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Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at SIT Graduation Ceremony

Speech by Minister Chan Chun Sing at SIT Graduation Ceremony


1       A very good morning to all of you. To all the graduates today, congratulations on your onward journey in life. Today, I have a short message for all of you. I have three wishes for all the graduates today.

2       I hope that all the Institutes of Higher Learning(IHLs) in Singapore including SIT, will no longer be called IHLs. Instead, I hope that all of our Institutes of Higher Learning will be called Institutes of Continuous Learning, and indeed this will be the fundamental change for the education system in Singapore. Our basic school system provides the foundation. It is necessary, but it is not sufficient in tomorrow’s world. To compete with the very best across the world tomorrow, to keep up with the times and to stay relevant with what we are doing, we need to do what Prof Tan Thiam Soon just mentioned in his speech earlier and that is, to keep learning. When it comes to learning, there is no such thing as “higher learning” or “lower learning”, there’s just learning. If we believe in that, then graduation does not mark the end of learning. Instead, it is just a marker and a milestone in our lifelong journey to continue to equip ourselves with the latest knowledge to contribute to our family, our society and our job. So I hope that you will seriously take up the offer from SIT to remain in touch with SIT to keep learning.

3       I was very pleased to hear that SIT has made an attempt to change the way we equip our students with the latest knowledge. In the past, to acquire the latest knowledge, one would have to come back to school to take a diploma or to take a degree programme. But today, we need to couple that model of learning with something newer and faster, to meet the needs of the new industry development. Today, if we take more than one year to complete a learning cycle, that will be way too slow for the new economy. Instead, our model of learning must be in small modules, just-in-time and be stackable. This means we must form communities of learning partners. We must be prepared to go to the companies where some of the latest technologies and practices may be available. In fact, the cutting edge of learning today is no longer just in the university, it is as much as it is being in the companies- trying out the latest techniques, the latest production methods, business organisations and so forth. So I truly encourage you to always see our IHLs as ICLs- the Institutes of Continuous Learning and that will change, perhaps all of our mindset towards learning.

4       My second wish for all the graduates today is that you will become among the very best in Singapore. We have equipped you with good foundational knowledge, good skillsets and good connections. We hope that you will build upon these connections, not just with the rest of the people in Singapore but also with the rest of the world. Go forth to the rest of the world, to see how other countries promote their growth, do their education system, do their research and innovation and make the connections and bring some good things back to Singapore. Israelis graduates, for example, do not ask where their friends have been to. Instead, they ask where their friends have not been to. Their aim is that each and everyone of them will go out to the world, and find something new for their own society. This can be something that their own society might not yet have or something that their society can perhaps learn from, and because each and everyone of them brings back something to Israel, Israel is continuously strengthened with new ideas and challenged with new ideas. Through that collision of ideas, they create even more new ideas. This is also something that we hope to see in Singapore and we can only do that if each Singaporean go overseas and help us to make those connections, work with the best across the world, build the globally competitive teams and bring back something valuable for Singapore that we do not yet have.

5       We must always remain humble and know that no matter how good we think we may be, there will always be something that we can learn from the rest of the world. This sense of humility, this sense of adventure- to go forth and bring back something for Singapore, will be especially critical for the next lap of our onward journey as a country.

6       Last but not least, I have a final wish for all the graduates present today. That you will continue to pay it forward, to help us uphold the system that has brought you thus far, and help us to continue improving the system that will bring us further. The very fact that we can stand here proudly today, it is not just because of our hard work and our intelligence. We are here because of the love and support of our family. We are here because in Singapore, we have a system that allows each and everyone of us to fulfil our potential. When I was studying in Cambridge University, I always knew that many of my peers were more hardworking and more talented than I was.  But perhaps many of them were not as fortunate, to be born in Singapore where many of us can realise our potential. For many of them, even though they were more hardworking and talented, they did not have the chances that we have in Singapore. For us to have what we have today is never easy. But we are again never complacent. We will have to continuously improve our system- and ours is based on meritocracy. But it is not based on meritocracy of grades, in fact, we want it to be on meritocracy of trades, because we respect each and everyone for what they do, and what they stand for.

7       We are not monolithic in our yardstick on what it means to be successful. Regardless of what our definition of success is, when each and everyone of us succeeds in our respective stations in life, I hope that we will, in our hearts, find the time and energy to give back something to help strengthen this society even more. That in doing so, we will allow the next generation to do even better than us. That the success for every generation of Singaporeans is not how well we do for ourselves, but how well we enable the next generation to do even better than us. If we continue to have such a spirit of what it means to be a Singaporean, then I am very confident that Singapore will continue to grow from strength to strength. And by the time, we reach SG100, we can look forward with even greater confidence and pride that beyond SG100, we will continue to build a nation that is worthy for us to put in even more effort to make it a greater place that defy the odds of history- where a small country with finite resources, can not only survive but thrive amidst the global competition. That we will always find new ways to strike out on our own to build a future for the next generation. That we will make sure that each and every generation will continue to build upon the success of the past, to allow the next generation to have an even brighter future. Only so, will we create the conditions for every generation to want, and have the chance to be called Singaporeans.

8       On that note, I hope that one day, my three wishes will come true because you too believe in them. That you believe that this is not just an Institute of Higher Learning, but it is an Institute of Continuous Learning, that you believe that you will have the very best opportunities to succeed in Singapore and that it is our responsibility to go forth to the rest of the world, to build those connections, work with the globally talented teams, and bring back something valuable for Singapore. Last but not least, it is incumbent on those of us who have been more successful in this country, to continue to work hard and establish the conditions for the next generation to do even better than us. I thank you very much and I wish you all the very best in your onward journey for Singapore.

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