SINGAPORE: There is an emphasis on all-round education in Singapore, and the cultivation of character and values among the young, but it is still important for students to master the academic curriculum and strive to excel in their studies, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday (Mar 21).
“Our schools, our ITEs, polytechnics and universities maintain rigorous academic standards, and give students a solid grounding in their different subjects,” he said at a gala dinner commemorating the 100th anniversary of Hwa Chong Institution.
“Singapore students by and large take their studies seriously, and do their best to master the material and excel.”
“And that’s why most young people leaving school can readily find good jobs, and go on to do well in their careers and lives,” he added. “This remains a crucial factor in Singapore’s success, and must remain a focus of Hwa Chong’s.”
Speaking to more than 12,000 people at the dinner, Mr Lee commended Hwa Chong Institution for maintaining high academic standards, pointing out that the school has built up an illustrious history and reputation.
Hwa Chong, he said, must continue to thrive as an educational institution, which requires a concerted effort on three fronts - upholding high academic achievements, promoting Chinese cultural values and preparing students for Singapore’s multi-racial, multi-religious society.
He said that as a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school, Hwa Chong has a special responsibility to promote Chinese traditional culture, values and heritage, and to help students to master their mother tongue.
This, he said, was the reason founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew introduced SAP schools in 1979.
“He wanted to revive the spirit of the old Chinese middle schools,” the prime minister said. “These schools had emphasised character development, seriousness of purpose, and the spirit of community.
“These values not only served the old Chinese school graduates well, but were important for the resilience and cohesion of the society.”
Mr Lee added that Hwa Chong has not only been able to imbue these values in new generations of young Singaporeans, but has also adopted its approach for students growing up in a different era, such as through the Bicultural Studies Programme.
On the third front, Mr Lee said Hwa Chong students must understand the context of Singapore’s society, and their own responsibilities within it.
“You must know how the society works, identify with fellow Singaporeans of all races and religions, and feel a responsibility for your fellow citizens,” he said.
“You need to feel a calling to participate in community and national affairs, to contribute to the society and system that has nurtured you, and to take on leadership roles to take Singapore forward.”