Calling on parents to support the recent changes to the education system, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday said schools aim not only to equip students with the knowledge and skills to earn a living, but also to develop character and help them acquire the values to be a good person and citizen.
For the Republic to succeed, Singaporeans must not only be well-educated citizens and well-trained workers, they also need to have "intangible but essential values".
Addressing 242 Ministry of Education (MOE) Edusave Award recipients and their families at Townsville Primary School, PM Lee said: "We must also understand the world around us, feel a sense of nationhood and community that we are one people, and have the resilience and determination to overcome adversity, defend ourselves, prosper and thrive in the world.
"That depends not just on what knowledge you have picked up in school - language, science and mathematics, economics and history - but also the intangible but essential values - caring for your classmates and fellow citizens, being willing to contribute to the common good, taking pride in our country, and standing up for it."
Over this weekend, more than 1,100 students living in Teck Ghee will be receiving Teck Ghee Citizens Consultative Committee Bursary Awards and MOE Edusave Awards.
The bursary awards are given to those from lower-income families, while MOE Edusave Awards - ranging from $100 to $500 - recognise the ones who have excelled in academic and non-academic aspects.
PM Lee, who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said recent changes to the education system will make learning more meaningful for students.
These include reducing the emphasis on academic results, dedicating more curriculum time to deeper learning, and helping students draw the link between textbook content and the real world.
"We want to inculcate in young Singaporeans the passion to 'learn for life' so that they are prepared for the future economy," he added.
He called on parents to understand what the Government is trying to achieve, and support it in its objective.
Addressing the students, PM Lee said: "Take advantage of the opportunities to learn as much as you can, both in knowledge and also values from your teachers and friends."
Primary 4 pupil Lim Zhe Wei from Teck Ghee Primary School, who was cited in PM Lee's speech, was the recipient of an MOE Edusave Award.
The first-time Edusave Character Award winner had lost his father in October 2017 due to complications from a bacterial infection.
"He had initially complained of being cold, and started having bouts of vomiting. Before we knew it, he was hospitalised in the intensive care unit for a month, and passed away," said Zhe Wei's mother Feng Biao Mei, 46, a factory worker, in Mandarin.
Her nine-year-old son, whose elder sister is in Primary 5 in the same school, overcame the personal tragedy to excel in his studies, and even took up the responsibility of being class monitor in the second half of last year.
"My teacher picked me to be class monitor. At first I said no, but he encouraged me and told me to try," said Zhe Wei.
"I had to take care of the class, tell my classmates to read their books when the teacher was not around, and help the teacher carry books from the classroom."
He added: "I felt good I could help other people."