SINGAPORE - Despite differences in approaches and perspectives, Singaporeans can play a collective role to help meet the varying aspirations and needs of society here, said Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on Friday (June 4).
While there could be friction, ultimately, Singaporeans need to be determined to stay united by what they have in common and the shared vision and purpose to create a better nation.
"No one has a monopoly over good solutions. No one solution is good enough to meet all needs.
"Different groups can play different roles to meet the different aspirations and needs in society. Together, they make a collective difference in society," said Mr Chan.
He added that it is not just the outcomes that matter, but the manner in which Singaporeans come together and get groups with different backgrounds and interests to unite.
Mr Chan was speaking at the closing ceremony of the annual Pre-University Seminar.
Held online, the event drew more than 500 participants from 30 pre-university institutions over four days.
This year's seminar focused on challenges and opportunities for Singapore amid the pandemic.
In his speech, Mr Chan urged students to treasure their local identity even as they embrace a global mindset.
"I hope our young will have the gumption to venture out and make your mark in the world. Beyond that, we must also be able to work with talented people from elsewhere and locally - a diversity of international talent working alongside skilled Singaporean talent, exchanging ideas and bringing out the best in each other," he said.
But while young Singaporeans keep up with the goings-on in other countries and adapt best practices where suitable, they must not copy blindly or become "intellectually subjugated", the minister added.
"We must be careful not to get swept up in popular theories, rhetoric and movements which could divide us."
Instead, young Singaporeans must understand what works best for the country given the nation's unique context.
They must be prepared to do this even if it sets the Republic apart from the crowd, Mr Chan said.
He stressed that young people here must always be willing to do better and stay humble and agile, as how things are done could change as circumstances evolve.
"Thus, we should be culturally secure, without being culturally superior. We should have the intellectual humility to learn and improve, but not feel intellectually inferior," he said.
"If not, we are no better than a broken reed blown in every direction of the wind; or a rudderless, anchorless vessel tossed about by the vagaries of the waves generated by megaships."
Mr Chan said that the current generation can be a pioneering and conquering one that will help Singapore shine even brighter in the world, even as the nation weathers the Covid-19 crisis.
He acknowledged the stress that young people face, given global competition and the pressures of pursuing a "mirage of perfectionism".
"Social media has made us more connected, but also heightened a pervading, judgmental sense of inadequacy and a culture of hollow aspiration.
"Our youths face more pressure to pursue a mirage of perfectionism, from OOTD (outfit-of-the-day) to idealised relationships. And now with the pandemic thrown in, the challenges are exacerbated," Mr Chan noted.
But the challenges are not insurmountable, he said, adding that the students' generation is blessed with knowledge, resources and opportunities to be among the world's best.
The minister noted that the measure of every generation's success is not in how well they do but how they steward the strong foundations they inherited and enable the next generation to do even better.
"Just like those before you, I hope your generation will do justice to your blessings, and pay it forward by leaving a lasting legacy to those who will come after you," he said.