Opening Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the 2014 International Association for Educational Assessment (IAEA) Conference
Good morning and a warm welcome to all delegates, especially those who came from overseas. We are joined today by thought leaders in assessment and participants who are here to exchange ideas and insights in the areas of assessment and assessment innovations. We look forward to learning from your expertise and research.Assessment Innovations for the 21st century
The theme of this year’s conference is “Assessment Innovations for the 21st century”. This theme is well suited to our present educational imperatives. Each country represented here has unique local contexts, policies and priorities. But, collectively, we share a compelling responsibility to prepare our children for the challenges in the 21st century.
The 21st century is an era characterised by volatility, complexity and ambiguity. When our students embark on their careers, they will need the ability to adapt to new jobs, acquire a wide range of skill sets and apply skills across disciplines. In an increasingly interconnected world, they also need to be proficient in the use of ICT tools to manage information, to collaborate and to communicate across disciplines and across borders.
How then can we prepare our students to be lifelong learners and to succeed in the globalised, technology intensive and fast changing 21st century? In preparing for this, many countries have established national frameworks for developing 21st century competencies. I believe there are many common elements across countries. In Singapore, our 21st Century Competency framework is made up of three components. The core of our framework focuses on values that shape our students’ character, beliefs, attitudes and actions. Intertwined with values are social and emotional competencies which help students to manage themselves, develop positive relationships and make responsible decisions. We also need to develop competencies necessary for the globalised world. These include civic literacy, global and cross-cultural awareness, critical and inventive thinking, communication, collaboration and information skills. The values and competencies in our framework are critical to the success of an individual and the society. Hence, they ought to be the foundation of the design of our educational and assessment innovations.Singapore’s Journey in Innovating Assessment for the 21st century
This morning, allow me to share with you Singapore’s journey in innovating assessment. We consider assessment innovative when it adds value to teaching, learning and assessment. In considering how to innovate assessment, we are guided by three principles: one, assessment innovations must be fit for purpose; two, they must be in the best interests of their students and their learning; and three, they must be grounded in sound assessment principles.A) Assessment of Learning: Innovations in National Examinaitons
Let me first share with you some innovations in assessment of learning in our national examinations. There are three landmark assessment events in a student’s life in Singapore - the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) at Grade 6, General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level at Grade 10 and the General Certificate of Education Advanced Level at Grade 12. Over the years, we have regular reviews of curriculum and examinations to ensure that they stay relevant and robust.
National examinations in Singapore today go beyond the mere recall and understanding of knowledge. Our national examinations at all levels require higher order thinking skills such as application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. Communication skills and information skills, which are important 21st century competencies, have also received greater emphasis in the English Language and Mother Tongue Languages. For example, at both primary and secondary levels, oral communication is given a significant weighting in the national examinations.
Coursework assessment has also been introduced in national examinations to allow testing of skills that require planning and research. For example, subjects like Art, Design and Technology, and Food and Nutrition at the secondary level provide students with opportunities to plan, research and execute their projects. Students taking the subject Knowledge and Inquiry at the pre-university level work on an independent research essay over a period of six months. In another subject Project Work, students work in groups and use a variety of skills such as knowledge application, communication, collaboration and independent learning over an extended period. We believe that these skills would give them a firm foundation for future learning and contribute towards future work-life competencies.
To broaden exposure to real-world applications and skill-sets of the 21st century industry and workplace, we have enhanced our curriculum offerings beyond traditional academic subjects. Our schools collaborate with our institutes of higher learning to design Applied Subjects, which place strong emphases on experiential learning, practice-oriented assessment and rigorous coursework. These Applied Subjects have a practical element for students to demonstrate application in real-world problems. For example, in ‘O’ Level Fundamentals of Electronics, candidates carry out an application-specific electronic project, comprising a portfolio work document, project hardware and an evaluation report.
I would like to share with you a student’s experience which illustrates 21st century learning. One of our ‘A’ Level Art students, Edwina Zhao from Nanyang Junior College, demonstrated exceptional interest in fashion design. Inspired by designers like Vera Wang, she decided to design and create a wedding dress and a maternity dress for her ‘A’ Level Art course work. Throughout the process of designing and making the dresses, she experimented with a myriad of crafts and techniques including sewing, knitting, dyeing, screen-printing, Chinese painting, paper-cutting and calligraphy. Edwina shared a flair for injecting modern style and fresh vision, while demonstrating her adeptness in handling traditional crafts. Bringing this fashion project from conceptualisation to fruition has strengthened her resolve to be a fashion designer. The point here is that well designed assessment, even if it is a national examinations, can be valuable for learning, and the key is to design it well.B) Assessment for Learning: Assessment to Enhance Learning
Beyond national examinations, we are expanding our use of assessment to enhance learning or Assessment for Learning. The PERI Holistic Assessment initiative is our assessment innovation to support the holistic development of the child during the formative years of education. Holistic Assessment aims to engage the learner and cater to the learner’s developmental needs through age-appropriate assessments. It balances formative and summative assessment to support the learning and development of the whole child.
The introduction of Holistic Assessment in our primary schools encourages our teachers to make tighter links between curriculum, instruction and assessment and to use assessment to provide feedback to students as well as to inform teaching and learning. Holistic assessment also involves the active participation of our students in assessment. For example, they make use of rubrics to evaluate their own work and the work of their peers. Through this process, our students have developed a greater awareness of their own strengths and weaknesses and how they can improve. They also develop confidence in providing feedback to their peers. ‘Two stars and a wish’ is a technique used to actively involve students in peer assessment. Each student comments on two things that were good about the work of their peers and gives one suggestion for improvement. Xu Jiayi, a Primary 1 Student at Da Qiao Primary School, tells us about her experience using this technique:I like to use “Two Stars and One Wish” when we do group work. My friends read my group’s story and tell me what they like and how we can improve. I can also tell other groups about how they can improve.
Holistic assessment is further supported by holistic reporting to ensure that parents are not just given one single snapshot of the child’s achievement in the form of a grade and a traditional report book. Instead, various aspects of learning are shown through the use of a range of reporting tools, such as a portfolio of the child’s work or a progress card on the child’s growth and development.C) Assessment as Learning: Leveraging ICT in Assessment
In the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Singapore did well in the computer-based assessment of Problem Solving. We were glad that our 15-year-old students excelled in thinking flexibly and creatively to solve complex and unfamiliar problems - a key to 21st century competency. The PISA findings attest to our commitment to bring out the best in every child and affirmed Singapore’s educational emphases to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills. But importantly, it also signalled the advent of ICT-enabled assessments in the international educational consciousness.
A third area of innovation that we have been working on is the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in assessment. Our students today are digital natives - they constantly conceptualise their thoughts and communicate ideas on digital platforms such as Smart phones, Facebook and Twitter. ICT has expanded the opportunities that we can harness for Assessment for Learning in the classroom. We have developed web-based learning portals such as the i-MTL portal for learning the Mother-Tongue Languages and ENABLER for learning the English Language. In addition, schools are also using various open source tools for online learning and teachers are using apps for real-time assessment of learning.
A significant milestone is the introduction of e-examinations in our national examinations. In 2013, the Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board successfully implemented the first e-examinations for one of our Mother Tongue examinations to about 250 students in Grade 11 (‘A’ Level). The e-examination incorporated the use of ICT to enhance the context for authentic application of language skills. We have received positive feedback from teachers and students. In particular, students found composing emails and using editing features were more ‘real-life’ compared to a paper based examination. They also tended to produce a longer writing task compared to the traditional paper-and-pen mode. I will now show you a video clip of this e-examination in Mother Tongue.
Starting this year, we will also be introducing the use of video clips in oral examinations for Mother Tongue to provide more engaging and realistic contexts for conversation. Indeed, our students are exposed to similar video clips within our classrooms through the i-MTL portal that I mentioned earlier, and asked to record their oral responses. These oral responses can then be critiqued by the student himself and by fellow students. ICT allows us to use such bite-sized assessments as a way of aiding learning - Assessment as Learning - for what better way is there to learn languages than to constantly use it, to hear yourself using it, and to be corrected on the spot by yourself or by your peers?
Assessment as Learning could also enable us to better identify talent on an ongoing basis, in a low-stakes way, and weave in additional challenge for these talents as part of their ongoing development.
In short, the possibilities offered by ICT are very exciting. The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board will continue to research on the use of ICT and to explore how the use of ICT can further add value in national examinations and school-based assessment.Building Assessment Literacy
Whatever innovations in assessment, ultimately, the critical success factor is the skills of our teachers. A good teacher can harness and multiply the effects of good assessment. Good teachers can align assessment with the desired outcomes of education and with teaching practices in order to achieve maximum impact. To support teachers in this role, we are committed to raising their assessment literacy through pre-service training and continual in-service professional development. Teachers are given opportunities to participate in workshops and seminars to learn how to use assessment strategies effectively to improve student learning. There are also various networks and learning communities within and across schools to generate professional conversations among educators. The Singapore Examinations and Assessment Board also conducts various assessment-related training workshops. The Board offers a professional qualification in educational assessment, the Specialist Diploma in Educational Assessment. The Specialist diploma equips participating teachers with the knowledge and skills to be effective facilitators and mentors of educational assessment in their schools.Conclusion
While we have been updating our curriculum, teaching and assessment to ensure that they remain relevant and forward looking, we are mindful of two points: first, that we have just made initial steps in our journey towards the integration of 21st century competencies in teaching and the national examinations, and, second, that we need to continually check how well we achieve our objectives.
I would like to use our Primary School Leaving Examination at Grade 6 as an example of how we have tried to do both. The examination has been an important benchmark that was introduced more than 50 years ago. It has been instrumental in bringing us to where we are today in terms of ensuring that our 12-year-olds have a strong foundation in the fundamentals of literacy and numeracy for progression and future learning. Going forward, the Primary School Leaving Examination will continue to be an important milestone examination in the system - to provide the assessment to help each child plan the next step of his education journey that is best for him given his current pace of development, and to enable our teachers and schools to provide the appropriate educational support for each child, so as to bring out the best in every child.
What we will review is the scoring for the Primary School Leaving Examination. This is to support a more holistic education for our students, and to support the ongoing shift of our education system to move beyond a narrow focus on examination grades and academic success, to a broader emphasis on equipping students with the values, attributes, knowledge and skills for work and life in the 21st century. We are keen to learn from others how 21st century skills can be assessed and how we can better use technology to innovate assessment, be it the Assessment for Learning, Assessment of Learning or Assessment as Learning.
This conference has brought together an international fraternity of assessment and examination experts from more than 40 countries, gathered here for five days, to learn and share experiences on challenging issues. I am confident that this conference will engender interesting conversations on assessment innovations and innovations. We look forward to the sharing and learning from you.
I wish all of you a very enriching and fulfilling time at the 2014 IAEA Conference.
I am very pleased to be here to extend my heart-felt congratulations to all the graduands today. I also wish to pay tribute to your families, friends and lecturers who have supported and guided you in your learning journey. This is as much a proud and memorable day for you as it is for them.
This morning, Ngee Ann Polytechnic is graduating about 270 students from two engineering courses - the Diploma in Engineering Science and Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. In today’s innovation-driven world, engineers play an increasingly important role in creating products and services that transform the way we live, work and play. Almost all sectors - from aerospace and biomedical to communication and manufacturing - need engineers. A polytechnic engineering course indeed opens doors to diverse career opportunities. With the training and real-world exposure that you have received, I am sure you can contribute towards sharpening Singapore’s competitive edge in the evolving world.Nurturing Industry Leaders for Tomorrow
Engineering as a discipline is also evolving with time. Today’s engineers need to be more versatile and multi-disciplinary to resolve increasingly complex and challenging issues. To this end, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has constantly reviewed how engineering is taught and provided its engineering students with diverse skillsets as well as opportunities to work on cutting-edge projects with industry partners.
The pioneer cohort of Engineering Science diploma graduates in our midst attests to the polytechnic’s relentless efforts to induct good students into the engineering profession. The Diploma in Engineering Science was launched in 2011 to appeal to individuals who have a very keen interest in both science and technology. The curriculum was designed with the guidance of Nanyang Technological University to equip students with a multi-disciplinary mindset that allows them to tackle engineering issues from different perspectives. Students also engage regularly with professors and researchers from our local universities and undertake final-year projects under the supervision of the universities and research institutions.
Since its inception three years ago, the Diploma in Engineering Science has been successful in recruiting strong candidates. Among the first batch of students is a young lady, Ng Rui Qi. Despite the fact that engineering is not a very popular choice with female students, Rui Qi chose to defy stereotypes and enrolled in an engineering diploma. In fact, she was one out of 10 girls in her cohort of 39 students. Today, Rui Qi has not only successfully completed her diploma, but she is also graduating at the top of her cohort. She has proven that female students can do equally well in the engineering domain, as long as they have the passion and interest. We are encouraged by the likes of Rui Qi who have made engineering their choice, and we hope to see more students take up engineering and become future industry leaders.
To further stimulate interest in engineering, Ngee Ann Polytechnic also offers scholarships specifically for engineering students and a customised development programme to nurture engineering students holistically. This special track includes early exposure to cutting-edge technologies, research and development, and to the industry via local and overseas study trips. I commend Ngee Ann Polytechnic for its efforts in enhancing engineering education and nurturing talented students for the industry.Prospects for polytechnic graduates
Graduands, you will enjoy many exciting opportunities ahead. With the strong foundation and hands-on training that you have acquired, you are ready to hit the ground running. Those of you who are seeking employment will be glad to know that with the positive economic outlook, the market demand for polytechnic graduates is expected to remain strong.
Some polytechnic students get job offers even before completing their diplomas. Among them is Sebastian Cheng Kwok Cheong who is graduating from Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s Aerospace Technology course this week. Sebastian has a Nitec certificate in Aerospace Technology from the Institute of Technical Education. As an Aerospace Technology student in Ngee Ann, Sebastian spent his internship at Pratt & Whitney Canada (South East Asia) and was attached to the Quality Assurance department. I understand Sebastian impressed the company so much that the General Manager personally offered him a position at the company.
I believe that our polytechnic graduates can benefit from joining the industry right after completing their diploma programmes. This will give you much-valued work experience and put your skills and knowledge to a real test.
At the same time, I encourage all of you to continue pursuing your areas of strengths, so that you will keep on developing professionalism and excellence in your career. Some of you would form firmer ideas about your long-term calling after a few years of working. I encourage you to take full advantage of the various opportunities available for further education and training.
Apart from the National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore Management University, and Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Singapore Institute of Technology also offers many degree programmes for those who wish to upgrade after obtaining polytechnic diplomas. There are many Government-funded training options as well, such as the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualifications developed by the Workforce Development Agency in collaboration with various industries.Other pathways to success
Whether you want to go to work, start a venture, further your studies or work first and study again later, the important thing is to give it your all. You will be surprised at how much you can achieve when you really set your mind on something, even if it means taking the route less travelled which may be fraught with greater uncertainty. Stay focused, remain determined and be resilient to ride through the storms and challenges. I encourage you to maintain a positive outlook as you embark on an exciting journey ahead.
Even while you work hard to establish yourselves professionally, I urge you to find the time to give back to society. Material success alone does not make a man or woman. Your heart needs to be in the right place as well. At the same time, do make time for your families and friends because life is definitely more meaningful with the support of your loved ones. I wish you success and happiness ahead.
The Ministry of Education, together with the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science (NUS High School) will host the 4th Singapore International Mathematics Challenge (SIMC) 2014 from 26 to 30 May 2014. SIMC is a biennial team-based mathematical modelling challenge which brings together students between the ages of 14 and 18 from around the globe to apply mathematics creatively to solve problems.
The theme for SIMC, ‘Experior. Expono. Excedo’ (“Experience. Expound. Exceed”) aims to get young talents to engage in their passion for mathematics and spur them to achieve greater heights in the field of mathematics. This year, students all over the world will solve a series of mathematical modelling challenges on land transport crafted by educators and researchers from our partnering organisations. Participants will embark on a learning journey at the Land Transport Authority of Singapore before they are given the challenge question. Started in 2008, the number of participating schools tripled to 60 from 28 countries and regions (Please refer to Annex for participating schools). The new additions this year are schools from Canada, Denmark, India, Laos, Nepal and South Africa. With the highest number of participating countries to date, SIMC 2014 will create opportunities for students and educators to interact with their counterparts from all over the world, paving way for future collaboration in the area of mathematics.
Dr. Imre Leader, Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of Cambridge, will officiate the opening ceremony on 26 May 2014. He is also the Chief Judge for this year’s challenge. Mr. Wong Siew Hoong, Deputy Director-General of Education (Curriculum) at the Ministry of Education, will officiate the closing ceremony on 30 May 2014.
Dr Hang Kim Hoo, Principal of NUS High School and Chairman of the SIMC Organising Committee highlighted the importance of building confidence and skills to in our students to deal with today’s problems where the solutions may not be obvious. He said, “The aim of SIMC is to bring talented young minds in mathematics from all over the world together to pit their skills against one another in solving challenging applied mathematical problems. Six years since its inception, this objective has certainly not lost its relevance and in fact has become more significant than ever before. Our students are living in a more challenging world — a VUCA world — one of Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. In such an environment, students need to have the confidence to deal with problem situations where a solution is not immediately obvious. Hence, through SIMC, we hope to equip our students to solve a wide range of practical, real-life problems using mathematical modelling.”
More details on SIMC 2014 is available online at simc.nushigh.edu.sg.
Speech (in Mandarin) by Mr Heng Swee Keat at the 2014/2015 Chui Huay Lim Club Management Committee Inauguration Ceremony
- Our goal is to bring out the best in every child, in every domain of learning, in every school, at every stage of the learning journey, whatever the starting point.
- We will achieve this by working in partnership with parents and the community.
- Our pioneer generation of educators through their hard work, dedication and perseverance had contributed significantly to the strong fundamentals in our education system today.
- But the future our young will grow up in, will see greater complexities and challenges.
- Our children will need a compass and navigation skills, not a map with well-marked paths.
- A compass so that each child has a sense of direction, a sense of right and wrong, character and values, self-mastery, resilience and perseverance, compassion, empathy, leadership and social skills to work with others, and the heart to contribute to our community and nation.
- Navigation skills so that each child can analyse situations, apply knowledge to solve novel problems, collaborate and work in cross-cultural teams in a globalised information age, imagine and invent new possibilities, and chart their own paths together as one people.
- Student-Centric: Our children will be our key focus, and we will organise our educators and harness our resources to bring out the best in every child.
- Values-Driven: Our children must develop a strong moral compass, forge robust character and acquire deep expertise and competencies to thrive in a fluid and unpredictable future.
- Breadth: Broad in providing opportunities and multiple pathways, in an open and inclusive system, to develop different talents in each child to the fullest. Broad and holistic education, to allow each child to discover their interests and strengths over a wide range of disciplines, and create connections across different domains of knowledge.
- Depth: Deep values and a deep commitment to Singapore and fellow Singaporeans, built on a strong core of values and character. Depth and rigour in the foundation of numeracy and bilingual literacy, in critical and inventive thinking, in communication, collaboration and information skills, and in civic-literacy, global-awareness, and cross-cultural skills.
- Length: Lifelong Learning, with age-appropriate learning at each stage catered to the child’s pace of development. Learning for the long haul of life and not just for exams.
- Beyond academics - to a stronger focus on character, values, and different ways of learning.
- Beyond theory - to a stronger focus on application to solve problems and create new things.
- Beyond qualifications - to a stronger focus on lifelong learning of deep skills and expertise.
- Beyond schools - to a stronger focus on partnerships with parents and the community.
Our children will receive a more holistic education, and will experience:
- Age-appropriate pre-school learning experiences, with Singapore-centric content.
- Closer interactions and guidance from co-form teachers in lower primary years.
- Wider access to Arts, Sports, Games, Outdoor Education and activities in Programme for Active Learning, to discover their interests and talents, and to develop values and socio-emotional skills from a young age.
- Better amenities, such as indoor sports halls, music rooms etc., and well-trained teachers for Physical, Art and Music Education in all our schools.
- Sound Character and Citizenship Education at all levels, with Values-in-Action projects that benefit the schools’ immediate community and deepen our children’s commitment to Singapore and fellow Singaporeans.
- Less emphasis on chasing the last point with changing of PSLE T-score into broader bands of merit, creating time and space for our children to channel their energy towards also developing their other competencies. Open, Inclusive and Diverse Pathways to Provide Opportunities for All
Our children will have opportunities to access a range of diverse pathways, each leading to peaks of excellence, to develop their strengths and interests to their fullest potential whatever their starting point, and find success in their own way.
A child will:
- Choose from a range of secondary schools each providing distinctive educational programmes catering to different strengths and interests.
- The child will come to appreciate how learning in the classroom is applied in real-life, and be interested to learn more, in Applied Learning Programmes.
- The child will develop values and character in our students and strengthen their people and social skills, in Learning for Life Programmes.
- Experience more flexibility in subject offering at lower secondary levels in all our schools, to cater to different strengths in different subjects.
- Choose from more publicly-funded university options, as places are increased from 13,000 to 16,000 by 2020, and graduate with skills sought by industry.
- Develop deep skills relevant to the industry, and take part in research, innovation and enterprise in the polytechnics and ITE, as we continue to enhance applied pathways to better cater to our students’ strengths and interests.
- Choose from a range of secondary schools each providing distinctive educational programmes catering to different strengths and interests.
All Singaporeans will benefit from:
- Increased capacity for continuing education established in close collaboration with the industry, to upgrade their skills and acquire new competencies.
- Stronger educational and career counselling on new career possibilities that makes the best use of their interests, talents and capabilities.
- More productive and engaging learning, via the use of technology, across all our schools and institutes of higher learning.
Our children will have access to these pathways, whatever their starting point:
- A strong start for every child, including children from less advantaged families, through quality kindergarten curriculum resources refined in MOE’s affordable pilot kindergartens, and better quality pre-school programmes across the sector.
- A child who has fallen behind will benefit from support in the form of levelling-up programmes that ensure a strong foundation in literacy and numeracy skills.
- A child who can benefit from a structured and supportive environment in after school care, particularly where parents are both working, will benefit from a further expansion in Student Care Centres and places in our primary schools, and from the programmes that these centres offer in collaboration with VWOs and SHGs.
- A child with financial difficulties will continue to be supported in all our institutions.
- Our students with special education needs will also receive more support as we work with other agencies and the community to step up efforts to diagnose special education needs early, and provide support through school-based programmes, specialised services, SPED schools, and programmes in collaboration with employers to smoothen the transition from school to work for SPED students.
Our teachers are our nation builders, as they are instrumental in educating our next generation.
- We will recognise good teachers, through a more robust career architecture and talent management framework.
- We will strengthen teacher training and on-going professional development, infusing the latest local and international research findings where relevant via AST and NIE.
Parents remain our most important partners.
- We are grateful to parents who participate proactively in enhancing the schools experience for theirs and others’ children e.g. through Parent Support Groups.
- We will continue to engage parents to support our schools to benefit our children.
The community provides an authentic environment for learning beyond the classroom.
- We will collaborate with the community in Applied Learning Programmes and Learning for Life Programmes, aesthetics, sports and service learning activities.
- As part of our Values-in-Action programme, our schools will serve the needs of the community they are in, and the community can provide authentic learning experiences for our students and see our schools as valuable assets of the community.
- With rigorous programmes, dedicated teachers and committed partners, we are confident we can Bring Out the Best in Every Child - and provide every child with a compass and the skills to navigate the challenges of tomorrow.
Graduation Address by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the Singapore Polytechnic 54th Graduation Ceremony and 60th Anniversary Launch Event 2014
I am very happy to be with you here this morning. Thank you for inviting me to join you on this big day. My heartiest congratulations to all graduands from the Diploma in Aeronautical Engineering and Diploma in Mechatronics and Robotics. To families, friends, and faculty members - our graduands would not be here today without your support, and as such I would also like to congratulate all of you.Learning the Intangibles
Our students are graduating at a good time. The economy is growing, more jobs are being created - in fact more jobs than we have graduates for. Earlier on, your Principal, Mr Tan Choon Shian, mentioned that this is also Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) 60th anniversary. Today, SP has grown in terms of intake, quality of the facilities and the quality of education. More importantly, for 60 years, our graduates have been able to get good jobs and to go on to build their careers, form their families, and lead meaningful lives. When you think about it, it is a remarkable achievement - that we have been able to do this year after year for 60 years. We only have to contrast it with many cases in which young students graduate from the polytechnics and the universities, and could not find jobs - and there are many such young people now all over the world. I hope we will make the best use of this opportunity and we will continue to be able to do this.
Before you collect your diplomas, allow me to offer one last tip. There is no test after this tip. I hope you can put this into practice so that you may better ace the test of life.
In the last few years, you have been getting your hands-on experience with nuts and bolts, and bits and bytes, so allow me to say something that you cannot lay your hands on - the intangible qualities.
In the course of my work over the years, I have interviewed many students, prospective employers and also staff. I hope to share with you my impression of the intangible qualities that allow many of them to excel. You cannot touch them, you cannot buy them off a shelf, and you cannot find any school offering a whole package of intangibles for you.
Yet, the opportunities to learn, and live, the intangibles are all around you, throughout your lifetime. You know when you meet someone who has the intangibles. How is that so? In a room full of staff, the one who excels is one who:
- Can apply the same knowledge in a different way, because he understands what is impactful, and what makes a difference.
- Keeps learning new things and growing his knowledge.
- In a world of continual change has a strong foundation of knowledge and values, as well as strong character traits like dedication and industriousness.
In other words, the intangibles are what make up the star employee or entrepreneur. These are the people that the team admires, and are the kind of person that family and friends want to be around.
Where can you learn these intangible? Anywhere. Traditionally, we associate learning with a classroom. Learning the intangibles happens anytime, anywhere. Anyone can be your teacher.
Upon graduation, I hope you do not think that learning ends. I am very excited to hear your Principal speak about inspired learners, serving with mastery as well as a caring community. The polytechnic can provide as great a learning environment as possible for everyone who enters its doors. Indeed, learning and work are not two separate parts of life. To learn as you work and work as you learn is one of the most crucial intangibles you can have.
The world is your classroom. Your life is your class time. The only entrance exam you have to take to get into this classroom is quite simple. It is a test of attitude. Be humble that you can learn from anyone, even a child, someone who did not have as much schooling as us or someone who holds opposite beliefs from us. Be engaged and seek out opportunities to learn. Do not let learning moments go past. Be committed, and make this is a lifelong endeavour.
Let me share a story of someone I had met many years ago - a police inspector who was then in his 50s. He asked a simple question, which was the difference between someone who has been working for 10 years and someone who has 10 years of working experience. His answer was that the one who has been working 10 years does the same thing on a daily basis such that it has become routine and mechanical. The one who has 10 years of experience is someone who makes everyday a learning experience. I asked him if that meant that we should switch jobs every day, and the answer was no. He shared that he had to patrol the streets when he was younger and was a junior police officer. While we associate patrolling the streets as something exciting, he shared that it could get quite boring most of the time. As such, if he was not occupied with something, he would conjure interesting scenarios, and would ask himself how he would have solved it. Very often, he found that he did not know how to handle the situation, and he would ask his seniors how they would handle such situations if they were to encounter them. As a result, he became a very successful instructor at the Police Academy as he was able to answer a variety of difficult questions and scenarios. I hope that this intangible, this ability to take ownership of our own learning, and never stop learning will be a key part of our lives.
Learning the Intangibles in the Polytechnic
Indeed, the strength of the Polytechnic education is that you have already begun the “work as you learn, learn as you work” journey. Polytechnic students are well-placed to learn the intangibles through meaningful internships and applied learning. I hope that you will carry this forward as you enter the next stage of your work-learn-learn-work. This will be one clear Intangible that allows our polytechnic students to stand out. Develop many different strands of knowledge and experience, and try to bring them all to bear on each and every piece of work that you do.
We have a very good example among our polytechnic students - Indra Faridzuan Bin Runzi. As a third-year student in Landscape Architecture, Indra did an internship with Tierra Design, a multi-disciplinary design firm. During internship, Indra made full use of many development opportunities such as presentations for clients, work on technical drawings for submissions, and site visits to help check on the maintenance of projects. Tierra Design found Indra to be exemplary, and have invited him back to the firm for a full-time job. He will start after completing his National Service.
As I look at your faces today, I am excited for your future. I hope you, too, are happy with your choices and time in SP. Many other students will follow in your footsteps. They will face the same questions and challenges that you have. We can do more to help them make their choices based on a good understanding of their own strengths and interests, and the opportunities available for you to succeed.
Every student must be enabled to make the most informed education and career choices. MOE commissioned the Applied Study in Polytechnics and ITE Review (ASPIRE) last year, which is chaired by Senior Minister of State, Ms Indranee Rajah. ASPIRE is looking into how to better help every student achieve his or her aspirations - first, by helping students choose well in their studies and their work. Second, by supporting all students well through their studies.
Involve, Invest, Include
I’ve spoken about learning the Intangibles to help you excel. The ultimate purpose is to Involve, Invest in, and Include:
Involve those around you in your lifelong learning journey, so that they too may grow.
As you grow more mature and secure in your work, Invest your experience and insights in other people and create opportunities for them like those that you have enjoyed, so that they too may be able to reach their potential.
Include all, especially those who have not enjoyed the same opportunities you have, in the fruits of your success.
Here again, we have a very good example of a polytechnic student - Divesh s/o Singaraju. When Divesh was about to commence his studies at Singapore Polytechnic, he suffered a cancer relapse and had to delay his course in Aeronautical Engineering by a year. In spite of his condition, Divesh persevered and challenged himself to get the best out of his polytechnic education. Today, Divesh is graduating with a perfect GPA, and he has multiple offers to continue his studies in engineering. Most impressively, Divesh co-founded Youth Comm, a cancer support group for youths that helps to strengthen their resolve as they undergo treatment. Divesh started Involving, Including, and more importantly Inspiring even before he graduated. This speaks well of what you will go on to achieve. Well done, Divesh.SP’s 60th Anniversary
SP is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year and you should be proud to be graduating from Singapore’s first Polytechnic. Over 60 years, almost 180,000 graduates have gone through the SP experience. SP has pioneered many landmark developments, including restructuring our diploma curricula and setting up the Industrial Training Programme in the 1970s. It was the first polytechnic to run Accountancy, Engineering and Maritime courses in Singapore to develop skilled manpower in those sectors. SP has partnered industry in innovation and development, which provided students with real-world learning opportunities. Many prominent industry leaders spent their formative years in Singapore Polytechnic, including Mr Bill Chang, CEO Group ICT of SingTel, who has now returned to serve as Chairman of the Singapore Polytechnic Board of Governors.
Today, SP graduates are practice-oriented and knowledgeable, ready to seize good opportunities to achieve their aspirations. I would like to offer my congratulations to SP - to your Board of Governors, your Principal and the faculty members, as well as to the many pioneers who have, over the years, grown SP into what it is today. You have prepared hundreds of thousands of young Singaporeans to add their own stories of success to the Singapore story.
The 60th anniversary theme of “First Poly, Future Ready” is apt. I am happy to hear your Principal and CEO say SP’s new mission and I hope that you continue to build on your legacy, continue to reinvent yourself, and to stay relevant.Closing Remarks
In closing, to all our graduands, as you step out today with a diploma, bear in mind that you are carrying a piece of history. Your achievements up to today reflect the history of SP. Your achievements from today will make the future of SP. Make your alma mater proud, and the coming 60 years for SP even more outstanding.
Once again, congratulations to Singapore Polytechnic on this joyous occasion, and to all our graduands on your big day. I wish you success, happiness, and many intangibles.