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Speech by The Guest-of-Honour, Ms Indranee Rajah at the Opening Session of The Graduation Ceremony of Ngee Ann Polytechnic
Mr Chia just now welcomed me, thanked me for having me here, and said that it was a privilege to have me. Actually, it is the other way round. I am very privileged to be here, and I am absolutely delighted to share this occasion with you. The reason for that is because for those who are graduating, today really marks the first day of the rest of your lives. It is a new chapter for you; it is a new beginning — and that is very exciting. It marks the end of a long journey that you have made, and it is the beginning of the new journey that you are going to make, and I think that will be a wonderfully exciting journey for you. Just being here, and being able to share in that is something which is a great privilege for me. Today is also an occasion to celebrate your hard work and your achievements. However, behind every graduand today are also his or her parents, loved ones, lecturers, and all of those who have provided invaluable support and guidance. It is therefore an equally fitting opportunity to pay tribute to all of those who have brought the graduands to the point where they are today.Reflections from polytechnic visits Industry-Focused, Practice-Oriented and Student-Centered
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong described our polytechnics as a ‘jewel’ in our education system in his address at your 50th Anniversary Celebration Dinner two weeks ago. I agree with him and have witnessed this myself. I had the privilege to visit Nanyang Polytechnic and Republic Polytechnic earlier this year. I was very impressed by the excellent learning experiences our polytechnics provide for students, in developing them holistically and providing cutting-edge and industry-relevant training.
Our polytechnics are designed with all the necessary facilities to provide authentic learning environments for applied learning. I recall visiting a fully-equipped Operating Theatre Suite at Nanyang Polytechnic, complete with a ‘smart’ mannequin. This ‘smart’ mannequin was able to respond to the treatment that it was given, and show students the medical consequences of their actions. I am told that Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s School of Health Sciences also has this as well as a lot of other state-of-the-art equipment, to simulate real-world workplaces and the latest technology. All of these allow our polytechnics to deliver strong practice-oriented training to produce graduates who are well received by the industry. That is very important because industry requires certain things of you. It requires skills, it requires you to have a sense of the industry, and it requires you to be practical and practice-oriented. Your polytechnics prepare you for this, and that is why they work so closely with the industry-partners to make sure that you are ready for work when you go out into the world.
Beyond hardware, I was also very much encouraged to hear about the different strategies and programmes that our polytechnics have to provide the best learning for students. For example, Republic Polytechnic has adopted the Problem-Based Learning pedagogy, where course lecturers design lessons for students to develop problem-solving skills and confidence, specially customising them to students’ learning needs. Similarly, I am heartened to note that “Learning Design and Delivery” is the first thrust of Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s 4th Strategic Plan, which will guide the polytechnic in the next ten years. As our polytechnics combine excellent facilities with effective teaching methods, students can be assured of a high quality polytechnic education.Outstanding students, driven to achieve their aspirations
What I enjoy most from my visits to the polytechnics is the opportunity to speak to students and hear them share candidly about their experiences in polytechnic and most importantly, their future aspirations. I learnt from them that polytechnic students are very busy, which I am sure the students and parents here will agree. Beyond the rigorous demands of your courses, many of you are also involved in various Co-Curricular Activities, overseas experiences, work attachments and internships, and a whole host of other programmes that are intended to help you develop holistically and maximise your fullest potential. From the polytechnic students I have spoken to, I was very impressed by their strong drive and aspirations — clear about what they hoped to achieve, and they are passionate individuals with strong study and work ethic to pursue their aspirations.Design for a Sustainable Future
Today, as you graduate from the School of Design and Environment today, I’d like to share how important design is for a sustainable future. When Ngee Ann Polytechnic first proposed its programme in Sustainable Urban Design & Engineering back in 2009, the intention was to provide students with more than the usual civil or environmental engineering training. The programme would also focus on sustainability, which has now become integral to urban design.
“Discover love anew on a scenic journey to Singapore, following in the footsteps of Taiwanese actress Ariel Lin Yichen, whose romance is rekindled as she explores tourist sights from Gardens by the Bay to Marina Bay Sands” — I quote a Straits Times article last week on the Singapore Tourism Board’s efforts to attract more Chinese tourists. Indeed, the Marina Bay skyline has changed tremendously in the last five years. This would not have been possible without good design.
Through design, not only is the Marina Bay precinct a sight to behold, it includes many environmentally responsible and resource efficient building features, such as eco-friendly buildings that promote energy and water savings, and healthier indoor environments, the common services tunnel to best accommodate the water, electricity and telecommunication services to all the buildings in the area, and URA’s regulation of sky-rise greenery to lower the urban heat island effect and reduce the demand for air-conditioning.
Those of you who have visited Gardens by the Bay will know that there is the temperate climate control area. When I visited, I asked them “This surely cannot be very eco-friendly. Aren’t you using a lot of fuel in order to keep this place air-conditioned, or at the temperature that the plants would be able to thrive?” I learnt to my surprise that they do not use oil for that. What they do is they are leaves which are collected all over Singapore. The leaves are then delivered to them, at the Gardens by the Bay, and those leaves are then burnt to provide the energy of the climate control area. You can see that it is an eco-friendly design and quite consistent with that idea of greenery and nature. This is where the importance of design in urban development really is — not for aesthetics alone, but for a sustainable future, which will become even more critical to maintain our quality of life as Singapore becomes more developed and urbanised.
To the 31 of you from the pioneer batch of the Diploma in Sustainable Urban Design & Engineering, not only am I confident that you will find that Ngee Ann Polytechnic has trained you to become a new class of urban designers and engineers, your role in building a sustainable future for Singapore is critical and increasingly so, as we move towards the vision of our urban landscape as a City in a Garden . You will be part of the group of people who will be designing our future. That is a very important role as the future of our children, and the city that they live in, the environment that they will be able to live in is in your hands.
Likewise for the rest of the graduands from the School of Design and Environment today, Ngee Ann Polytechnic has equipped you with multidisciplinary skills of creative art design technology and business; managing people and technology in facilities management; and, real estate management as well as business, law, marketing and technology. I hope that you will combine all of what you have learnt with your passion; that you will inject fresh and innovative ideas into your respective industries. The best thing about being young is that you are not constrained by old ideas. You have plenty of fresh new ideas, and your own creativity, your own thoughts. This is what you bring to your industry — that freshness, and the different way of looking at life — and then combining it with the experience of your employers and those who have gone before you, producing something totally new and exciting. This is what lies ahead of you, and I hope that you will make the most of it. At the same time, with continual learning, hard work and perseverance, I have no doubt that each of you will develop professionally and personally, and carve out successful careers for yourselves.Graduates with a heart
But even as we can build a prosperous and sustainable urban Singapore, it will be pointless if the people it houses are cold, selfish and self-centered. What defines our society and home eventually will not be what we have materially achieved, but by our personal bonds with each other, our sense of belonging to Singapore, and the identity that we have as we stand for together as nation. As such, I believe what defines us as individuals should not be our material success, but rather our families and friends, and the values we stand for, and the type of people we are. Much has already been said about values in education. I hope that those of you graduating today are not only graduating with proficient skills but with a heart, and as Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s alumni, carry forward its core values of respect, resilience, responsibility, integrity, compassion, gratitude and humility.Giving back to the community
The values of compassion and gratitude were exemplified in Ngee Ann Polytechnic’s own anniversary celebrations recently. Ngee Ann Polytechnic anchored the celebrations on the two goals of raising $1 million to support charitable causes between 2010 and 2013, and the staff led by example in dedicating 1000 man-days per year to serve community groups. This was highly commendable. Many of you here were also involved in the various community service events organised by your school during this period and I trust you found this meaningful and worthwhile.
I am also heartened to hear that many of you have demonstrated a heart for serving the community beyond programmes organised by your institution. Your course-mate and gold medallist for the Diploma in Product Design and Innovation, Soo Woei Perng, has been an active volunteer at Willing Hearts where he helps to cook and pack food for the needy. Along with his friends from Ngee Ann’s Rotaract Club, they have inspired many of their club members to serve at the welfare organisation.
Another example is Clarissa Sih from the Diploma in Mass Communication and Jeanette Yeo from the Diploma in Psychology and Community Services. They teamed up to organise Hair for Hope, a hair-shaving charity event in 2012 and 2013. This year, they succeeded in raising more than $6,000 for the Children’s Cancer Foundation. Both Clarissa and Jeanette walked the talk by sacrificing their own hair for this worthy cause. Contributing to the community is very important. If you think about it, your polytechnic would not be here today but for the fact that a long time ago, the Ngee Ann Kongsi came together and decided that they wanted to do something for the community, and it is on the fact of that kind of philosophy that your polytechnic is born. The opportunities that you have today actually originate from the fact that that group of men and women came together and wanted to do something for the community. They would have had no idea at the time that they did it, the kind of long-reaching, far-reaching consequences that idea could have. But they set it in motion, and that , today, has brought you to this point. Remember that when you go out later in life and you do something for the community; you have no idea what it will bring in five, ten, maybe hundred years down the line, provided you do something good.Employing your training for social causes
Beyond volunteerism, I would like to challenge you to consider how you can make use of your training in your respective fields for social causes.
For example, three graduates from the Diploma in Business and Social Enterprise course, Joseph Tan Song Jie, Tan Jia Hui and Grace Goh have set up 8 Fahrenheit , an ice cream social enterprise whose mission is to provide job opportunities for students from financially challenged backgrounds. Business commenced last month at OurSpace@Blk 72 in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, and they aim to extend their business to cater to corporate events, weddings and parties. I am glad that these co-founders see fulfilment in using their skills, knowledge and talent to run businesses with a social objective and I hope many more of you will follow in their footsteps.
You are the youth of today who will shape our society of tomorrow. It is my hope that even as you graduate today, you will always find the time to serve the community and the less fortunate around you. All of you play a key part in building the gracious and compassionate society that we want Singapore to be.Conclusion
To the class of 2013, your graduation ceremony today does not mark the end of your learning. On the contrary, it marks the beginning of the rest of your life-long journey in learning. Your workplace will present you with many more real-life learning opportunities. Occasionally, you will hit a wall or stumble over some obstacles. That is a given — nobody’s path is ever completely smooth. What makes a difference is those who are able to overcome the obstacles and challenges in their path. I encourage you to stay confident, focused and strong in the face of challenges. Do keep a positive outlook, uphold your can-do spirit, support each other and I urge you to seize every opportunity to learn and grow, while staying rooted to your values, and contribute back to our community.
Congratulations once again to all of you, and I wish you all the best in your endeavours, happiness and success in the years ahead.
Thank you very much.
Let me first extend my heartiest congratulations to all graduands from the Diplomas in Hospitality & Tourism Management and Culinary & Catering Management as well as award recipients.
Today, we come together to recognize and celebrate the successful completion of your studies at Temasek Polytechnic.
I am especially glad that many proud parents are here this morning, to witness this significant milestone in their children’s learning journey. Their success in this education journey owes much to your unwavering support.
Our graduands are receiving a well-recognised qualification that opens up rewarding career opportunities and provides a strong foundation for lifelong learning.Good Qualification Alone is not Enough
Over the last two years, I have had many discussions with different groups of students, including those who took part in the Singapore Conversation. I am always heartened by their aspirations and energy. When our young people have a good future, we as parents feel relieved that we have discharged our duties. I am also often touched by many young people who appreciate the sacrifices of their parents and want a better career so that they can provide a better life for them. This is an important value in our society which we must uphold and protect. Whether as parents or as students, many participants in our Singapore Conversation express the hope that Singapore will remain a nation of hope and opportunities. Indeed, our people, including our young, have ideas and ambition, and we must continue to create opportunities for everyone, young or old.
Let me also share with you that many students were surprised when I tell them that having a good qualification alone does not guarantee them a good career, and or even a job. Why, you may ask. There are several reasons.
The first, and most obvious reason, is that if an economy is not growing, or even shrinking, we are likely to see more graduands looking for jobs than there are jobs available. To provide employment, the economy must grow. Today, many economies in Europe are stagnating, and as a result, overall unemployment is high. And unemployment is especially high among the young. This is very worrying because these young men and women do not have the opportunity to put their learning into practice, and to continue to acquire skills. Researchers have shown that when this golden period of learning is lost, many young people find it hard to recover. For this reason, many leaders in the West are concerned about a lost generation.
The second reason why a good qualification may not guarantee a job is due to a mismatch of skills and expectations. For example, a student may be trained in hospitality management or culinary skills, but if the job vacancies are in the manufacturing rather than the tourism sector, the student is not likely to find a right match. Or if a job applicant expects better wages or working conditions than what the employer can currently afford, the vacancy will be unfilled.
The third, and increasingly common reason is that while a graduand may start with a job, the job disappears after a few years. Your generation is a generation of digital natives — you download music, video and e-books. Not surprisingly, around the world, many stores selling books, CDs and DVDs are closing, and many related jobs are lost.
Many of you are joining the hospitality and culinary industry. I recently had a discussion with the owner of a restaurant chain in Singapore. He has found robots, made in China, which can be programmed to cook dishes! Depending on the model, some can cook 400 dishes, while the better ones can cook a thousand dishes! Our challenge is this: would we Singaporeans be the ones to invent new recipes and programme the robots, or would we will be the ones to be made redundant by the robots?
For these three reasons, good qualifications alone are not enough. So what else do we need?
First and foremost, we have to keep our economy competitive so that businesses will continue to invest in Singapore and create good jobs. I spent many years working in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and in the Monetary Authority of Singapore. Believe me, keeping our economy competitive and productive, so that we can create good opportunities for our people, is not an easy task. We need to get many things right. We can spend many days or years discussing just this one topic, and there are books and courses that take professors years to write, and yet the world has not found a magic answer. But allow me to just say this: we have a happy situation today in Singapore where we have more jobs than graduands — with this shortage, we need to import workers. But we must never take this full employment situation for granted. Many economies around the world are facing crises and rising unemployment, and if we are not careful, we can find ourselves in difficulty too. It is important we understand and value the importance of growth, competitiveness and productivity.
Second, we need to ensure that our post secondary qualifications are aligned with industry demands. This is where our polytechnic system stands out — by being industry-focused and practice-oriented, and by keeping pace with evolving technologies and markets, our graduands are in high demand. Today, nine out of ten polytechnic graduates entering the workforce find employment within 6 months of graduation with good salaries.
The strong nexus between education and industry is well illustrated by the hospitality and culinary sectors. Our Ministry of Trade and Industry estimates Singapore’s 2013 visitor arrival at about 15.5 million, with tourism revenue of about $24 billion. Both of these are higher than last year’s. New tourist attractions and activities such as the F1 race, and sporting events such as the WTA Tennis Final will add to the buzz, and will continue to keep the sector vibrant.
The third thing we need to do right to have a successful career is to embark on lifelong learning. I am heartened by the drive of Singaporeans to learn and improve.
The Government is committed to helping Singaporeans in this journey of lifelong learning. We are investing more in our schools, and at all levels of post secondary education — at ITE, the polytechnics and the universities. More upgrading opportunities will be available for polytechnic graduates in the form of Specialist and Advanced Diplomas. We are on track to providing more applied degree pathways at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT) and the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM) University. Since 2011, the Government has also raised subsidy levels for Singapore Citizens taking part-time degree programmes offered by SIM University from 40% to 55%.
As we provide more upgrading opportunities, let me also caution that we should not construe learning narrowly. We must be a nation of learners and doers, and not a nation of bookworms and paper-chasers. What matters at the end of the day are deep skills and expertise, and excellent performance on the job. If we have the interest and passion in what we are pursuing, we will learn continually, we will improve continually, we will put in our best, and we will excel. If we regard education as merely a paper chase, we will be throwing away our books and notes once we get the qualification, and we will stop learning. By contrast, if we have a love for learning, we get to learn a lot on the job. This is why many polytechnic students told me they value their industry attachment, and why it is so important for our lecturers to keep their links with the industry.
Today, our education system has many more pathways — many more bridges and ladders — in fact, significantly more, than when your parents or I were students. I urge all of you to make full use of this diversity of pathways, ranging from science and technology to services and the arts. Take your time to build deep skills in areas that you are passionate about and pursue excellence beyond just academic or financial achievements.Values and Character Ground Us
So far, I have spoken on knowledge, skills and employment. But a good education must go beyond these. A good education must bring out the best in us — nurture good character and values such as care, integrity, resilience, respect, responsibility, and harmony. Good values enable us to succeed as individuals, and allow us to contribute to our community.
I am therefore pleased that Temasek Polytechnic has a strong focus on developing students holistically, in leadership and character. You produce many students who are outstanding not just in their studies, but in how they serve others.
For instance, Sarah Yang, an avid sportsgirl, decided to take a shot at the triathlon team. With discipline and hard work, Sarah became one of the fastest triathletes in the team, and was eventually made captain, winning numerous team and individual medals along the way.
But more than this, Sarah has a heart for people. Besides volunteering with the Institute of Mental Health, she also went on an overseas expedition to Dujiangyan in Sichuan, China, as part of a team that taught English to earthquake victims.
Another of your fellow graduands, Jarron Tham, went to Cambodia in his second year. With his Star Wars-inspired hairstyle, Jarron worked with artisans affected by landmines to design jewellery made with unexploded ordnance, to support sustainability projects in the local community. In his third year, Jarron returned to Cambodia for a series of meetings with prosthetics companies as part of his major project, Hands That Speak, which aims to boost the self-esteem of children by improving the functionality of prosthetic limbs.
Both Sarah and Jarron are good role models for young Singaporeans.Building a Cohesive Society — Leaving No One Behind
Besides hope and opportunity, one other key themes that emerge from Our Singapore Conversation is for Singapore to be a more gracious and cohesive society, a society that provides second chances. I am happy to share a story of how one TP graduand turned his life around.
When Ang Yong Yi was in school, he was regularly engaged in fights and other delinquent activities, and eventually ended up in prison. There, he underwent a transformation — from failing the ‘N’-Level exams, Yong Yi studied and sat for his ‘O’-Levels while in prison and did well enough to get into Temasek Polytechnic. After three more years of hard work, Yong Yi is graduating today with a Diploma in Culinary & Catering Management. I am happy to learn that he just got married three weeks ago. I am sure all those how played a role in this change are delighted with the transformation. Congratulations!Conclusion
In closing, let me summarise my key points. A good qualification is important but alone does not guarantee a good career. To succeed, our economy must grow, our economy must stay competitive and productive, our skills must be relevant and to keep that relevance, we must engage in lifelong learning. As an analogy, we must learn, as technology evolves and the global economy changes, to be the ones to invent and programme the robots, not the ones to be displaced, if we are to have fulfilling careers.
But a good education goes beyond jobs. A good education should bring out the best in us, to allow us to be the best we can be, and to make a difference to our friends, families and nation.
To our graduands, you have an exciting future ahead. My hope is to see you grow into accomplished young adults, whose success is defined not just by grades, status or wealth, but by your pride in doing something meaningful, something that you believe in. I also hope that you will become young adults with a heart for Singapore and other Singaporeans — in other words, Singaporeans with a Singaporean heartbeat. Together, we can continue to create hope and opportunity for others who come after us. I wish you all the best for the future.
Thank you and congratulations once again.
I am delighted to be here today at InnovFest 2013. This conference stands as an important platform for the promotion of innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as an opportunity for networking amongst the brightest minds in academia and industry.
In my capacity at the Ministry of Law and Ministry of Education, I see firsthand how important innovation, technology commercialization, and enterprise are to Singapore. In an age where economic performance is driven largely by knowledge and innovation, governments are increasingly attentive to the development, protection and application of intellectual property.
Since 2010, East Asia has filed more patent applications than either North America or Western Europe under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT). To capitalize on the increase in intellectual property activity, as Dr. Chan mentioned, the Singapore government has recently announced plans to develop the country into an IP Hub. It is our hope that Singapore will become established as a critical location within the region for not only the transaction and management of intellectual property, but also quality IP filings and dispute resolution.
Our strategy for doing so will focus on two key components: the development of skilled IP professionals and the development of a thriving IP environment. NUS and Singapore’s other IHLs will play a key locus in this hub. Universities are the source of many technological advances that will benefit society, additionally playing a critical role in the fostering of critical inquiry, creativity and innovation.
Local universities also represent a prime area for the education of future IP professionals as well as the undertaking of research that demonstrates thought leadership in the field. The InnovFest Conference itself stands as a good example of the latter- bringing together experts in IP and researchers to network, discuss, and learn from each other.
According to a study by MIT-Skoltech, NUS recently was ranked amongst the top ten universities that “created/ supported the world’s most successful technology innovation ecosystems”,. I am sure that this achievement is in part due to some of the initiatives of NUS Enterprise, which over the past ten years has worked hard to institute a thriving entrepreneurial environment that supports researchers, faculty and students at all stages of the innovation spectrum- from the development of a new idea, to the incubation of a new venture, to the commercialization of technology.
One example of how NUS Enterprise’s work in supporting innovation has paid off is Clearbridge BioMedics, which spun off from NUS in 2009, to commercialise a technology that is able to detect, isolate and retrieve circulating tumour cells from a patient’s blood sample. The company has since brought this technology to market, by launching its product in 2012 for the research market, and now is developing next generation product for clinical applications. This is an excellent example of how a technology that began its life in a University lab is realizing its potential to save human lives.
Another promising start-up company that has emerged from NUS’ entrepreneurial environment is PatSnap. This company was founded by entrepreneur Jeffrey Tiong, an NUS Overseas Colleges alumnus who had his entrepreneurial spark ignited while interning in a Philadelphia start-up. Set up in 2007, Patsnap has since expanded into China. Patsnap’s patent search and analytic software will certainly be relevant to the IP efforts of many of you in today’s audience.
MOE supports the increased efforts made by IHLs to increase technology development and commercialization, and has provided resources to encourage technology transfer, optimise commercialization potential and enhance the vibrancy of the IHL I&E culture. For NUS, the increased resourcing will support new programmes that benefit both faculty and students. They will help NUS faculty identify commercialisation potential of their inventions and assist them in bringing these technologies to the market. Other programmes will benefit students by exposing them to greater innovation and entrepreneurship-related opportunities.
At the intersection of practice and academia, events like InnovFest will also help to contribute to Singapore’s development as an IP and enterprise leader. In closing, I wish you all a fruitful conference and hope that you enjoy the next two days.
The MOE Kindergartens are pilot kindergartens. Our aim is to provide good and affordable kindergarten education, and enable us to develop teaching and learning resources and best practices to enhance the children’s learning.
We have sited the MOE Kindergartens in HDB estates, to better reach out to children in these areas. The specific locations are based on various factors, such as the profile of the neighbourhood and the infrastructure capacity of the schools. Together, they provide a broad range of conditions, useful for our pilot.
For the next ten pilot MOE Kindergartens that will be set up over the next few years, we will determine their locations after a further study.