Speech by Dr Ng Eng Hen, Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence at the Hokkien Festival 2010 Organised by the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan on Saturday, 13 November 2010, at 11.00 am at the Singapore Conference Hall

Mr Chua Thian Poh,
Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning

1    I would like to thank the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan (SHHK) for inviting me to this Singapore Hokkien Festival 2010. The theme for this year’s Festival is focused on education. As the exhibition chronicles, leading Hokkien businessman and philanthropists have been deeply involved in improving the educational opportunities since our early years.

2    Hokkien pioneers such as Mr Tan Kah Kee, Mr Tan Lark Sye and Mr Lee Kong Chian, believed that education could uplift individuals and through that the nation. As Mr Tan Kah Kee once said: “国 家 之 富 强,全 在 于 国 民,国 民 之 发 展,全 在 于 教 育,教 育 是 立 国 之 本。” (Translated: The affluence and prosperity of a nation depends entirely on her people, while the improvement of her people depends entirely on education.) Today, many members of the SHHK, such as Mr Wee Cho Yaw and Mr Chua Thian Poh continue to hold steadfast to the mission set by the forefathers and continue this tradition of generously supporting our schools and IHLs with their time and efforts.

3    Because of this strong emphasis on good education and support from all its members, it is therefore not surprising that there are excellent schools under SHHK such as Tao Nan School, Ai Tong School, Nan Chiau High and Nan Chiau Primary, Chongfu Primary and Kong Hwa Primary.

Bilingual policy as a cornerstone

4    These schools with the influence and support from SHHK not only believe that students should have high standards in maths and science. They also rightly place great emphasis on providing sound values of integrity, perseverance, and responsibility, through a strong moral education programme. Just as important, these schools provide a rich environment to develop students who are effectively bilingual. Through this emphasis, students in SHHK schools are able to access and appreciate their rich cultural heritage. Our bilingual policy has served us well and will remain a cornerstone of our education system. With the focus of the global economy moving to Asia, our bilingual and multi-cultural skills will enable us to make stronger connections to the rest of Asia, and tap on growing opportunities in the region. MOE will continue to give high priority to ensure that students are educated to be proficient in English and their Mother Tongue Language.

5    Our curriculum for Mother Tongue Languages (MTL) aims to help all students become proficient users of their MTL, and for every student to achieve as high a level as he or she can. The Special Assistance Plan (SAP) scheme was introduced in 1979 to help in these goals by preserving the best traditions and ethos of the old Chinese medium schools, and to nurture a core group of students who are strong in both English and Chinese. Today, our SAP schools continue to play a key role in grooming a core group of bilingual Singaporeans well versed in the Chinese language and culture, who have a deep understanding of their heritage, and who are poised to make strong and meaningful connections to the rest of Asia. SAP schools are an important part of our education landscape.

6    Many SAP school students do well in Chinese Language as well as excel in their overall exams. Many of their students also continue on to take Chinese Language at higher levels of proficiency in junior college and university. Students from SAP schools are well represented among junior college students who take up Chinese-related subjects such as China Studies and General Studies in Chinese, as well as the Chinese Language Elective Programme.

南侨中学成为第11所特选中学 Nan Chiau High as the 11th SAP school

7    去年,我曾提到教育部会考虑增加多一所特选中学。过去十年,在中学读高级华文的学生增加了不少,从2000年的百分之十七增加到2010年的百分之二十八。为了帮助更多学生,达到更高的华文水平,教育部增加一所特选中学是很合时宜的。

8    因此,我非常荣幸地宣布,从2012年1月开始,南侨中学将成为第11所特选中学。

9    南侨中学有良好的学业成绩表现,浓厚的中华文化气息,多数的学生都修读华文。南侨中学也是北区华文中心。学校坐落在盛港,也为住在东北区对华文有兴趣的学生,提供了多一个选择。

10    成为特选中学后,南侨中学将继续加强华文课程和活动,来提高学生的华文能力,和增加他们对中华文化的爱好。学校也会积极发展特选学校的特色。有新加坡福建会馆和学校管理委员会的鼎力支持,我们相信南侨中学会是一所成功的特选中学。

11    Last year, I said that MOE will study the need for another secondary SAP school. Across Singapore, the proportion of students taking up Higher Chinese has increased over the last 10 years. The percentage of O-level students offering Higher Chinese has gone up from 17 per cent in 2000 to 28 per cent in 2010. With the growing number of students taking Higher Chinese, it is timely for us to establish an additional SAP school to support these students to pursue Chinese to as high a level as they are able to attain.

12    Therefore, I am happy to announce that Nan Chiau High School will be designated the 11th SAP school from January 2012 onwards.

13    Nan Chiau High has a good academic track record, a strong Chinese culture and a high proportion of students offering Chinese as their Mother Tongue Language. The school is also a Centre of Learning for Chinese in the North Zone. Located in Sengkang, it creates an additional option for students in the North-East to further their interest in and aptitude for the Chinese language.

14    As a SAP school, Nan Chiau High will step up efforts in both the curricular and co-curricular aspects to deepen and enrich the learning of the Chinese language and the Chinese culture. The school will build on its good academic track record and strengths in Chinese language-related activities to enhance its SAP programme over the next few years. With the strong support of the SHHK and its School Management Committee, we believe that Nan Chiau High has the right elements to succeed as a SAP school.

Initiatives by Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan

15    The SHHK has always been unwavering in its mission to preserve and promote the Chinese language and culture through its programmes and affiliated schools. I understand that the Huay Kuan will be starting a road-show in schools, to create a platform for the younger generation to understand and appreciate our heritage and roots. It is heartening to see that the Huay Kuan is coming up with new programmes to suit the needs of an evolving society, while holding fast to its founding principle of providing education support to the community.

16    I look forward to seeing more such activities from the community, to continue to cultivate young Singaporeans’ passion for the Chinese language and culture.

17    Thank you.