President Tony Tan Keng Yam last night opened the second session of the 12th Parliament after its mid-term break. This is the text of his address.
This session of Parliament opens at an important moment in our history. Next year, we celebrate our Golden Jubilee. For 50 years since Independence, we have built our homes together, raised families, and helped one another as friends, neighbours and compatriots. Despite long odds, we have not only survived, but prospered. Every Singaporean can take pride in this as we celebrate as one people.
At 50, we are still a young nation, with great promise ahead.
Just as our pioneers overcame formidable obstacles with grit and determination to build today's Singapore, we too must create our Singapore of tomorrow. Our work continues - to build a fair and just society, regardless of race, language or religion; to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation. These are the founding ideals in our Pledge, which we must always uphold.
In the second half of this 12th Parliament, my Government pledges to work with all Singaporeans to address the concerns and aspirations of our people and build a better future:
- We will strengthen safety nets to help the vulnerable and elderly cope with the vicissitudes of life;
- We will enhance retirement adequacy to give greater assurance and peace of mind to all Singaporeans;
- We will support strong families and communities, so that values such as empathy, filial piety, respect and mutual help continue to be part of our lives;
- We will create the conditions for every Singaporean to enjoy a better quality of life, with improved transport options, more recreational spaces and rejuvenated neighbourhoods for all to enjoy;
- We will create more opportunities for working adults to have a fulfilling career, to keep learning all their lives, and to realise their dreams and aspirations;
- We will enable young Singaporeans to fulfil their potential, pursue their dreams, and follow their interests in diverse fields.
My Government will pursue new strategies to achieve these goals. Our environment has changed, and so must our approach to nation building. We will chart this journey together with all Singaporeans. We have heard from the many citizens who participated in the OSC (Our Singapore Conversation). We will give substance to these voices, and set out a new way forward for ourselves and our nation.
Keeping pathways upwards open to all
First, we will keep pathways upwards open to all Singaporeans, regardless of background or family circumstances. Singapore must remain a nation of opportunities for all. Those who do not succeed at first should have a second chance, indeed must always have the chance to try again. We want an open and inclusive society, where all have opportunities to learn, and to earn our own success; where we respect fellow Singaporeans, regardless of social status, for the worth we see in everyone; and where we interact informally with one another free of rigid social hierarchy.
Our education system must uphold this ethos. This means inculcating empathy and respect from young, and fully developing everyone's abilities in a meritocratic society. We are investing more in pre-school education, to help those who are born with less get to a good starting point, and give them every chance to achieve their full potential.
We recognise that competition in our schools is keen, especially at milestones like Primary 1 registration or the PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examination). We will continue to improve the system, so that no single point in our education will wholly determine our future. We will ensure that every school is a good school, and offer more opportunities for students to hone their interests and talents across many fields. We will go beyond academic success, to imbue our young with practical skills, good character and sound values that are just as important in life.
Beyond primary and secondary school, we will create diverse and flexible options to cater to students' different abilities and pace of development. The Aspire committee is exploring ways to create more opportunities for ITE (Institutes of Technical Education) and polytechnic students. We are also expanding university places, and introducing new degree programmes in our fifth and sixth autonomous universities - SIT and UniSIM - with a stronger focus on practical application.
But education must continue beyond our ITEs, polytechnics and universities. Through lifelong learning, the Government will help our workers upgrade skills and develop expertise in every vocation, and stay abreast of changing industry demands. This is critical because jobs are changing faster, and knowledge is becoming obsolete more quickly. We will focus not only on low-income workers, but middle-income Singaporeans and professionals, managers and executives too. We are strengthening our system of Continuing Education and Training (CET), including the two new CET institutes - the Devan Nair Institute in Jurong, and the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar.