Embrace a global mindset, yet treasure your local identity: Chan Chun Sing

Chan Chun Sing

In his closing remarks to students at the Pre-University Seminar 2021 Virtual Closing Ceremony, Education Minister Chan Chun Sing exhorts them to embrace a global mindset while treasuring their local identity.  The minister was heartened to see their ‘determination and desire to co-create a vision for the future of our country’.

Here’s the excerpt from his speech:

“The world is truly our oyster. Singapore must remain connected to the world as one of the leading global cities, and a critical part of the global value chain. Our people must be equipped with the mindset and skillsets to operate and compete globally.

We want to give our students global exposure, and continue to strengthen your ability to understand and work across cultures and nationalities. I hope our young will have the gumption to venture out and make your mark in the world. Beyond that, we must also be able to work with talented people from elsewhere and locally – a diversity of international talent working alongside skilled Singaporean talent, exchanging ideas and bringing out the best in each other. Such vibrancy is what keeps Singapore a liveable and lovable city, and this is the vital ingredient for our future.

However, even as we spread our wings and venture far, our Singaporean identity and culture provide us with strong roots. We cannot just settle for “diffuse and rootless cosmopolitanism”.

Even as we learn from and compete with others, we must have the confidence that we have the ability, talent and aptitude to thrive globally in a uniquely Singaporean way. Our country is a unique one. Our context is also unique.

As we keep abreast of what is going on in other countries, study their best practices and adapt them where suitable, we must not copy blindly, or become “intellectually subjugated”. We must be careful not to get swept up in popular theories, rhetoric and movements which could divide us, but provide no real solutions to our challenges.

We must understand what works best for us, and remain prepared to do what works best for our unique context as a country, even if it sets us apart from the crowd. But being set apart is the essence of our uniqueness. For example: what we have done for our multicultural, multiracial, multilingual society; our model of governance; even how our public housing flats are designed – they are modern, but reflect Singapore’s tropical locality and use of space for common interaction amongst different races.

Nonetheless, we must always remain agile and humble, and be willing to do better. We are not bound by our plans, or do not just mindlessly follow set moves in a playbook. Plans and ways of doing things should change as circumstances evolve. Our work towards progress, is always work-in-progress. But our principles, values and instincts which define us as a nation – integrity, trustworthiness, multiculturalism, transparency, meritocracy, unity, will of action – must remain our bedrock.

Thus, we should be culturally secure, without being culturally superior. We should have the intellectual humility to learn and improve, but not feel intellectually inferior. If not, we are no better than a broken reed blown in every direction of the wind; or a rudderless, anchorless vessel tossed about by the vagaries of the waves generated by megaships.

[Emphasis added]

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