SINGAPORE - Schools are important platforms for less well-off Singaporeans to move up and make good in life, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Friday, as he held up National Junior College for doing its part in the endeavour.
The junior college, which is Mr Lee's alma mater, has done its part by helping to keep pathways open for all, he said, reiterating a theme that is a key part of the Government's agenda for the rest of its term as it seeks to address concerns over education and social mobility.
Established in 1969, NJC has continued with its tradition of having no affiliations with any primary or secondary schools, Mr Lee noted. Its JC1 and Secondary 1 students therefore come from almost 100 secondary and primary schools, he said.
It seeks out talented students from humble backgrounds, and offers them bursaries to help defray costs, and also promotes "a culture of moderation and restraint", allowing staff and students to interact comfortably on equal terms with one another.
He highlighted also the development of "leadership with sensitivity". Through its boarding programme, NJC has helped foster in its students the instincts to serve and lead, through enrichment classes for the less priviledged students, and also community attachments to help students understand issues faced by other Singaporeans.
Mr Lee, who was among the first batch of graduates from NJC, was giving a speech at the schools' 45th anniversary celebration, in which he also recounted fondly his memories of students and teachers from the one year he spent at the school.
He was especially struck by the school's first principal Mr Lim Kim Woon, who often played sports and hung out with students in the canteen, and was a consummate teacher.
"He was a human dynamo and great inspiration to all," said PM Lee.
As the first junior college, NJC's growth has also been synonymous with Singapore's education journey, Mr Lee pointed out.
The school has made significant contributions to Singapore's education system by pioneering learning methods and systems eventually adopted by other junior colleges.
He noted that the schools founding goals - of developing leaders with honour and providing quality education for students of all backgrounds - remain essential today.
"It must continue to be a truly national junior college, engaging the broader community and alumni network to thrive," he said.