Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Help others, give back to society if you do well: PM Lee

He stresses S'pore spirit and urges students to look beyond grades
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2014

THOSE who do well in life should remember the people who helped them along the way and share the fruits of their success with others, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

Speaking to more than 1,000 students at an Edusave award and bursary ceremony in his Teck Ghee ward yesterday, PM Lee reminded them that when they succeed, they do so not just with their own hard work, but with the help of their parents, teachers, friends, classmates and colleagues.

"And so you owe a responsibility to them to help them too, to care for them and to work together to give back to society so that we can all progress together. That's the way we want Singapore to be," he said.

"We cannot be living in a society where the winner takes all," he added as he called on all who do well to help others, especially the less fortunate.

Mr Lee's message to the students continues his call to keep the country an open and compassionate meritocracy amid concerns over income inequality and slowing social mobility.

It is also reflected in the Edusave awards, which recognise not just academic ability but also character and leadership. The Education Ministry introduced the Edusave Character Award in 2012.

"The Singapore Spirit contains a caring heart and does not just look out for one's own comfort, but benefits society at large and helps the poor and disadvantaged," he told the award winners in his Mandarin speech.

His hope is that students will be motivated beyond grades and awards to be "good people, responsible citizens and caring Singaporeans". To do so requires more than good academic grades; they need to have the character, resilience, determination and the desire to care for people and work with others, he said.

On resilience and being able to recover from setbacks, he added: "That's the way we have to be, because if we're not like that, I think Singapore has no future."

Yesterday, he singled out 11-year-old Ong Yong Jie from Townsville Primary for his resilience and perseverance. The Primary 6 pupil, who received the Edusave Scholarship, character award and a Teck Ghee PCF book prize, has a junior black belt in taekwondo and won a bronze medal in the national maths Olympiad last year.

His family has a monthly income of about $1,500. His father, a driver, is the sole breadwinner. His mother quit her job five years ago to look after him and his older sister.

Mr Lee said Yong Jie's story highlights why the Government is committed to making every school a good school. Education is the path for children to have "every chance to succeed" regardless of family background, income or which school they attend, he said.

Yong Jie told reporters he did not see his background as a setback, as "the most important thing is your family members". His ambition: to be a doctor "or to do something that can help the community and the country".

Trip inspires classroom-cleaning drill
By Andrea Ong, The Straits Times, 13 Jan 2014

ON A school trip to Osaka last year, 16-year-old Soh Jing Zhi was struck by what he observed.

The first was that there were hardly any rubbish bins on the streets other than recycling bins. Most Japanese took their trash home for disposal.

The second was that students at a school he visited would clean the classrooms and toilets - not as punishment but because they saw it as their duty to keep their environment clean.

Inspired by this spirit of social responsibility, the Chong Boon Secondary student decided to "import" the idea to his own school.

Last year, Jing Zhi and a group of friends started an initiative for students to clean their own classrooms.

They initially met some resistance. "Some students said, 'Why should we clean the classroom when we have cleaners?'" said Jing Zhi.

But he and his friends persuaded them to join the initiative. The Sec 1 to Sec 3 students now hold a cleaning exercise - mopping floors and wiping tables - twice a year.

Jing Zhi, who was awarded an Edusave Scholarship yesterday, was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong as an example of how education is not just about learning what is in the textbooks, but also learning to be a good citizen.

Other award winners highlighted were Nuur Muhammad Nuh Rusydy'fauzi, 15, who organised a mass dance for new Chong Boon students, and Dinesh Ganesan, 13, a former senior prefect at Teck Ghee Primary School who volunteered to look after kindergarten children.

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