Poly students offer ideas on tackling future threats confronting Singapore

Deputy director of Singapore Polytechnic's School of Life Skills and Communication Helen Mok with Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee at the annual Polytechnic Forum on Sept 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

SINGAPORE - The ideas show promise.

One suggested that void decks of Housing Board residential blocks be used as designated community spaces where residents can share stories and resources, just as people did in the kampung during Singapore's early years.

Another called for a mobile app to be developed to connect people with common interests, an idea that drew inspiration from the myResponder app for people to respond to crises around them.

These were among ideas from Singapore's poly students that made an impression on Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee on Wednesday (Sept 18), during which he said he would connect them with relevant national agencies such as the HDB and Government Technology Agency (GovTech) to expand on their ideas.

Mr Lee, who is also Second Minister for National Development, was speaking at the annual Polytechnic Forum in which about 300 students from Singapore's five polys were recommending ways to overcome threats modern Singapore will confront in the future.

The six-day forum, the first of which took place in 1996, aims to give the students a better understanding of national issues through discussions, group work and dialogue with industry and government leaders.

This year's focus was on challenges modern Singapore will face in its 100th year (SG100).

To commemorate the bicentennial, the students were encouraged to draw inspiration from Singapore's history.

(From left) Nathan Edward Lee, Olivia Lim, Melissa Tng and Layla Natasha Omarrudin present their ideas at the annual Polytechnic Forum on Sept 18, 2019. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE KIAT

Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) student Olivia Lim, a member of the team that suggested using HDB void decks as community spaces, said: "The forum opened my eyes to how much more we students can do."

"It's about empowering ourselves to use the skills we have to make SG100 a better place for all," added the 19-year-old, who is doing a diploma in social sciences (social work).

Teammate Melissa Tng, 31, also from NYP, noted that Singapore's multiculturalism allows for the " playing up of our differences as strengths".

She added that being adaptable and able to accommodate such differences in an inclusive society will give Singapore an edge.

In his speech at the closing ceremony, Mr Lee highlighted a few of the challenges ahead: Singapore's relevance in the world and the region; climate change, an ageing population and inequality.

Inequality is a threat that can tear society apart and "create multiple Singapores", he said.

But such threats are also tremendous opportunities and Singapore is beginning to sow the seeds to tackle them, he added.

He cited initiatives like KidStart, a government programme to help low-income children up to age six; Uplift, short for Uplifting Pupils in Life and Inspiring Families Taskforce that aims to help children from disadvantaged homes to level up; and Community Link, which gathers groups to run social service and other programmes at or near rental block precincts.

Said Mr Lee: "What your children and grandchildren have to face will depend on what you and all of us have done together today."

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