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Building a home that provides opportunities for all

Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth at the Committee of Supply Debate 2020

Introduction

  1. 2020 marks the beginning of a new decade. For MCCY, we ended the last decade on a strong note across our domains, where Singaporeans came together to celebrate our heritage, our unity and our sporting achievements. We commemorated our Bicentennial, recalling our history, and how together we built a nation. Our religious leaders came together to affirm their Commitment to Safeguard Religious Harmony at the inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies. Our country rallied behind Team Singapore athletes at the SEA Games, who brought home 53 gold medals, 46 silver medals and 68 bronze medals.
  2. We have become a more caring nation through voluntary acts of spontaneous and everyday kindness. There have been many accounts of how Singaporeans have looked out for each other in recent weeks during the COVID-19 outbreak. Many of us desire to do more for the community, from donating to volunteering. 
  3. As a people, we have become more confident about our identity, what we can offer and showcase to the world. With strong public support, we submitted our nomination to inscribe Hawker Culture in Singapore on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. We look forward to the outcome in December 2020. 

    Singapore Together

  4. Making Singapore our home together is the heart of MCCY’s work. We believe in collectively shaping the society we want to be – a caring people, a cohesive society and a confident nation. We work closely with partners to support the Singapore Cares movement. We encourage our citizens to step forward to serve, through Team Nila and Youth Corps Singapore. We have expanded opportunities for Singaporeans to engage in honest dialogue and understand each other better, through programmes such as BRIDGE. We partnered stakeholders to support the expression of national pride through Our SG Arts Plan and Our SG Heritage Plan. We empower our citizens through Our Singapore Fund, Our Harmony Fund and the National Youth Fund, to start ground-up projects that can inspire others and strengthen our identity as one people.
  5. With the Singapore Together movement, MCCY will do more to partner Singaporeans. In a world where people are increasingly tribal, divided and disconnected from each other, we will ensure Singapore’s social fabric remains strong, by working together to offer opportunities, community and inclusion to every member of society. We will enhance access to opportunities, foster a more caring and gracious community, and build an inclusive city of possibilities.

    Enhancing Access to Opportunities

  6. For a society to be united, it must work for everyone, not just a few. There must be equal conditions for all to thrive. I am glad Dr Lim Wee Kiak raised this. We will enhance access to opportunities in the sports, arts and youth sectors for all Singaporeans at each stage of their lives. 
  7. Mr Darryl David asked how MCCY will provide such opportunities for all children and youth. In the early pre-school years, a child’s main way of learning and developing is through play.
  8. Under our Children and Youth Sport Framework, we will provide more in- and out-of-school play opportunities for our children to support their physical and intellectual growth. In 2017, SportSG initiated the Nurture Kids programme to complement ECDA’s development framework for our young children. Last year, we partnered 125 preschools and introduced fundamental movement skills such as jumping, throwing and balancing in a safe and fun way to more than 5,000 children. This year, we will double efforts, and make this available to 250 preschools. We will also partner MOE to ensure all preschool teachers graduating from the National Institute of Early Childhood have the skills to help our children develop their fundamental motor skills.
  9. Complementing these initiatives, an “Active Parents” movement will be launched this year, to encourage and equip parents to play an active role in our children’s sporting journey.
  10. At our primary and secondary schools, we will continue partnering MOE to provide our students with opportunities for a well-rounded education through sports and culture. In 2020, we will expand the School Sports Partnership and introduce “Active Play”. Primary schools can tie up with SportSG to conduct different sports, so students can pick up these sports conveniently – during recess, school sports days, or at nearby sports centres. These non-competitive arenas can encourage students to try more sports, and bring them enjoyment while fostering confidence, teamwork and cohesion.
  11. We are also exploring more offerings under the Strategic Partnership CCA pilot formed last year between MOE, the National Arts Council (NAC) and SportSG. This allows students to pursue their interests, even if these are not offered as CCAs in their schools. They will be able to represent their schools in national competitions and platforms. Athletics and Ethnic Dance are currently offered under this programme. This year, where there is demand, SportSG is ready to open up more locations to support Athletics training. On its part, NAC will work with LASALLE College of the Arts to provide Ethnic Dance experiences for interested students.
  12. We will nurture creativity and expand horizons of our children by celebrating our history and igniting their love for our heritage. The Singapore Philatelic Museum will be revamped as a dedicated children’s museum where children can learn about a wide range of themes, including the heritage and culture of Singapore and the region, by playing with interactive and immersive exhibits. For instance, there will be a permanent exhibition on “Singapore, Our Home”, where children can learn how early pioneers lived and worked, and role-play as hawkers, coolies and merchants. The museum will re-open in 2021 and add to the current offerings for children, such as the Children’s Biennale at National Gallery Singapore.
  13. Our museums will also provide our students with shared experiences of learning together and appreciating Singapore’s history. In 2020, the National Heritage Board will introduce Museum-based Learning (MBL) as part of MOE’s Learning Journeys for students.
  14. All Primary Six and Secondary Two cohorts will visit the Asian Civilisations Museum and National Museum of Singapore respectively. Students will travel through the museums in small groups, interact with museum educators, and complete hands-on activities with their friends. For instance, at the National Museum, students can learn the struggles of the Japanese occupation by choosing artefacts they are interested in, and having conversations around those artefacts. One such artefact is Elizabeth Choy’s dress, which she wore while held captive. Through this experience of exploring our history as a cohort, we hope our students will form shared memories together, and learn important values such as self-determination and helping one another during difficult times. These initiatives will make learning more meaningful and come alive for students, as they go through their Character and Citizenship Education syllabus, and subjects such as Social Studies in primary school and History in secondary school.
  15. In an age where Asia’s economy is growing in significance, our youths need to understand regional markets to thrive in the future economy. Our Institutes of Higher Learning (IHLs) already provide youths with opportunities to build their economic, social and cultural awareness of the region. Youth Corps Singapore piloted the enhanced Youth Expedition Projects (YEP+) in 2018 to provide youths with deeper understanding of the region. The YEP+ comprises not only of community service, but also visits to multinational corporations and start-ups.
  16. Our participants have made their marks in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and China. Currently, the YEP+ provides about 5,000 opportunities for regional exposure.
  17. In 2020, we will increase opportunities for youths to engage the region. The National Youth Council (NYC) will partner IHLs to expand short-term immersion opportunities to ASEAN, China and India for ITE, polytechnic and university students, through the new Asia-Ready Exposure Programme (AEP). The AEP will curate industry-focused experiences in the region for our youths to be more aware of the economic opportunities in these countries. By 2022, NYC’s regional exposure programmes, including the AEP, will support up to 10,000 youths each year. This is double the current number of youths benefitting from NYC’s programmes. This will contribute to the “70-70” target for students, announced by the Finance Minister in his Budget Speech, and enhance the Asia-readiness of our future workforce.
  18. Not forgetting those who are less youthful, we will ensure everyone has opportunities to lead full and active lives. By 2030, 1 in 4 Singaporeans will be at or above the age of 65, and we will have 900,000 seniors. Sports and physical activity allow our seniors to sustain their health and mobility longer, and continue to be engaged in the community.
  19. From this year, we will make public gyms and swimming pools free for all Singaporeans aged 65 years and above. We will review the age criterion from time to time, in keeping with the trends and life expectancy of Singaporeans. SportSG will also partner the Agency for Integrated Care to bring programmes for seniors to their doorsteps, at Senior Citizens’ Corners and Senior Activity Centres.
  20. I have touched on new initiatives for Singaporeans at each stage of life. Equally important, we must ensure that access to the things that make a full life – the beauty of the arts, the rigour of sports, the knowledge of our heritage, the support of our community – is open to all, regardless of background. We will continue to increase access to sports facilities around the island, under our Sports Facilities Master Plan. This year, we will break ground for the new Punggol Regional Sport Centre. We will bring new Sport-in-Precinct facilities to Sengkang South, Pasir Ris East and Dover, achieving our target of initiating 20 Sport-in-Precinct projects by 2020. We will rejuvenate another five ActiveSG facilities, from swimming complexes in Ang Mo Kio, to sport centres in Yishun. In partnership with MOE, over 90% of suitable government primary and secondary schools’ sports halls and fields have been converted for public use under the Dual Use Scheme. We will work with MOE to convert all remaining suitable facilities by this time next year. These initiatives will help realise our aspiration of having sports and recreational facilities within a 10-minute walk from our homes.
  21. Ms Joan Pereira and Mr Yee Chia Hsing asked about broadening access to the arts. Mr Lim Wee Kiak and Mr Terence Ho made similar suggestions in this House. We will ensure that all Singaporeans have access to quality arts productions. This year, we will enhance the WeCare Arts Fund by launching the WeCare Arts Experiences, in partnership with the five Community Development Councils (CDCs). This will enable less privileged families to attend ticketed presentations for free at our cultural institutions such as the Esplanade, SSO and NHB museums, through a subsidy of up to $40 for a ticket. By 2022, the National Arts Council and CDCs aim to reach up to 20,000 beneficiaries and volunteers under this scheme. As Mr Terence Ho noted, everyone has a part to play in enhancing access to the arts, and we encourage volunteers to step up and work with Social Service Agencies to see how they too can contribute their time.

    Enabling One Another

  22. Chairman, I will speak in Malay.
  23. Kami akan tingkatkan peluang bagi semua warga. Bagi kanak-kanak prasekolah, kami akan melatih guru-guru mereka supaya dapat merangsang pertumbuhan fizikal dan intelektual kanak-kanak kita. Bagi kanak-kanak sekolah pula, kami akan sediakan pengalaman pembelajaran yang lebih holistik, dengan memperbanyakkan lagi peluang untuk mereka mencuba pelbagai sukan. Kami juga akan sediakan lebih banyak peluang untuk menimba pengalaman bersama melalui sejarah nasional kita. Bagi belia posmenengah, kami akan tawarkan lebih banyak peluang untuk membantu mereka lebih peka terhadap budaya dan pasaran serantau. Kami akan pastikan warga emas kita dapat meniti usia senja mereka secara aktif dan penuh bermakna. Kami akan mudahkan bagi semua untuk menggunakan kemudahan-kemudahan sukan. Kami juga akan pastikan keluarga yang kurang berkemampuan dapat nikmati program seni yang bermutu supaya kita dapat maju bersama sebagai satu masyarakat. Namun, peluang-peluang seperti ini tidak cukup untuk mendirikan sebuah tempat tinggal yang baik. Kita harus membantu satu sama lain untuk mencapai kejayaan. Setiap rakyat Singapura itu penting. Kita hanya berjaya jika kita maju bersama. Sebagai satu rakyat, kita perlu laksanakan kewajipan bersama membantu warga setanah air kita.
  24. Beyond providing opportunities for all, we wish to build a strong community spirit where we care for and help one another. There is more each of us can do to give, and to lift the less fortunate and more vulnerable among us. SMS will provide more details on these initiatives.
  25. We will deepen our commitment to one another as one people, and to Singapore. In 2020, MCCY will partner Singapore citizens to create content on what makes us Singaporean, and this content will be used to update the Singapore Citizenship Journey. Through this process, Singaporeans will articulate and affirm who we are as a people, while co-creating content to enrich new citizens’ understanding of Singapore. After an open call in January, we will convene a Citizens Workgroup comprising of interested persons from diverse fields and organisations. Over the next few months, they will discuss what unites us as Singaporeans, and research topics close to our hearts. This would include our values and obligations as Singaporeans, social norms, and our culture and national history. Their recommendations will be published by end-2020.
  26. When we affirm our common fate, support one another, and work and progress together side by side, we live a democracy of deeds. A clear manifestation of this has been the crafting of the SG Youth Action Plan, where more than 70,000 youths proactively shared their ideas and views on Singapore in 2025. SMS will share more on this. Ms Anthea Ong  and Mr Saktiandi Supaat asked how we will support ground up efforts better. Finance Minister has shared in his Budget Speech that the Government is prepared to invest up to $175 million from now to 2025 to engage active citizenry, and develop partnerships. To support more projects, we will put $20 million of these funds into Our Singapore Fund, and extend it to SG60 in 2025. Government will co-invest the balance in partners across all domains to support projects that address shared priorities. This enhanced support will help partners develop capacity and capabilities to sustain impactful initiatives. More immediately, SPS will also speak on our measures to support the arts and sports communities in view of the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

    Expanding pathways to success

  27. To grow an inclusive society that embraces diversity, we will expand pathways to success that celebrate our diverse talents, skills and cultures. This year, we will provide more support to our athletes and artists, so they can excel and succeed, and make Singapore a place of opportunities. We will support promising athletes representing Singapore who are not covered by our High Performance Sports system. We will work with individuals and groups to preserve our heritage in innovative ways, and keep it alive so we can transmit it to future generations. SPS will share more details.
  28. Even as we celebrate what makes us different, we need to emphasise and protect what we share in common. A major reason for Singapore’s success is that we stay open to the world while remaining cohesive as a nation. We combine unity with diversity, harmony with difference. We can do this because our communities hold our differences not in opposition to each other, but in a relationship of mutual respect. Diversity ensures we have the range and breadth of ideas, perspectives and resources to thrive globally. Because we come from different lands and cultures, the possibilities of what we can make together are so much richer. We see a common good and are committed to building something better. We rely on one another for security, stability and prosperity.
  29. Assoc Prof Walter Theseira asked how we will foster mutual understanding on LGBTQ. In many of our discussions with citizens, the issue of sexual orientation has often been raised. It is grounded on personal values and beliefs, and consensus is not always possible. However, we do not shy away from discussing it. It is important that we have platforms where we can engage on our differences on the basis of mutual respect. For instance, at the Youth Conversations and SG Youth Action Plan engagements, youths had a safe space to express views, on their aspirations, concerns, fears and disappointments. Participants voiced their opinions, including on LGBTQ issues, while others listened with civility and respect.
  30. Through such platforms, we listen to those different from us and seek to understand them on their terms, even with our disagreements; we expand the common space to engage one another and work together on the things that we want in common. When we drop the mindset of “us versus them”, and see ourselves as a collective “we”, Singaporeans with different points of view can sit together and work on issues important to our shared future, such as jobs and economy, the environment, the vulnerable and the disadvantaged.
  31. We will continue to support partners and agencies to build capacity and capabilities within the community for more inclusive civil discourse. We will support platforms that bring together people who hold different perspectives, and we will partner ground-up efforts to promote social harmony.
  32. Finally, Sir, allow me to say a few words in Mandarin.
  33. 除了最近的冠病疫情,眼前的种族主义、宗教主义和保护主义也正在抬头,世界日趋部落化,人们之间越发分化,彼此关系也逐渐疏远。因此,我们要为国人提供参与平台、建立归属感、提升包容性,以巩固社会结构。我们放眼建国目标,为国人塑立一个充满机会的家园,让人人有平等的条件,发挥才能。我们也需培养一个更充满爱心的社会。在成功之余,不忘互助互惠,提拔他人。更要建设一个具包容性的城市,让各族群的多元才华和文化齐放异彩。最后,文化、社区及青年部,也呼吁“群策群力,共创未来”运动,加强政府与国人之间的合作,以打造一个具有爱心、凝聚力和自信的新加坡。

    Conclusion

  34. To conclude, Sir, we in MCCY often ask ourselves if we are making progress towards our vision of a caring people, cohesive society and confident nation for Singapore. We are aware that the strength of our society is not measured by, say, the amount of grants made. The answer lies in our responses when we face a major crisis as a nation. COVID-19 is the moment that allows us to search for the answer. To get through the crisis, we must unite around our values of multi-racialism, openness and self-determination. We must not let fear and anxiety come between us. That it is a worldwide crisis gives us a good basis of comparison with others.
  35. Sir, I would put to this House that Singapore and Singaporeans have come up well as a caring people, cohesive society and a confident nation.
  36. Singapore has united as one, and acted and applied our minds to help one another. Many have stepped up to show what it means to be Singaporean. Those working at the frontline of our defence are standing tall and stoically in their positions despite shouldering risks to themselves and their families. Some, like the pilots and crew of Scoot and the MFA officers who flew into Wuhan to retrieve Singaporeans there, showed courage, sense of duty and self-sacrifice, and made the nation proud. Some contributed time and resources to those in need, going deep into the community to reach out to seniors and the vulnerable in their homes.
  37. As the situation developed, more of us have come forward to help, in whatever way we can to anyone regardless of race, language or religion. This is a testament to the strength of our society, and our progress as one people. And I think years of developing that support on the ground, whether it is through PA, whether it is through Team Nila and Youth Corps Singapore, has shown us that we have the strength, a very strong and firm layer of volunteers that is out there that can support us, the Government, in reaching out to the ground, in helping the ground. And I think this is the day that we have been practicing so hard, that we have been preparing so hard for. And I think Singapore has really come out well.
  38. As well as through our actions, we demonstrate that we are in this together, with trust and confidence in the Government and in one another. Together, we are working out solutions to new problems. We will emerge a stronger nation together. This is the Singapore Spirit, and the heart of our nation. Thank you.

 

Last updated on 06 March 2020