Mr See Cher
President, The Society for the Physically Disabled
Mr Harry Elias
Founding Partner, Harry Elias Partnership
Ladies and Gentlemen
Boys and Girls
1. It gives me great pleasure to be here with you at the Bursary Awards presentation. Today, 282 students will be receiving the bursary awards for their outstanding achievements.
The Education System
2. The education landscape has changed significantly over the last few years. These changes are aimed at providing greater opportunities for all our students to maximize their potential. We want to offer greater diversity and flexibility in our education system. With diversity, we offer greater variety of avenues for students to pursue their passion, whether in sports, music, arts or science and technology. With flexibility, we create greater space for students to progress at their own pace. Students who are more capable can progress faster while those who need more time will be given more help and resources.
Hardware vs Heartware
3. Children with disabilities who can benefit from education in the mainstream schools have been accepted into our mainstream schools and given additional support. 59 out of 330 primary and secondary schools have already improved their infrastructure so that their facilities are also accessible by the physically disabled students.
4. While we make progress in improving the hardware to be disabled friendly, the heartware, which includes acceptance, inclusion and support by the community, is an equally important factor to motivate the individual to go beyond the constraints of his disability.
5. Both hardware and heartware are necessary in providing a supportive environment to allow physically disabled students to also develop their potential to the fullest and contribute positively to our society. An excellent example of this two pronged approach of hardware and heartware is Evergreen Primary School. The school currently has three physically disabled students. Every part of the school, including the library and science laboratories, is accessible to all the students. Ramps are strategically placed, toilets are accessible through every level and there is a lift that serves every floor. Classes with physically disabled students are arranged such that they are held near lift lobbies for the convenience of wheelchair users.
6. In addition, the care and concern for students with disabilities is actively encouraged amongst the staff and students. The school has also arranged for the entire teaching staff to undergo training by the Society for the Physically Disabled to equip them with the know-how to help the physically disabled students. PE teachers also modified their lessons to involve their disabled students in their lessons. For example, lightweight plastic balls and modified hockey sticks could be used to make games less strenuous for these children. I understand that the school’s Drama Club has also been working over the past few months to put up a skit which will be performed later today. The actors will include disabled students. I look forward to the performance.
7. Evergreen Primary School is a shinning example of what an inclusive society should be, one that does not discriminate against physical disabilities, and one that will ensure that no one is left behind.
Community and Government Support
8. I understand that since 1985, the SPD Education Programme has been disbursing education grants to students with physical disabilities and students with physically disabled parents. The community plays an important role too in helping disabled students overcome their challenges. It is commendable that organisations like Harry Elias Partnership, StarHub, Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation, the Singapore Exchange and Caltex Singapore have come forward to offer invaluable financial and community support to the physically disabled. Your efforts have gone a long way in making Singapore a more inclusive society.
9. Let me share the success story of one of these beneficiaries. Julian Wee, who is wheel-chair bound. He is a past recipient of the SPD Education Programme Bursary Awards. He has been under the Programme since secondary school and today, with financial support from Harry Elias Partnership, is pursuing his Masters degree at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy. Julian has shown us that with the helping hands of the community, a physically disabled student can excel and go far.
10. The success and achievements of our award recipients today can be attributed to a large extent to the support and care given by their parents and teachers. To all the parents and teachers present today, you can be proud of your achievements.
11. Congratulations once again to all bursary recipients. Your achievements are a testimony that physical disabilities do not disable you or constraint you, so long as you do not allow them to. I wish you all the best in your endeavours.