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Speech by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Minister for Finance, at The Jurong Secondary School 45th Anniversary Celebration Dinner on Friday, 4 July 2008, 8.10 pm at Jurong Secondary School

04 Jul 2008

Mr Ang Mong Seng,
Member of Parliament for Hong Kah GRC,
Advisor to JSS Alumni Association,

Mr Ong Ah Whatt,
Chairman, School Advisory Committee,

Mr Tan Teck Yoke,
Chairman, JSS Alumni Association,

Ms Tham Yoke Chun,
Principal, Jurong Secondary School,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a real pleasure for me to join you at this evening's commemoration of Jurong Secondary School's 45th Anniversary. As we all know, this evening is special in more ways than one, because it also marks the 10th Anniversary of the JSS Alumni Association. As MP for Jurong GRC and as the Advisor to the School's Advisory Committee (SAC), I was delighted when Principal Ms Tham Yoke Chun asked me to come.

2. The School has made an impact on me since I came to Jurong as MP seven years ago. I have been especially struck by the way the School encourages its teachers to innovate, motivates all its students to stretch their potential and aspire, and develops special talents from among them. Above all, I have been impressed by the strong JSS spirit, which binds students past and present. And this evening we see this spirit in the way all in the school, the SAC and Alumni have come forward to take part in the celebrations.

The JSS Education

3. Jurong Secondary School (JSS) has a rich history. It was the first secondary school to be built in Jurong upon the request of community leaders when the then Prime Minister, now Minister Mentor, Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited the constituency in 1963.

4. The school (then known as Jurong Integrated School) was built in eight months and operated from two single-storey buildings at Jurong Road 12th Mile, with five teachers. It did not cost much to build schools in those days, but the School was a treasure to its 100 students and their parents.

5. From these humble beginnings in the early 60s to one of the select FutureSchools@Singapore today, JSS has seen great transformation. It mirrors the transformation of Jurong, first as Singapore's first major industrial estate to a vibrant town today, and a key lifestyle destination of tomorrow.

6. Through the years, JSS has produced leaders who have excelled in numerous fields. What is equally important is that they have played their part for their old school. Many continue to give back to the school that has nurtured them. This is why "Yuan" is such a fitting theme for today's celebrations.

7. The school has done particularly well in the field of sports, winning over 100 national titles. I am told it has come to be known unofficially as the "Sporting Powerhouse of the West". Along the way, it has nurtured a number of National players in various sports ? Er Siew Kiang, Ong Teck Phua, Ng Suan Chiok, Ng Chin Soon and Ng Teck Huat in basketball; Lee Yew Chye in table-tennis; and Ong Wei Chen, Lim Teng Hoon, Chua Lee Keng and Samantha Chia in volleyball. One of them, Ms Ong Wei Chen, has also returned to the school as a PE teacher to groom the next generation of potential athletes.

8. In the field of arts, JSS has also produced several outstanding talents such as Oh Chai Hoo, Wong Mao Chuen, Wang Guobo, Zeng Rong Song, and Li Baojiang. I learnt that two of them have kindly contributed their art pieces for the fund-raising auction and one of them, Mr Wong Mao Chuen, is here tonight.

9. The school has a strong academic standing too, and in this respect has made continued gains in recent years. For its continuous striving for excellence and efforts at innovation, JSS obtained the MOE Thinking Culture Award in 2007, at both the zonal and national Level.

Special JSS Programmes to Stretch Students' Potential

The STAR Award

10. Jurong Secondary also stands out for the unique programmes it has developed to spot and nurture special talents. In 2004, the school launched the STAR Scholarship (`Special Talents and Achievements Recognition Scholarship'), a unique four-year programme to build a culture of intellectual inquiry amongst participating students, as well as a humanistic spirit. What is most impressive is that the teachers designed the curriculum in-house and from scratch. The first batch of STAR scholars is currently in Secondary Four.

11. Since its inception, the STAR Scholarship has been attracting students with T-scores above 250 choosing JSS as their first choice. I think this also says something about the changing and more discerning attitudes of parents and students, who are selecting schools not just on their overall scores but on what concrete programmes the school can offer to develop their talents and abilities.

The SAIL Award

12. I am therefore glad to know that the school is this evening launching a new student development award, the SAIL Award, which will provide recognition and impetus for students to achieve excellence in sports, arts and music, innovation and leadership development. (SAIL stands for Sports, Aesthetic, Innovation and Leadership.) It is in some respects a unique award, driven by students' interests and needs, and which can be obtained by students either individually or in groups. Like seed money, the award can be used by the students to fund their training, to conduct an area of investigation or to embark on a special innovation project. Those with a love for music for example, may want to produce their own compositions and cut their own albums.

13. I understand that this new programme is the result of collaboration between the school, the Alumni and the SAC. It stems from the belief that we all share, that a good education must extend beyond regular classroom learning and actively engage students in activities and projects that broaden their experiences as they grow and mature.

14. The JSS Alumni Association and the School Advisory Committee (SAC) pledged $200,000 in sponsorship when the STAR Scholarship was launched in 2004. I applaud their strong support and commitment to education. In particular, I would like to commend the able leadership of the two chairpersons, Mr Tan Teck Yoke, Chairman of the JSS Alumni Association and Mr Ong Ah Whatt, Chairman of the SAC, in garnering contributions and resources to support the school's efforts to broaden and deepen the students' experiences at JSS. The Alumni and SAC have also expanded their roles beyond that traditional fund-raising. They have been catalysts in attracting resources, expertise and networks to the school on various projects.

The Next Lap: JSS as a FutureSchool@Singapore

15. As we celebrate the school's 45th Anniversary, JSS is moving on to another exciting chapter of its history, as a FutureSchool. Students at JSS will be immersed in a whole range of learning experiences, and empowered by various technologies. The school intends to make learning more student-centered and engaging. Amongst other ideas, the school is planning to design its own media literacy curriculum, and to teach the various subject disciplines using problem-based learning approaches.

16. JSS is advancing in the right direction. Today's employers, and more so those of tomorrow, will expect workers who are flexible, enterprising and able to create new value on their own and in teams.

Boosting links with the Community

17. The strong links between the school and the community ? forged way back in 1963 ? are an important feature of its tradition and continue today. JSS has been an invaluable partner in initiating as well as supporting various community projects.

18. For instance, JSS students have joined me on Sunday walkabouts in the constituency, helping to explain to residents issues on matters such as dengue prevention or the Growth Divi dends Package. Several of the students are active volunteers in Taman Jurong's Gift of Reading programme - which involves secondary school children helping younger children in the neighbourhood to develop a love for reading and learning - and I have received very good reports on the JSS students in the programme. Last October, JSS' Secondary Two students organised a tree-planting event for the community last October. And in 2006 and again this year, JSS is taking the lead as a co-organiser for the National Day Celebrations for the Taman Jurong Constituency.

19. I am glad that JSS has more plans to help its students engage in the community - for example, in developing a community portal as well as creating digital learning trails that can capture the history and the sights and sounds of the Jurong Town.

20. To further encourage students to contribute actively and meaningfully to the community, the Taman Jurong Citizens Consultative Committee (TJCCC) has just launched a `Spark An Idea' Competition. Students are invited to submit short proposals on an idea that will enhance the welfare or quality of life of Taman Jurong residents. We welcome students who live in or study around Taman Jurong to participate. The winning teams stand not just to win useful prizes (each worth $3000 of ICT products), but more importantly to see their ideas implemented if feasible.


21. With the continued strong support of the SAC, the Alumni and parents, coupled with the leadership of your principal, the enthusiasm and dedication of the whole team of JSS staff, and the passion of its pupils, I am confident that JSS will keep breaking new ground in providing a high quality and well-rounded education. Graduands of JSS will have a head start for the future. They will be ready not just for post-secondary education, but for an ever-changing workplace.

22. You will have the full support of all of us here in Taman Jurong, and I see many further opportunities for collaboration between JSS and the community around the school. I wish you all the very best.