Forward Singapore: RP students hope they can pursue their passions, want a more inclusive society

Education Minister Chan Chun Sing with Republic Polytechnic students during a dialogue session on the Forward Singapore exercise. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

SINGAPORE - More space to pursue their passions, a more inclusive society and a more "modern" definition of success. These were what Republic Polytechnic (RP) students hoped for when they spoke in a dialogue session on Singapore's future on Monday.

Said one student: "Singapore is quite rigid in terms of traditional ideas of success: good grades and a good job; but for us, the modern way to success is living the way you want to live - it's subjective."

The session, held at RP's campus in Woodlands, is part of a series of dialogues kicking off Equip - one of the six pillars of the Forward Singapore exercise to forge a new social compact, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong in June.

Equip is helmed by three leaders - Education Minister Chan Chun Sing, Senior Minister of State for Manpower and Defence Zaqy Mohamad, and Senior Minister of State for Communications and Information and National Development Tan Kiat How.

Mr Zaqy said it aims to build consensus and listen to the aspirations of young people.

Speaking after the dialogue session wrapped up, he said: "It's wonderful today to hear from our polytechnic kids in terms of their aspirations for Singapore... what their perspectives are with regard to how both the Government looks at policies that affect them and what change they would like to see."

The Equip pillar is focused on education and lifelong learning, which are under the purview of the Ministry of Education (MOE).

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said it welcomes feedback from all Singaporeans.

MOE has started to engage various groups, including school leaders, parents, educators and students on outcomes they would like to see for education and lifelong learning and the roles they can play in these.

The focus of these engagements, which started in August and will run until November, will be in five main areas, MOE said.

These are: a strong foundation for every child, diverse learning models for diverse abilities, multiple pathways of success, caring for students with special needs, and lifelong growth for all.

These sessions will culminate in a larger engagement in mid-November to consolidate what has been found.

In Monday's dialogue, 74 RP students were split into groups and their exchanges were witnessed by the three Equip leaders, along with Minister of State for Education and Manpower Gan Siow Huang, and Jurong MP Shawn Huang.

Mr Chan said the sessions are vital for students to feel like they have a stake in the next stage of Singapore's nation-building.

In his remarks to close the session, he said that students are not afraid of hard work but want it to be purposeful, and that conversations around what success is should focus on competing with one's self rather than others.

Mr Chan also framed the exercise as a collaborative one.

"We didn't want this to be an exercise where we tell everyone what we want to achieve and put a full stop.

"What we want to see is an 'evolving document' of what we all want to achieve together, and how we, each and every one of us, are going to contribute to that."

For the "evolving document", the RP students were invited to write pledges on how they intend to contribute to Equip.

For the "evolving document", the RP students were invited to write pledges on how they intend to contribute to Equip. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Some of these pledges will be available for public viewing on Equip's website, which was launched on Monday.

RP hotel and hospitality management second-year student Soffiyah Faizal, who took part in the session, said: "We want our success to be defined by us, how we want to get there and the choices we make, not by our parents and their old-fashioned ways of thinking."

The 18-year-old, who hopes to become a hotel manager, said such dialogue sessions can help garner support for what her generation wants to see take shape in future.

Said Ms Soffiyah: "I hope these sessions can help older people realise that there are a lot of good things we can bring if we are given the support, the platform and the kindness."

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