SINGAPORE: Education Minister Heng Swee Keat has urged Singaporeans not to be blind followers of ideologies but to be clear about what works and what does not.
He said that as the country looks at tackling challenges in the next 50 years, it is important to strengthen the "Singapore Character". This includes acting with honesty and integrity, choosing to do what is right and not what is easy, possessing the instinct to survive despite the odds, putting people first and having the heart to build a better Singapore.
Mr Heng made these points at a scholarship award ceremony on Wednesday evening (Aug 5).
He said: “As a people, Singaporeans have not only endured and survived change, but learned to embrace and master it. We can do it once more, together. We are the new pioneers, be resilient in the face of new challenges.”
Mr Heng added: “Ultimately, Singapore is founded on the singular belief in making the lives of our people better. We are independent so that we can shape our own destiny and we must continue to put the people first in all that we do. We want to build a society, not just a business or an economy. To safeguard the well-being of the people, there must be the courage and humility to change where circumstances change.”
The event saw 19 students being awarded scholarships to pursue undergraduate and postgraduate studies under the new Singapore Teaching and Academic Research Talent Scheme (START). The scheme aims to support young Singaporeans who are keen to pursue academic careers at local autonomous universities.
Mr Heng said universities and academics play an important role in shaping the "Singapore Character" and developing a strong Singaporean core. This includes focusing on holistic education that develops the moral character of the young and giving greater emphasis on soft skills.
To this end, Mr Heng also announced enhancements to research scholarships supported by the Education Ministry. From this month, those who pursue their Masters, for example, will get about S$2,500 in monthly stipends - an increase of about S$1,000. Those pursuing their PHD will receive about S$200 more than they currently receive each month, which ranges between S$2,500 and S$3,300.
Students will also receive monthly contributions into their Central Provident Fund (CPF) account, pegged at the prevailing employer's CPF contribution rate of 17 per cent.
Mr Heng said the enhancements aim to lower the opportunity cost for those taking postgraduate research programmes.
“Through the Singapore Teaching and Academic Research Talent scheme and enhancements to the Research Scholarship, we want to better support aspiring academics and our research talent pool. We do this in recognition of the importance and contributions of academics and researchers to our society and the importance of building the Singapore Character in our institutions," he said.
“We hope it will help Singaporeans who are passionate about a career in academia to seize this opportunity to learn from others, to develop yourselves to join our universities and go on to teach and inspire learning in others. We hope the students who benefit will reflect deeply on how you can give back to others,” added Mr Heng.