Speeches

August 25, 2016

Speech by Mr. Ng Chee Meng, Acting Minister for Education (Schools), at the Special Awards Presentation Ceremony 2016

1. I’m delighted this afternoon to be with all of you. My heartiest congratulations to all the award recipients. It is really a joy to be here today to celebrate your achievements with you. I would also like to extend my congratulations to your family members, teachers and friends here to support you. As you celebrate your achievements and the awards that have been given to you, please do remember the love and support that your family and friends have given you over many years and how they have been instrumental to your success. Remember to show appreciation to your parents and even grandparents and the friends that stood shoulder to shoulder with you, nurturing you all these years. Remember in all that you do, success comes not only from yourself but from those around you and, in many cases, from society as well, and from our Singapore.

2. This award ceremony celebrates the achievements of our students across all schools and institutions. By recognising our students for their successes in both academic and non-academic spheres, we continue to emphasise the importance of holistic education in developing a love for lifelong learning. We also continue to recognise students who show compassion and care when engaging with the wider community, especially those who are less fortunate. We hope that these young men and women will not only play a part in building a successful Singapore for the future but also a more caring and inclusive society as we progress forward.

3. In preparing for this award, I read many of our awardees’ stories. Let me share a few stories with you.

4. Chloe Ann Tan lost her mother at a young age, but in spite of this tragedy, she strove for personal growth while maintaining a strong sense of social responsibility. Since a young age, Chloe learnt to be resilient and tenacious. She did not let her personal challenges hold her back but instead, besides striving for academic excellence, she took it upon herself to be an active contributor to the community and to society. Chloe devotes a Saturday every month to community work. She became a youth coordinator recently, and gathers like-minded youths to join her in giving out food rations to the less fortunate, including the elderly and children from low income families. Through doing this, Chloe hopes to rally youths to improve the global community. She is an excellent example of how every single one of us can be an agent of change in our own right, and with each individual action, change our society and maybe even change the world. Chloe hopes to pursue a career in governance and politics, and I am heartened to know this young Singaporean who puts others first and strives to build a caring and inclusive Singapore. As her teacher, Mr Marcus Poon, from Crescent Girls’ School describes, Chloe ‘possesses an enlightened mind and a kind heart. She will no doubt make a positive impact on society.’ Today, Chloe is receiving the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence and I would like to congratulate you, Chloe, for being an exemplary student and role model.

5. Similarly, Darshan Rajanderan, a recipient of the Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship to Encourage Upgrading, is another example of a student who demonstrates genuine care for others. He does this through his passion for nursing. Through the ‘Nitec in Nursing’ course, Darshan acquired the necessary skills to serve the community and participated in several ITE activities providing service to the community. He was a part of the Youth Corps Singapore, and was appointed as an Assistant Team Leader. Through his voluntary work with the organisation, he raised awareness among youths and the elderly on mental health issues such as dementia. His lecturer at ITE College East, Ms Rachael Goh, shares that Darshan is ‘a dynamic youth who loves to help others and make a difference to society’. He does so despite having a busy schedule in school. Darshan has finished with NITEC and is currently studying nursing in Ngee Ann Polytechnic and he hopes to continue making a positive impact and change to the lives of others around him, especially those who might be misunderstood such as those with mental illness. All the best Darshan, in your noble endeavours to make society better.

6. Ng Thian Ping is another exemplary student. He overcame his initial apprehension about joining Assumption Pathway School. With encouragement from his Form Teacher and opportunities given by his school, he developed a positive attitude towards learning. He has become a positive role model for many of his school mates. He believes strongly in having empathy for others and in school and daily life, he strives to set a good example by picking up litter and helping the cleaners in his school. He hoped that his actions would inspire others and help them understand the challenges faced by these cleaners doing difficult jobs, and helping to make sure that all in the school learn to respect jobs that, while not glamorous, are nonetheless done by people who are trying their best. In the words of Mr Ng Chye Hwa, Thian Ping’s Form Teacher in 2015, ‘Thian Ping empathised with the cleaners in his school because of the hard work that they were doing’. His actions made the cleaners feel like they were a part of the school community and appreciated. Thian Ping showed how an individual’s every-day actions can make members of our community feel included, appreciated and cared for. Thian Ping is a recipient of the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Special Achievement. He is currently pursuing a NITEC course and wishes to become an engineer in the future. I wish Thian Ping all the very best on your journey to realise your dream.

7. Chloe, Darshan and Thian Ping remind us that even as we soar to greater heights, we must remember those who are less fortunate than us. In a world with rapid economic and technological changes, having empathy and being inclusive become even more essential for us as a society. We need to constantly remind ourselves that as we seek to fulfil our goals, we must not leave others behind. We must grow and succeed as one Singapore.

8. In this light, we wish to celebrate triumph over adversity and affirm remarkable achievements despite disability. It is my pleasure today to announce a new and special Lee Kuan Yew Award – that of the Exemplary Student Award (LKY-ESA). This award will be presented annually with effect from 2017, and will recognize students with special needs who are role models of learning, dedication, perseverance and courage in areas such as academics, sports, arts and the vocational domain as well as service to the community. I am pleased that we have taken the positive direction in including the ESA within the larger Special Awards Presentation Ceremony. We look forward to an inclusive Special Awards Presentation Ceremony in 2017 where we will celebrate our successes together, as one nation, one Singapore.

9. The Special Awards in 2017 will also see enhancements to existing awards that recognise holistic education. The Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence is currently given out to 8 deserving students each year from secondary schools. From 2017, we will be expanding this to recognize 12 students. In addition, the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence will be extended to primary school students as well.

10. The Exemplary Student Award, as well as the enhancements to the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence, would not be possible without the generous donations of our Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, and members of the public. We thank them for their generosity. The new LKY-ESA Award for special needs students and the enhancements to LKY-ARE Award honour the spirit of the late founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew as well as our pioneers, who strove to build a strong, resilient and inclusive society, and upheld their firm belief that education plays an important role in uplifting the lives of Singaporeans.

11. Though Singapore has achieved much, there are still many areas we can improve in. How we continue to progress and develop in the future will depend on you, especially our youth, the future of our nation. I encourage you to hone your leadership skills, to be resilient and to persevere through challenges that may come your way. As you strive to achieve your goals, I urge you to remember those who have supported you, and more importantly, those who may need you to contribute back to society when you succeed. The success you celebrate today is just a small step on this long journey of life. I urge you to work collectively to not only make your parents proud but also to make Singapore a better home, not only for yourselves but for other Singaporeans, and to build a more inclusive society as we look forward to SG100. Use your experiences, knowledge and skills to improve the lives of others around you.

12. As we mourn the passing of our former President, Mr. S R Nathan, take a leaf out of his life story. He started out life in a very disadvantaged position. If you read his life story you will know that he ran away from home, ran all the way to Malaysia to build a life for himself, and he went through different ups and downs. In the whole process, when opportunities availed to him, he seized them and always kept society and Singapore in his heart. In all the different appointments that he held in the public service, his central driving force was to improve Singapore and to improve the lives of Singaporeans. So when you succeed, remember the example and life of our former President, Mr. S R Nathan.

12. I am heartened and happy to be in the midst of so many young, capable and passionate students. I know you are very competent and I hope you will build a sense of pride and love for Singapore even as you go on to the next stage of your lives. Let me congratulate all of you once again, and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours. Well done!