepping forward to help NP succeed.

Looking Ahead

Just as a 50th anniversary is an appropriate time to reflect on how far we have come from the past, it is equally important for us to look forward to our hopes for the future. Let me quote two comments raised by NP students during their Our Singapore Conversation sessions earlier this year on their aspirations for Singapore in 2030 - (i) “Singapore to have a richer social capital, where people are genuine in regarding others with sincerity”, and (ii) “A place where young citizens are not afraid of pursuing their aspirations!” As MOE works with our polytechnics to strengthen polytechnic articulation pathways, preparing our students with 21st Century competencies and sound values, it will be useful for us to reflect on these aspirations of our youth and to see how we can further these aspirations.

Conclusion

As we celebrate NP’s Golden Jubilee, this is not just a single celebration of NP turning 50, but rather a celebration of every single year since 1963. Every past year bears witness to NP’s growth, and every year after this will be just as important. Every year we see cohorts of graduating students who have benefitted from education in NP. I am confident that NP, with its team of dedicated staff, good leadership, in collaboration with industry partners and strong support from the community, will continue to provide holistic education and nurture many generations of successful Singaporeans to come.

I offer my heartiest congratulations to everyone on this special occasion, and wish NP many good years ahead.

Thank you.