WEDNESDAY, 25 MAY 2011 (Session 8)

Dr Michael Brown
Member of the Board of Governors, Singapore Polytechnic


Mr Tan Hang Cheong
Principal, Singapore Polytechnic


Distinguished Guests


Parents and Graduands


Staff of Singapore Polytechnic


Ladies and Gentlemen,


    ood evening.  It is my pleasure to be here today at the 51st Singapore Polytechnic Graduation Ceremony.  I congratulate all graduands and award winners from the School of Chemical & Life Sciences (CLS) on your achievements.  This is a proud moment for you and your family.  This is a transition milestone in your life as today’s ceremony marks the beginning of your next phase of life.  Some of you will enter the workforce, some to National service and some will continue your study and some perhaps a gap year or two.

  1. Whatever your choice, you will have to face the aspects of independence and maturity. For some of you, independence is a choice and for others it will be forced upon you. Simply defined, independence is when you can fund your own living costs and take your own decisions and be fully responsible for them. Some of you may even have to contribute back into the family. Maturity is about how you respond and be adaptive to an emerging situation. It is the quality of your thinking and is not dependent on your age. In other words, you cannot wait for maturity; you must work hard to develop it. Your degree of independence and maturity will determine and shape your character and how successful and happy you will be.

  2. Let me offer you with this quote by Helen Keller. She has faced adversity to be the first deaf and blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts Degree. She said, Character cannot be developed in peace and quiet. Only through trials and tribulations can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” Embrace the complex and unpredictable world. Give thanks for each day that you can strive to march towards the fullest of your potential and be the best that you can be. There will be economic cycles. Companies will fail while new ones will arise. There will continue to be natural disasters such as those that recently occurred in Fukushima, Japan. That these events will happen we are certain though we cannot tell you when. If you can be adaptive and creative during these stress tests you will achieve for yourself as well as contribute to your community.

  3. Today the world is being challenged to adopt sustainable development behaviours and methods as quickly as possible. Climate change has already affected many aspects of our life. The availability of sufficient food is called into question as available arable land continues to shrink. The courses that you have elected to study are therefore relevant and current. The search for more efficient processes, alternative fuel sources and energy methods, better products and delivery mechanisms, more efficient cultivation methods that will deliver safe food will require lots of talent.

  4. Many people especially foreigners have commented that our Singapore’s Education system is too focused on “rote learning and exam skills”. They may have reason for their observation but in the workplace a talent is not one that has a good piece of paper, but one that can achieve learning agility. Learning is about application. The learning process may start with knowledge acquisition, but it must be followed with application and finally with the creation of new knowledge and the cycle continues. Your education in Singapore Polytechnic’s School of Chemical and Life Sciences (CLS) has played a key role in your holistic preparation, whether physical, mental, emotional or intellectual.  You must endeavour to complement your diploma with working skills to take advantage of available opportunities. Working skills are those that relate to relationship building, leading, cooperative and collaboration or people skills amongst others. To be a talent you must be able to convert words into action and knowledge into applications.  The more you practise the better you will become.

  5. I gathered from recent news that the demand for chemicals, from basic petrochemicals to specialties and advanced materials, has been growing rapidly in recent years as Asian economies continue to develop.  The Singapore chemicals cluster’s output grew about 7% year-on-year in March 2011, with all segments recording higher output. The flagship of the cluster, Jurong Island, is among the world’s top 10 petrochemical hubs. Moving forward, Singapore is embarking on "Jurong Island version 2.0", an initiative that will create new game-changing differentiating advantages to drive the next phase of growth for the industry. Many new developments are due for completion in the near future and these have helped catalyze new wave of high-value downstream investments for Singapore's chemical industry. These will be your career development opportunities.

  6. Singapore's manufacturing sector will be an important sector for its job creation and its pull for services, such as financial. With food science and technology gaining importance in the manufacturing value chain, Singapore food companies are investing in innovation for more first-in-the-market products, and enhancing their processes and packaging for better quality products with longer shelf-life. Innovation is about creation while research is about discovery. For innovation to work, you must have an understanding of market and customer requirements. The deeper the insights you have with regard to a particular market, the more exciting will be the products and services that you will create.

  7. These are all very relevant to what you graduands have studied. Your school has sufficiently prepared you for the next phase. The question is: Will you have the passion to be the best?  Engagement in the workplace depends on both employer and employee. Finding the right employer is important but participating to create the right environment is equally, if not more important. Gauge your engagement level in whatever you do. Without passion in your work, it is only be a task. With passion there is meaning in everything you do and aim for. 

  8. Singapore Polytechnic has, in additional to its status as a premier academic institution, a strong focus on social responsibility. For example, working closely with the Singapore Heart Foundation for the past four years, CLS students have participated in an on-going project on mapping the health status of low-income residents to facilitate health intervention programmes by the various GRCs. CLS students have participated in the Ulu Pandan Community Club’s Family Day cum Active Aging Day where they assisted in health screenings and healthy food tasting classes.  

  9. Other organizations receiving help from the CLS students include Metta Home Singapore, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Jurong Hospital and Home Nursing Foundation in its fund raising charity walkathon.  Not only do these community projects help foster closer ties with society, it provides a learning opportunity for the students to better understand the situation at the grassroots level.  This experience will also help instill in them the sense of compassion to help the less fortunate and to be aware of their social responsibility to contribute back to the society.

  10. It is heartening to know that CLS students have been as active overseas as in Singapore.  I was told 33 CLS students had participated in an Overseas Immersion Programme in Dalian Polytechnic University last year, learning about Chinese culture and history on top of their normal curriculum; and this year another batch has gone there again.  CLS students have also contributed to community projects in various parts of the world such as in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Vietnam and India.  Such overseas exposure broadens the outlook of the students, allowing them to develop a sharper perspective of the world.  In time to come, your overseas experience will serve you well when collaborating and/or competing with foreign companies.

  11. In this trend of increasingly interdependent economies, you must adopt an open mind-set towards operating in a cross-cultural environment. You need to be able to fully appreciate the uniqueness of each market and gain the right competencies so that you can be successful in tapping the vast opportunities in this fast growing Asian region.  I have worked overseas for more than 12 years and appreciated that there are many things that you can only learn when you are abroad. The discomfort of an unfamiliar environment will hasten learning and mold survival instincts. If you have the opportunity, I would encourage you to have an overseas stint as early as possible in your career. You can continue to serve Singapore, whether you are here or overseas. Singapore will need to develop more and more of its own global companies to be an economically resilient and stronger country.

  12. As I am nearing the end of my speech, and expect that soon you will forget what I have said, so I would like to put these things in context and offer you to reach for the 4 soft Cs:  Country, Continuous learning, Commitment, Contribution.

  13. The first C, is Country. Know where is home. When you are overseas, and alone, you will appreciate the meaning of “home”. We all need to know where we belong. Understand how Singapore is organized and how you can contribute to this small city state. Singlish is unique to Singapore but it is hardly a language that you can use to communicate well overseas. Singlish is not precise and only efficient when we will have a context. It will be heartwarming when you meet Singaporeans in faraway isolated places and can break into Singlish which we all can identify. Like it or not, it will be our identity. Good English is required for good communication. Therefore work on your communication skills.

  14. The second C, is Continuous learning. Remember the three phases of learning, acquisition, applying and creating new knowledge. I have elaborated on this earlier and I’ll leave this to your own discovery. You already would have more knowledge now than when I have at your age. Take advantage of this aspect.

  15. The third C, is Commitment. Commit to your goals and responsibility. You will need passion to fully engage in your journey. Without passion, you will never be the best that you can be.

  16. The fourth C is Contribution. Giving back to society, giving back to your school will nourish your soul. In time, you will gain more satisfaction in giving than in receiving. A material gift like money is often not the issue. Many institutions can raise a lot of money from high net worth individuals and companies. What will be lacking is time. Volunteering your time for socially meaningful activities will be a good way to contribute.

  17. I like to end by quoting from the world renowned author, Pearl S. Buck. “One faces the future with one's past.”  In your recent past, CLS has prepared you well to aspire towards the 4Cs.  Set your goals and go forward confidently into the future. Embrace the world as it is but aim to make it a better and better place for humanity.

  18. Once again, I extend my heartiest congratulations on the successful completion of your studies at Singapore Polytechnic and wish each of you success in your future learning journey.

  19. Thank you.