Speech by Minister Heng Swee Keat on 29 Aug 2013

heng-swee-keat-640-511203-dataSpeech by Mr Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Education, at the National Young Leaders’ Day at the Kallang Theatre on Thursday, 29 August 2013 at 1.40pm

Mr Lim Soon Hock
Chairman, Halogen Foundation Singapore

Mr Martin Tan
Co-Founder and Executive Director of Halogen Foundation Singapore

Distinguished Guests

Educators and Young Leaders

1. A very good afternoon to all of you. I take great pleasure in joining you in today’s edition of the National Young Leaders’ Day for students from secondary schools and tertiary institutions. It is exciting to see more than a thousand of our young leaders gathered here this afternoon.

Youths with a Heart

2. Today’s event is exciting and heartening because it is clear that you understand that education is not just about lessons, homework or exams which are important. Education is also about being inspired to become more than what we are today and to achieve more than we think we can.

3. For many of us who are from another generation, school was one of the few places where we could gain knowledge. It is different today. Today, if you want to find out more about a particular issue or topic, you can easily search for it on the Internet. But if the only purpose of having all that knowledge is to do well in exams, you will probably not find your school experience very enjoyable or meaningful. You will often find that new learning makes sense when you can relate it to your life experiences, and put it into action in real world contexts. You will often find learning most purposeful when you apply your knowledge, skills and values to make a difference to others. That is the kind of learning experience that we aim to provide you through values in action.

4. My hope is that you see school as a place where you excel not just in the academics enabling you to compete with the rest of the world, but also where you learn to develop a heart that feels for others and burns with a fire to want to make a difference. That is how I see our schools develop our young people.

Youths as Leaders

5. Schools will also give you many opportunities to learn to become leaders. Leadership is not about the person, but about the influence that one has over others. It is about inspiring others to change for the better. It is also about inspiring yourself to change for the better. Leadership is not limited by age, gender, race, geography, culture or religion. It is about the difference that we can make for the people around us, such as our families, friends, community, nation and the world.

6. As our country grows and matures, we need young people like you to realise that you have the potential to become a great leader who can effect positive change in our society. We need young leaders who will contribute to make society a better place for all.

Working Together for Our Singapore Society

7. How we see our country will determine how we each can play our part. If we see Singapore as a stepping stone to achieving something greater elsewhere, then it will not be a country that we will fight for. But if you see Singapore as your home and made up of people of different backgrounds who care for each other, then I have no doubt that you will do your part for society.

8. That is the kind of student ownership of Singapore which we aim to foster through values in action. Schools provide you with meaningful opportunities to work with others to bring about community improvement. In doing so, you are helping to make Singapore a better home for all, in your own ways. Such experiences inspire others to support your cause, and make you a more influential leader.

9. Prime Minister Lee in his National Day Rally speech this year encouraged youths such as you to build a better world and a better Singapore. He said, “You are our future. You are idealistic, full of energy and passion. Go forth, change Singapore, change the world, for the better.”

10. What Singapore will be like in the future, is what we choose to make it to be. It will require young people like you to exercise your leadership abilities to effect those changes.

11. The recently announced Volunteer Youth Corps is another programme that will provide our passionate youths with the necessary support as they engage in community work. So I encourage you to tap on all these available programmes, to pursue your passion in making a change.

Celebrating Leadership

12. I congratulate Halogen Foundation on its 10th anniversary this year and commend it on its good work in helping to nurture our young leaders. I am pleased that Halogen will be launching the inaugural National Young Leader Award today to recognise young leaders who exemplify character, resilience, drive and leadership. This award aims to affirm young leaders who are involved, engaged and have conviction and courage in the things that they do.

13. To this end, I am proud of the five finalists that have been shortlisted — Chia Yee Shin, Loh Jun Jie Nathaniel, Lye Zheng Bin, Ng Xue Min Shermaine and Ping Wei Xiang Audric. Allow me to briefly share with you how these students have effected change in their own ways.

– Yee Shin is the Vice-president of the Interact Club at Hwa Chong Institution. Her sense of empathy sparked her to actively lead her school in collecting funds for the Sichuan Earthquake earlier this year.

– Nathaniel is the President of the 35th Student Council at St. Andrew’s Junior College. As part of his Project Work module, he started a project to transform places such as void decks into conducive study places for students.

– Zheng Bin is a Year Two Aerospace Avionics student at ITE College Central with a keen interest in aviation. An active member of ITE College Central’s ACE programme, he also actively shares his knowledge with fellow youths at workshops and conferences.

– Shermaine, a student at Raffles Girls’ School, is an active volunteer. Apart from actively volunteering in local community work, Shermaine has rallied her classmates to support the Watoto Sponsor-a-Child Programme, and to take on meaningful causes for the society at large.

– Audric, a Year Two student in the Semiconductor Technology course at ITE College Central, is also a member of Singapore’s National Karate team and gearing up for the 2015 Southeast Asian Games. Besides volunteering for meaningful causes in his spare time, he also looks out for others by helping his peers through group studies.

14. The finalists’ passion and commitment in bringing about change in their own ways reinforce my belief that Singapore has outstanding students who can truly make a difference in our community. To the finalists, I wish you the very best.

15. Today, you will get to hear remarkable leadership stories from the four speakers who have pursued their passions, and applied their skills and knowledge to make a difference to others. As you listen to their stories today, I encourage you to think about what you envision for Singapore and how you will create its future. I wish you all the very best as you embark on your own leadership journey.

16. Thank you.