Speeches/Interviews

September 05, 2019

Speech for Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan Affiliated Schools Teachers’ Day Appreciation Dinner & LEAP Award Presentation Ceremony

1. It is my absolute pleasure to attend this year’s LEAP Award Presentation Ceremony. Tonight, we are also celebrating Teachers’ Day. Teachers are the pillar of our education system, and our children’s future, our nation’s future, go through their hands. So Happy Teachers’ Day to everyone!

2. The role of teachers does not stop at merely imparting knowledge to students. Teachers, you are also a source of strength and inspiration for students – you motivate, inspire, and journey alongside students to help them realise their goals and fulfill their dreams.

3. Teachers are also role models for students. Students today spend long hours in school with their teachers. Teachers, by practising what you preach and leading by example, you reinforce the moral values that children learn in the home, and inculcate in them the characteristics of good, responsible citizens. I always have to emphasise this - it’s very hard for our schools to teach moral values. Values are taught at home and reinforced in school. It’s very hard to outsource this to teachers and say you’re supposed to teach values. So parents and teachers must work closely together. Our teachers know the importance of this noble profession, and MOE will always support you to fulfill your roles.

4. At this year’s National Day Rally, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong spoke on a range of subjects. I find the Chinese speech especially poignant, because he talked about how Chinese immigrants settled in Singapore, first to make a living, but over time they made this their home, and then devoted themselves to build and defend Singapore.

5. Chinese Clans were an integral part of the lives of the early Chinese immigrants. Clans were where immigrants went to for assistance and social and emotional support. For Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK), it has gone one step further, in fact many steps further, to set up schools to cater to the educational needs of these early immigrants.

6. Tao Nan School, the oldest among the current six Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan schools, was founded in 1906. Their purpose at the time, although they are the oldest, was to deliver a more modernised form of education. Then in 1915, again well ahead of its time, Chong Hock Girls’ School, was set up to provide education to girls during an era when educational opportunities for them were too little. Of course Chong Hock Girls’ School has been renamed as Chongfu School in Yishun. In 1929, the Huay Kuan took over the running of Ai Tong school.

7. Nan Chiau High School and Primary School can trace their roots back to Nan Chiau Teachers’ Training School, which was set up to meet the shortfall of trained teachers. Lastly, Kong Hwa School was established after the War, in 1953, to meet the urgent need for educational opportunities.

8. These are wonderful examples of schools set up by the community, for the community. The community then set up school management committees, which would raise funds and keep the schools going. Given their origins and the historical backdrop of their origins, these schools also carried the ethos, culture and values of their founding communities. And the Hokkiens do have some strong founding values, characteristics and ethos. Together with other schools set up by different communities in Singapore, including clans, churches and so on, they are collectively known as Government Aided schools.

9. Then with self-rule, independence, economic growth and more resources, the Singapore government was able to invest heavily in education. As such, we enacted the Grant-in-Aid Regulations in 1957, and provided the same level of grants and the same conditions of service and salary to all teachers of Government-Aided schools as well as Government schools.

10. This was a big relief to the school management committees as they do not have to continuously fund-raise. Instead, they could focus on guiding the running of the schools, preserve its culture and values, provide ideas and contacts to enrich the school programmes and ties with the community, and build up a strong alumni and sense of service to the nation.

11. This explains the situation today, where we have two major categories of schools – Government schools, and Government-Aided schools. Actually any Singaporeans and parents do not know about the existence of these two categories of schools. They are all filled with MOE teachers, and are funded by the Government. But strictly speaking, the Government owns the Government schools but it does not own the Government-Aided schools.

12. Sometimes I get queries from parents on why children of clan members can participate in an earlier phase of Primary One admission. The reason is that we should not forget the history and the roots of the Government Aided schools. The stakeholders of Government Aided schools, parents and the community are our key partners in education. Without them, these six schools would not even be here. Today, they continue to play the role of upholding the tradition and culture of the schools and they help to nurture strong values in our young, and support holistic education.

13. Hokkien Huay Kuan continues to support the six affiliated schools today. One significant way is through the sponsorship of the LEAP award. The LEAP Award this year received 848 nominations. 10 teachers have been selected to be honoured this year. The organisers told me they wished that all nominees could be awarded, but unfortunately they could only choose 10! It must have been a very difficult task for the selection panel, but congratulations to our ten teachers!

14. Let me end with a few words in Mandarin.

15. 教育是立国之本。福建会馆先贤 早在新加坡开埠 初期,就 深刻 明白教育对 提升社会风气、以及提高 人民生活素质 的重要性,因此早在1849 年就开设了 本地第一所华文学府——崇文阁,开启了本地华文教学的 历史篇章。

16. 为应付社会的需求,福建会馆 陆续接办 了道南学校、爱同学校、光华学校;并在1915年,创办了新加坡第一所华文女子学校,崇福女校。

17. 这些体现了 新加坡 华社先贤们 重视教育的精神,唯有通过教育才能 使人明智,让受过教育的学生们日后 回馈社会,延续 “取之社会,用之社会”的 华族优良传统。

18. Ladies and gentlemen, teachers, principals, education molds the future of our nation. The government will always make education a priority, to equip our citizens with the values, knowledge and skills to be contributing members of our society, to help them adapt to a changing world, and help them lead fulfilling lives. Congratulations to all our award winners, and Happy Teachers’ Day!