Be confident, curious, connected to become new 'pioneering generation', Chan Chun Sing tells Pre-U students

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing addressing students at the Pre-University Seminar at National Junior College yesterday. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Every generation must be a pioneering generation, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing told an audience of 550 pre-university students on Tuesday morning (May 31).

In a speech opening this year's Pre-University Seminar at National Junior College, he charged the students with guiding Singapore to its 100th anniversary and outlined qualities they must have to succeed - be confident, curious and connected.

The students, who are from 30 pre-university institutions - junior colleges, polytechnics and other pre-university institutes - were gathered in two lecture theatres at the school in Bukit Timah.

They are taking part in an annual seminar where they will work with students from other schools on a project related to this year's theme, Service: Forging the Singapore Story.

Mr Chan said previous generations have weathered challenges such as Konfrontasi, global economic recessions and oil crises, and the current youth will have to find their own way through its unique circumstances.

Konfrontasi was a period of armed conflict between the nascent states of Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore following their independence from colonial powers.

He added: "It is through the crucible of crisis and challenges that the fortitude of Singaporeans is birthed... Beyond 2020, your generation will take on the mantle to lead us to SG100."

Outlining the obstacles that Singapore's youth will have to contend with, Mr Chan said they will have to navigate a more contested geo-political environment, transform the economy and entrench Singapore as a global digital node.

They must also transcend its energy and carbon challenges and develop new solutions to improve the country's land use, he added.

To do all this, students must be curious, connected and confident, he said.

Mr Chan said cultivating a curiosity for lifelong learning will help keep Singaporean's skills relevant for a rapidly evolving economy.

It is also essential for Singaporean youth to stay connected to the region and the world.

Mr Chan added that the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted plans for students to have exposure to other countries, but these ties can still be built virtually.

However, young people must also remain connected to Singapore and the Singaporean identity, he said.

He said: "As you prepare to take on the mantle as new pioneers of Singapore, it is important to crystallise our Singapore DNA... trustworthiness, multiculturalism, unity, will of action are just some of these traits."

Students must also be confident in themselves and in an intensely competitive global environment, having a healthy sense of self is essential, he added.

Mr Chan ended his speech by opening the seminar and framing it as a platform for students to bond and connect.

He said: "For the past 52 years, the Pre-University Seminar has been an important common ground to bring Singapore's youth together to better understand local and global developments and envision a shared future for the country."

He then held a closed-door dialogue with the students.

Students The Straits Times spoke to at the sidelines of the event said the seminar and the lead-up to it, which began in March this year, has been enriching.

School of the Arts theatre student Kavya Zutshi, 17, said the seminar has helped her meet people outside of her social bubble and learn about different working styles.

Students have been attending workshops with their groups of 12 since March, where they met academics, senior civil servants, charity workers and other mentors to work on a project.

The project can take any form and will present the students' new understanding of a chosen topic, which they selected from within four general focus areas: harmony, kindness, resilience and innovation.

Over the next four days, they will take part in learning journeys around Singapore, panel discussions and present their works at a closing ceremony and exhibition.

Each school selected between 10 and 25 students to represent them at the seminar, depending on the sizes of their cohorts.

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