SPEECH BY MR LOW WONG FOOK, PRINCIPAL OF SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC, AT THE POLYTECHNIC’S 46TH GRADUATION CEREMONY AT SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC CONVENTION CENTRE ON TUESDAY, 4 JULY 2006
Mr Gan Kim Yong, Minister of State for Education and Manpower;
Mr Leong Charn Huen, Deputy Chairman, Board of Governors;
Members of the Board of Governors;
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
Welcome to the 46th Graduation Ceremony of the Singapore Polytechnic. We are honoured to have Minister Gan Kim Yong, as our Guest-of Honour. Thank you, Minister, for your presence.
To all our graduands, congratulations! Your success is largely due to your own efforts, your lecturers’ hard work and your parents’ love and support. You, your lecturers and your parents should all be applauded for this achievement. Well done!
Graduates from New Courses
Graduating with you today are the first batches of 114 graduands from the Aerospace Electronics Diploma course and 19 others from the Optometry Advanced Diploma course. Another 64 are graduating from the new Marine Engineering & Naval Architecture, Digital Media Creation and Supply Chain Management Specialist Diploma courses.
As we celebrate with a new batch of graduates, the Polytechnic continues to introduce new courses to meet the changing needs of industry and the new aspirations of students. In this academic year, we launched six new courses, including four new Diploma courses in Bioengineering, Games Design & Development, Infocomm Security Management and Tourism & Resort Management.
Your learning journey does not end when you receive your diploma from Singapore Polytechnic. You will soon begin another stage of your learning journey. You can always return to the Polytechnic to continue your learning by taking up post-diploma courses and other short courses that are relevant to your new career and professional development.
As an academic institution, Singapore Polytechnic is more than just buildings. It houses a vibrant community. And it is you, our graduands and our current students, who give life and vitality to the institution. It is your participation and contribution that make your polytechnic education enriching, fun and “cool”. Most of you will leave the Polytechnic with fond memories of the fun times you had and the friendships you have fostered. Such fond memories were captured in the multifarious campus activities that you participated in. Allow me, at this point, to share your achievements and fond memories with all our guests present today. (Graduation is really like a report-card giving day).
Well, I’m glad that our results are good. You and the current students have done well in various co-curricular activities. Two students, one from the School of Media & Info-communications Technology and the other from the School of the Built Environment, won top prizes from among 3,500 entries at the Singapore Youth Commonwealth Photo Competition 2006. What’s more, they won the chance to meet the Queen of England in person when she was in Singapore earlier this year! Another two students won GOLD and SILVER awards at the National Digital Imaging Competition 2005 which received over 700 entries from students of NAFA, La Salle, and the five polytechnics. Their artworks were used for the 2006 Calendars for both NEC and PC Magazine. Yet another group of students were champions in the NETS Innovator Series 2005 Competition. They won a trip to Switzerland to showcase their e-payment system at the prestigious Geneva International Inventor's Exhibition 2006
In the sports arena, three students (from the School of Business and the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering) represented Singapore in swimming and archery in the SEA Games in November 2005. Another two represented Singapore in swimming in the Commonwealth Games in March 2006. Yet another from the School of the Built Environment represented Singapore in various international Taekwondo competitions in Hong Kong, South Korea, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Our students have also been active in community service --60% participated in community services locally or overseas. In the last academic year, 8 teams involving 110 students and 11 staff members were engaged in community service projects in China, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. In addition, students participated in various programmes ranging from overseas exchange programmes, leadership camps, cultural and sports tours to Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Switzerland and Malaysia. I’m sure you will agree with me that these are life-changing and life-enriching experiences not found in the classroom.
Many of you were involved in shows displaying your artistic skills in music, drama and dance. We may not offer any diploma course in the performing arts, but many of you enjoy and excel in creative self-expression. It is time then, to tap this creative talent. I’m happy to announce that a pop musical will be staged on 6 and 7 October at the University Cultural Centre. This musical has been composed, written and will be performed by our homegrown cast of SP staff, students and alumni. Proceeds from the ticket sales will go the President’s Challenge 2006. President Nathan and Mrs Nathan will grace the event. So, do not miss this event and book your tickets early. (By the way, you can book the tickets outside this Convention Centre!).
Besides excelling in study and work, you have not forgotten the less fortunate. You have helped to raise funds for needy students and charities through the River Raft Race, President’s Challenge and many other activities. In the last academic year, over $1.7 million in financial aid was given to more than 1,300 needy students through scholarships, bursaries, study grants, study loans and needy funds. They represent about 10% of the student population.
The Polytechnic has prepared you well to adapt to the challenges ahead. Still, there will always be many new things for you to learn as changes in the environment make what you know obsolete quite quickly. One important thing that you must first do as you go about learning new knowledge and skills is to discover yourself, know your strengths and weaknesses; know yourself and your own unique characteristics. Even though you may find that you have some inherent imperfection, take heart, it can be turned into a blessing. Let me illustrate this with a story.
Story of the Cracked Pot
13 There was this man who used two large pots daily to carry water from a stream to his house using a pole. One pot was perfect but the other had a crack. So, when the man reached home, the perfect pot would be full but the cracked one would only be half full.
14 One day the cracked pot told its owner. “I am ashamed of myself. I want to apologize for delivering only half of what I am designed for.” The man replied: “There is no need to apologize. You have been contributing in another way. Do you notice the beautiful flowers on your side of the path? Right from the beginning, I knew of the crack and decided to plant flower seeds on your side of the pathway. Without knowing it, you have been watering the flowers as we walk back from the stream! And, I have been picking these flowers for my home. You have been multi-tasking -- carrying water home and watering the plants.”
What is the moral of the story?
15 Each of us has our own unique imperfection, like the cracked pot. Acknowledge it. What appears to be a disadvantage can be put to good use and turned into a blessing if you apply your mind to it. You see, even cracked pots can teach us something.
I would like to tell you a life story of someone who started in a disadvantaged position. Present in the audience this morning is Mr Hong ZhongCheng. When he was young, he used to sneak out of his house to play with his brothers. They spent hours at their favourite fishing pond or at a computer games arcade. As a result, ZhongCheng did not do well for his PSLE. He had to join the normal stream at Commonwealth Secondary School. It was then that he decided to pull the plug on his lazy attitude. He devoted more time to his studies and became more conscientious in school. His hard work paid off as he subsequently topped the “N” and then the “O” Level exams at Commonwealth Secondary School. ZhongCheng took a slightly longer route to get into Singapore Polytechnic. But he went on to top his diploma course in Biotechnology and more than that, today, he is a winner of the Lee Kuan Yew award.
17 His outdoor ventures and his playful ways which set him back in his studies in the earlier years, have also worked well for him. ZhongCheng has been selected to undergo commando training in his National Service. After completing his national service, he will be pursuing a degree at Nanyang Technological University in Biological Science.
Story of Two Mice Fell in a Bowl of Cream
18 When you step into the working world, at times you will face difficult tasks and feel like giving up. This leads me to another story which I would like to share with you. It goes like this. Two mice fall into a bowl of cream. The first mouse, overwhelmed by the difficult task of getting out, gives up struggling. It soon drowns. But the other mouse is determined to fight on. It starts thrashing and churning as fast as it can. The cream soon turns into butter, and the mouse eventually manages to climb out.
19 Two mice, one situation, two different outcomes. Experience is not what happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you. Ultimately, in life and at work, your ability to do well depends on what you focus on. If you focus on the difficulty, you will soon lose the nerve and verve to fight on. But if you focus on learning and progressing, you will eventually find enough courage to beat the odds. You will be like the mouse that fights on until the cream turns into butter.
20 After today, you will be entering the world of work, study or the army. You will face adversities along the way. Do not despair. Don’t give up. Act like the second mouse that turned the cream into butter! If you know how to turn every adversity into an advantage, you will succeed fabulously in the world out there!
21 In closing, I would like to once again congratulate you on your success. Do remember the Singapore Polytechnic with a sense of pride and belonging. Be active alumni and maintain links with us. Join the SP Graduates’ Guild. Return to the Polytechnic and use the facilities at our new Student Hub @ Moberly when it is completed. I wish you all a bright future.