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Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong at The SINDA Excellence Awards 2022 on 24 September 2022

24 Sep 2022

Chairman, SINDA Board of Trustees, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam; 

President, SINDA, Ms Indranee Rajah;

SINDA Board of Trustees, Executive Committee Members, and the CEO;Distinguished

Guests, Award Recipients & Family Members;

Ladies and Gentlemen,

1. I am very happy to join all of you today at this year’s SINDA Excellence Awards

2. And its extra special to be able to gather together in such a setting like this to celebrate and recognise the outstanding achievements of our students. Its been more than two years since we were able to gather together in such a format. Its good to see all of you in-person. I think many of you are getting used to our the new rules, with  many of you without masks today. But some of you still choose to keep your mask on, and that is okay if you feel like it, because you do not have to conform to what others are doing. Of course, if you are not feeling so well, you have a bit of a sniffer, it is better if you put your mask on. But if you are really not feeling well, then you really should not be here. As I have been saying all this while, we should all do the right and socially responsible thing. 

a. I know that it has been incredibly challenging for all of you throughout the past two and a half years of the pandemic, which is still on going. 

b. And I want to start by thanking everyone for your cooperation and hard work in fighting the virus. 

c. It has been difficult, especially for many of our students, who have had to adapt to the challenges of online learning, coping with the stress of social isolation, and finding new ways to connect and work with your fellow classmates.

d. But despite these challenges, you remained steadfast in pursuit of excellence. And through hard work, grit, and perseverance, you have all managed to achieve success

e. So let me start by offering my heartiest congratulations to all 782 award recipients today! All of you have worked hard, and should be very proud of your achievements. Congratulations everyone. 

3. As you heard just now, this is a bumper crop. We have a record number of award recipients – reflecting the growing achievements of our Indian students across various domains.  

a. On the academic front, more Singaporean Indian students are progressing to post-secondary education pathways; in fact it is now at 95%, which is up from less than 80% two decades ago[1].  

b. In arts and sports, more Singaporean Indian students are achieving success at local and international platforms.  

4. So there are achievements across the board on academics, arts and sports, achievements which the entire community should be very proud of.  Of course these achievements would not have been possible without the combined efforts of all stakeholders

a. Our school leaders and teachers, who have made the effort

b. Our parents, family members and caregivers, many of whom are here today

c. And in particular, we should acknowledge the role of SINDA and many volunteers for the good work that all of you have done in supporting the Indian community all these many years and decades. You have continually provided assistance to help vulnerable families and mobilised resources to provide financial, social, as well as educational support for those in need. 

d. All of you, in some way or form, have supported the progress of our students.  So again, I would like to acknowledge your contributions and say a very big thank you to everyone for doing your part. Thank you very much. 

5. Besides this strong support from the community, there is one crucial ingredient that has enabled our students to come this far – that is the desire in each one of you to excel at whatever you do. That is why SINDA calls this award the Excellence Awards – to recognise and encourage all of you to embrace this mindset of pursuing excellence. And I hope for our award recipients, getting this Excellence awards here today will help to motivate and encourage you to keep on pursuing excellence in whatever you do, throughout your life. Don’t let it stop here, do not let this be the final stop in your journey of excellence; there is a long way more to go. 

a. It may seem like a straightforward matter to say, ‘Oh I want to pursue excellence’. Surely everyone does this.

b. But actually, there is a temptation in all of us to take the easy way out 

c. Unfortunately, far too often, we do succumb to the temptation, because there is always a little voice in our heads saying:  

a. Why work so hard? 

b. Why practice so much? 

c. Things are already so stressful – why not just relax and enjoy life a little ? 

d. I can well empathise with this sentiment. We may want to take the easy way out, and hope that we can somehow get success through shortcuts – no need to work so hard, find some instant formula and we can be as good as the best artist, the best athlete, or the best student somehow. Unfortunately, that does not happen, we know that there are no alternatives to hard work, practice, and the discipline of getting things done. 

e. Pursuing excellence is not easy 

a. You have to stretch yourself beyond your normal limits

b. You have to keep on striving, working hard to do better

c. And all that takes discipline and hard work.

f. But I hope  our award recipients here today will affirm that this is in fact a better way of living than to settle for mediocrity. Many people speak nowadays about seeking happiness in life. But what is happiness? 

a. The ancient Greeks defined happiness as the full use of your  powers along lines of excellence. This is the ancient Greeks, but in fact similar definitions of happiness can be found across all ancient civilisations.   

b. It was good advice then, and it remains good advice today

c. Because happiness comes about by seeking excellence in all that we do. To be clear, this is is not limited to academic or career excellence; we can and should pursue excellence across all areas – it can be in our personal hobbies, it can even be in our roles as children, as parents, as spouses. But whatever it is we do, there is always scope for improvement; we should always strive to do better.

d. And when we put our hearts and souls into this lifelong journey of excellence, I am sure we will feel a greater sense of fulfilment and satisfaction in whatever we accomplish. That I believe is the true source of happiness.

e. And as we saw in the videos just now, many of our students have experienced this. From our award recipients, they have been pursuring excellence and happiness in their own ways.  

6. We saw just now in the video, Miss Valliammai D/O Lakshmanan. She had a passion for accounting and finance since Secondary school, and although she put her best foot forward, she did not qualify for her desired course in Polytechnic. But this setback did not deter her. Instead of giving up, she redoubled efforts and pursued a Higher NITEC certificate in Accounting from ITE.  She did well, and went on to pursue Accounting at Temasek Polytechnic, you saw her GPA in the video, I think it was 3.94. I have never gotten such a GPA, even in university. So she did well, she graduated as Valedictorian in her cohort, and a recipient of the Lee Kong Chian Award. She is now pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Business Management at the Singapore Management University, one step closer to achieving her dream. Well done. 

a. Another example, is Miss Nur Hasinah D/O Al-Arifin. She has always been passionate about art forms such as music, film and theatre, and so she set her mind on pursuing excellence in the arts.  Her parents were a little apprehensive about this path, but she convinced them, persuaded them that this was the right thing for her based on her passions. And so she enrolled at Lasalle College of the Arts, which has a partnership with Goldsmith’s University of London in the United Kingdom. She studied there and she juggled her studies with part-time jobs, which she took up to help her family’s finances.  She eventually graduated with a First Class Degree in Arts Management, and now works as a marketing executive, but still finds time to give back to the arts scene through her volunteer work in theatre productions. Well done to her too. 

7. As you see from many of these stories, pursuing excellence does not mean that everything will be smooth sailing and that success will just come to you on a silver platter.  On the contrary, we are bound to face setbacks and failures from time to time. We will all experience many dark nights, where we feel like we are floundering or sinking.  But in the end, through these long travails, we must have faith that the human spirit will always prevail 

a. We saw the journey in the video of Mr Aman Singh Rahman. He  grew up in a single-parent household. He found himself in trouble with the law in his teens for possessing drugs.

b. Despite this, he resolved to turn his life around while serving probation. 

c. With SINDA’s help, he was able to re-sit for his GCE O-levels as a private candidate and he went on to pursue a Diploma in Sport Management 

d. Despite being a few years older than his batch-mates, he did not let his age deter him. Instead, he pushed himself harder, and inspired those who are younger than him to do better.

e. And he has now found a job, and he continues  to give back to volunteer with disability centres, to contribute to the community. A very inspiring story. 

8. I have just shared three stories, of Valliammai, Hasinah and Aman; there are certainly many more inspiring stories amongst all of our award recipients here today. All of you demonstrate how important it is for us to continue to support and motivate one another in our own journeys of excellence, and this is also vital to Singapore. It is vital for Singapore’s development. It is vital for Singapore’s success to ensure that every citizen, regardless of  backgrounds, will be given the opportunities to realise our full potential.

9. The Government and self-help groups like SINDA will continue to do our part, and we will play a key role to provide necessary support for every Singaporean, especially our young people.

a. But everyone has a part to play. Every citizen must also do their part. 

b. Parents certainly should help  support their children by giving them space to pursue their passions. And while we all want them to do well in school,  rather than just push them to cram for their exams all the time, I think it is far more important that we imbue in our children  the joy of learning at a young age, so that we can ignite a spark in them and fire them up to do great things. No point cramming if it turns them off learning. They will end up doing well in exams just for the sake of doing well, and stop learning later in life. 

c. Meanwhile, young people, like all of the students here, must make full use of the opportunities that are given to you. Make full use of these opportunities to explore with confidence, to learn to think independently, and to be the best that you can be in whatever area you choose to pursue. And there are many opportunities for you. 

10. Embracing these changes will also mean a change in mindset across our society, and that is not always easy. That is why we have embarked more recently on something called,  Forward Singapore, which some of you all might have heard before. 

11. Forward Singapore is an exercise we are embarking on with conversations nationwide. To engage everyone to empower,   refresh, and update our social compact. As we charge forward in a more uncertain and volatile world, we must ask ourselves: what are the expectations we have of one another as citizens? What are the duties and responsibilities we have with one another, and how do we think about strengthening this social compact, strengthening the trust we have in Singapore in order to enable Singapore to thrive and succeed in many more years to come? So, we are now in the midst of this exercise across many groups, and I hope everyone here will participate actively in this exercise because your views and feedback and suggestions can help us strengthen Singapore’s social compact for our next bound.

12. I am confident that if we work together, we can shape our collective vision for the nation, and build a better Singapore. A Singapore

a. That provides everyone with opportunities to do better and excel throughout their lives.

b. A Singapore that rewards a wide variety of talents, not just a conventional view.

c. A Singapore that values and celebrates all individuals for who they are and what they can achieve.

So to conclude, let me congratulate all the award recipients and your families , for this special milestone. I wish you continued success as you take the next step of your journey of excellence. May you continue to progress upward and outwards to greater glory. 

Thank you very much. 



[1] Source: MOE