Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, at the School of Science and Technology, Singapore (SST) Official Opening Ceremony13 Apr 2013
Professor Su Guaning
Chairman, SST Board of Directors,
Mr Wong Siew Hoong
Deputy Director-General of Education (Curriculum),
Ministry of Education
Mr Chua Chor Huat,
Distinguished Guests, Parents, Students
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. It gives me great pleasure to join you on this special occasion, the official opening of the School of Science and Technology.
Impetus for SST
2. It has been five years since we announced our plans to establish SST, which is the most recent of the specialised schools that we have set up to provide new and diverse routes for Singaporeans to develop distinctive talents.
3. SST was to have different orientation. We wanted a route that would develop students through both academic learning and regular immersion in real life applications. It came at a time when MOE was exploring more generally, how schools could develop talents through applied learning. But in pushing ahead with SST, we were also emboldened by the encouraging feedback we had received from parents and teachers, on the merits of a high-quality, applied pathway within the school system.
4. The school now offers four applied subjects, namely, Biotechnology, Design Studies, Fundamentals of Electronics, and Media Studies, in addition to the core academic subjects. The idea behind these applied subjects is to enable students to learn differently - by experimenting, by creating and by taking a project from concept to implementation.
5. They will nurture young Singaporeans with the confidence to think innovatively as they work on real-world applications.
SST’s approach to learning and development
6. The successful establishment of SST reflects the Ministry of Education’s broader commitment to provide help all our students discover their strengths and talents.
7. SST has made good progress. It has developed its own framework of applied learning that is relevant to a secondary school context. We need only look at its academic and holistic education curriculum to see that it goes beyond a conventional one. Drawing from a research-based talent development framework, the school has sought to provide a broad range of learning experiences to cater to different talents and interests.
8. On my tour around the school earlier on, I met three young student CEOs of ICT companies, pitching their products and business ideas. In addition, I saw design sketches from students proposing alternative use of spaces on the school’s rooftop garden. These student projects are an indication of how SST has nurtured its students to use their knowledge and skills to engage constructively on problems and issues around them.
9. Students also benefit from being in a smaller, more intimate community where individual needs and talents can be better identified and attended to. Close partnerships with parents provide an ecology of support.
10. In addition, the voice of students nurtured through tea sessions with the school leaders, and focus group discussions with teachers and student leaders. I understand that the inaugural student congress to be held in May will involve the entire student population in discussing the future directions of the school.
11. This approach is more than a matter of student engagement. It builds student ownership over how the school should progress.
12. SST indeed aims to provide more than ‘future-ready’ knowledge and skills. It provides an environment in which students can think actively for themselves, contribute to the community, and develop a strong sense of belonging to our country.
13. Some of the broad-based learning experiences include the Global Ctizenship Programme (GCP) for all secondary one students, where the themes of each trip focus on both the history and culture of the country, and the importance of the country’s relationship with Singapore.
14. SST has collaborated with tertiary institutions such as Nanyang Technological University and Ngee Ann Polytechnic to enhance its development and the learning experiences of its students. In SST’s early years, Ngee Ann Polytechnic trained the pioneer batch of teachers in the methodology of Applied Learning, and they benefitted greatly from this infusion of pedagogies and knowledge. The collaboration between the two institutions continues today. One of the flagship programmes in SST is an Exploring Entrepreneurship Camp organised in collaboration with the School of Business and Accountancy from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, during which students learn to develop business ideas and have opportunities to dialogue with real-life entrepreneurs.
15. SST has also benefitted from NTU’s Nanyang Technopreneurship Centre, which invites the students and teachers to talks and lesson observations. In addition, NTU hosts and co-organises the annual 3-day NTU-SST Science Flagship Camp for the entire secondary 2 cohort to experience campus life and work under the guidance of NTU professors on mini-projects in areas such as digital painting, electronics, materials science and mechanical design.
16. SST has also gone on to form affiliations with like-minded institutions around the world to provide professional development opportunities for the academic team as well as enriching learning journeys for the students.. For example, SST has partnerships with reputable schools such as Punahou School in Hawaii and Ren Da Fu Zhong Xishan School in Beijing, enabling fruitful student exchange programmes as well as its teachers’ participation at conferences organised by these partners. Partner schools in Vietnam, Thailand and Brunei also visit SST for similar purposes.
17. Finally, as a Future School, SST has been the test-bed for some research projects in collaboration with the National Institute of Education. Their work has yielded valuable insight into how technology-enriched pedagogies are able to foster higher order thinking, collaboration and communication - all relevant skills for the 21st Century learner.
18. The outlook for SST is certainly promising. With its strong network, progressive team and school culture that promotes innovations in learning, it is well on its way to realizing its vision of becoming a globally connected institution of science and technology. I have no doubt that SST students will make significant contributions to our society in the years to come.
 Alma Mater of President Obama