SPEECH BY MR LOW WONG FOOK
PRINCIPAL OF SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC
AT THE 47TH GRADUATION CEREMONY
TUESDAY, 22 MAY 2007 (SESSION 1)

Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister, Prime Minister's Office and Secretary-General, National Trades Union Congress;

Your Excellencies;

Mr Leong Charn Huen,
Deputy Chairman, Board of Governors;
 
Members of the Board of Governors;

Colleagues, Parents;
Graduands;
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

1       Good morning and welcome to the 47th Graduation Ceremony of the Singapore Polytechnic. We are honoured to have Minister Lim Swee Say as our Guest-of Honour. Thank you Minister for your presence.

2       This year, the Polytechnic will be graduating 4590 graduands. My heartiest congratulations to all of you. This year's graduation is special as you are the first batch of graduates from the Singapore Polytechnic to put on graduation gowns, chosen by you in a poll conducted with the help of the Student Union. You all look good in this elegant attire.

 

Graduates from New Courses

3       Among you are the first batches of 38 graduating from the Creative Media Design Diploma course, 35 graduating from the Landscape Architecture Diploma course, and 11 graduating from the Cosmetic Science Specialist Diploma course.

4       Three years ago, Singapore Polytechnic started to offer the diploma-plus programme to students with high potential to pursue a parallel course leading to an additional formal certification. Our ability-driven education model enables these students to maximise their potential. The first batch of 148 diploma-plus students will graduate with a diploma plus  a specialist diploma or certificate this year.

5       The Polytechnic will continue to introduce new courses to meet the changing needs of industry and new aspiration of students. In this academic year, we launched seven new courses. These include 3 new diploma courses in Integrated Events & Project Management, Environmental Management & Water Technology, and Experience Design. The rest are specialist diploma and diploma-plus programmes. The Polytechnic now offers 38 Diploma courses, 10 diploma-plus programmes and 35 Post-Diploma courses, covering a wide variety of disciplines.

6       Your learning journey at Singapore Polytechnic need not end when you receive your diploma. It is the beginning of another phase of your lifelong learning journey. You can return to the Polytechnic to take up post-diploma courses and other short courses relevant to your new career and professional development. Take a holistic approach to learning by learning about other disciplines as well, just like when you took up the General Elective Modules or GEMs during your time at SP. Incidentally, you are the first batch to benefit from GEMs, introduced 3 years ago to broaden the knowledge base of our graduates.

 

Sharpen Your Saw

7       Many of you have heard of the phrase continuous learning. If you have read Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you will be familiar with the phrase "sharpening the saw". You will also know the story of the lumberjack who was so caught up in cutting down trees that he did not spend time to sharpen his saw. As a result, he became ineffective.

8       In life, we sometimes get so busy and work so hard that we don't take time to sharpen the saw. But to stay relevant in this fast changing world, sharpening your saw is a must. And this applies not only to the technical areas of your own discipline, but also to other areas as well.

9       Let me share with you this story about Peter Drucker. Most of our graduands here may not be old enough to recognise the name. He was truly a business thinker and a management guru, and a perfect example of a continuous learner. At the age of 20 (which is about your age), Drucker was hired as a financial and foreign affairs writer by a large newspaper to write about many subjects. He decided that he had to know something about many subjects to be competent. He worked from six in the morning to a quarter-past-two in the afternoon. He was disciplined enough to do self-study in the afternoons and evenings. He would pick a subject, be it international relations, international law, finance or statistics and study it for 3 to 4 years, then move on to study another subject. He did that consistently for more than 60 years, so you can imagine how knowledgeable he became. Incidentally, he lived to the ripe old age of 95. I believe that one reason for his longevity was that he was truly a lifelong learner who continuously sharpened his saw. I urge you to emulate him.

10     One nearer example is your fellow graduate Christina Ong, recipient of the Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal. Christina took a slightly longer route to the Polytechnic, going through N-level and ITE. At ITE, she was inspired by her teachers to sharpen her saw and went on to achieve a perfect Grade Point Aggregate score of 4. She continued to sharpen her saw at Singapore Polytechnic and has topped her diploma course in Property Development & Facilities Management at SP. Christina is an all-rounded student, who excelled in her studies as well as in her CCA, winning the SP Sports Award and Model Student Award. Throughout her studies at ITE and SP, she supported herself by working part-time at McDonald's Restaurant where she was promoted to Floor Manager. Her stint at McDonald's gave her a valuable and enriching experience in customer service and business administration. With her excellent results, she will be pursuing her degree study at NUS. Christina exemplifies someone with the attributes and attitude of a lifelong learner.

11     But continuing to learn while pursuing a full-time career can be very demanding. It calls for a persevering and never-say-die attitude to overcome setbacks and obstacles as you pursue your goals.

12     Some of you must have heard this story of the Chinese poet Li Bai. While playing truant as a young boy one day, he saw an old woman rubbing a metal rod against a stone. When Li Bai learned that she was grinding the metal rod into a needle, he was so inspired by her determination and perseverance that he began to work hard. Eventually, he became one of the most famous poets in the Tang dynasty.

13     Now, watching the old woman try to grind a metal rod into a needle might have been sufficiently motivating for Li Bai. But with the availability of modern machinery today, that task is not such a big deal. So, the story needs some re-engineering to be relevant today.

14     Shown on the screen is a strange looking vehicle. I shall call it a skateboard car. What struck me when I first saw this picture was the persevering spirit of this vehicle. Look at how it is hobbling along despite all its imperfections as a vehicle. What if I say this:  with determination this skateboard car will one day become a Formula One car, very similar to the case of the metal rod being ground into a needle in the Li Bai story. Can it be done?    Well, the creator of this animation has done it virtually. Doing it in reality, of course, would take a lot more hard work.

15     That brings me to the story of another of your fellow graduates. Tan Yan Xin dreams of becoming a Formula One car designer someday, after gaining experience in designing cars like BMW and Lexus. Yan Xin joined SP after scoring 7 points in her O-level exams. Today, she graduates as the Top student in the Diploma Course in Electrical & Computer Control Engineering, winning the Lee Kuan Yew Award. To pursue her dream, she plans to take up a degree course in Mechanical Engineering, not Electrical or Computer Engineering. In doing so, she may have to forgo the advanced standing she will enjoy in a degree programme that is related to her diploma course. But she is prepared to do so in order to realise her dream. I commend her for her determination, which is worthy of emulation and I am confident that she will succeed.

16     The Polytechnic has prepared you well for the challenges ahead and I have no doubt that many of you will be very successful in your career. As the economy is doing well, graduating this year enhances your chances of success. But do remember to help those who are less fortunate.

 

Student Achievements

17     While at the Polytechnic you have helped to raise funds for needy students and charity through the River Raft Race and President's Challenge activities. Some of you were involved in staging our very first original musical "Superstar", which was very successful and we managed to raise about $100,000 for the President's Challenge last year. I am pleased to let you know that the "Superstar" musical production will continue to help the needy in another way. The audio CD and DVD of the musical are now on sale outside the Convention Centre and proceeds will go to the SP Needy Student Fund and SP Alumni Scholarship Fund. Please support the good cause to help more needy students.

18     In the last academic year, we provided financial assistance to about 1,200 needy students (representing about 9% of the student population), by giving out scholarships, bursaries, study grants and study loans worth more than $1.5 million.

19     Beyond raising money to help our own students and the local community, our students and staff are also active in community service overseas. In the last academic year, 8 teams comprising 126 students and 8 staff members went on community service expeditions to countries such as the Philippines, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, Indonesia and Laos. In addition, 14 students were involved in setting up computer laboratories for different schools in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and 3 other villages in Cambodia. These projects are fine examples of our students and staff demonstrating "Care and Concern", which is one of our SP Core values.

20     To inculcate a global mindset, SP sends our students on overseas programmes to countries such as Korea, Japan, China and Malaysia; some of which included home stays. Last year, nearly 400 student leaders went on leadership training camps to destinations such as Sarawak and the Redang Island.

21     More than 20 SP students did us proud by representing Singapore at international level competitions for sports such as swimming, bowling and golf.

 22    I am sure all of you would appreciate the fact that you did not get to where you are today all by yourself. Sharing your joy today are your loved ones, friends and lecturers who have encouraged and supported you throughout your journey at SP. Do remember to show your gratitude to them. Let us give a round of applause to your parents and lecturers.

 

Conclusion

23     In closing, I would like to once again congratulate you. Do remember the Singapore Polytechnic with a sense of pride and belonging. Keep your ties with your Alma Mater as well as SP alumni groups such as the Singapore Polytechnic Graduates' Guild and SP Entrepreneurs Club. I wish you all a bright future.

Thank you.

Last updated/checked on 24 May, 2007