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Reflections on DPM Mr Tharman’s Lecture

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We had the privilege to attend this year’s Raffles Institution Lecture on National Issues on 22 February. Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnum, our deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic & Social Policies, was invited as the key speaker of this lecture and gave his lecture, ‘Becoming an Innovative Society’.


This programme started with Mr Tharman speaking about the importance of managing the tensions between creating an innovative and yet inclusive society as they do not easily go along together. As more people seek to be innovative and to assert their sense of individuality, they might reject or do not respect other people's ideas. This will lead to tension and conflicts between people to arise. Hence, it would be important for Singapore to aim to create a society that is both innovative and inclusive.


He also mentioned how we can achieve this:


Firstly, we need to have many diverse experiences with others in order to gain insights on how we can be more innovative. We can become more innovative when we share our ideas and be more creative and open to new insights. Through communicating and sharing with others, we can learn from and understand the needs of others, so that we can be more innovative to do things in a different and special way.


Secondly, we need to have the courage to explore ideas that are not the norm. We must be daring enough to come up with new ideas to do things differently and not be afraid of failure. Even if we fail, we should continue to come up with different ways to do things and leave a lasting impression on others.


Thirdly, we have to respect and be open to each other's ideas. By respecting each other's ideas, we acknowledge their contribution, thus ensuring that they are included. It is important that as we seek innovation, we do not disregard or leave others behind.


His lecture was rich and insightful, with many diverse examples from all over the world. This made us more knowledgeable on current global issues and the lessons we can learn from them. 


During the Question & Answer (Q&A) segment, Mr Tharman answered questions asked by students from Raffles Institution and invited schools. One such questions was, “How are working adults able to continue learning through SkillsFuture (a national movement led by Mr Tharman himself, to encourage further learning for those in the working class) and how is that important in contributing to building a more innovative society in Singapore?” He then answered by saying that working adults can take a break for a few months to a year to fully concentrate on learning a new skill or to enhance their own knowledge. Mr Tharman answered difficult questions with ease and we were further able to understand the points he wanted to bring across.


Our interaction with Mr Tharman did not stop after the Q&A session. During the reception, we are able to go up close to him and further clarify our queries and pose more questions. He was friendly and kind to answer most of the many burning questions the students had even though some of the questions may not have been directly related to his lecture, for example, inquiring on future educational paths to take and on the type of leadership skills necessary to become a good leader.


In summary, the lecture set us thinking on how we can bring about a better and brighter future for Singapore as we are the next generation to lead our country. It was an enriching experience for us to understand more on how to make our society more outstanding while staying cohesive at the same time. We had also reflected on how important is it to be innovative in the 21st century, with greater competition both within our country and in the world. Having our own individuality while wanting to stay in a welcoming, warm and cohesive society is something not easy, but not impossible to achieve. We need to bear in mind the balance required to meet the challenge of bringing about a better country to live in for our generation. Additionally, we thought about how we should be more cultured citizens with a global outlook. This is essential in bringing Singapore up onto higher and bigger global platforms to become a more prestigious country, so that Singaporeans can be even prouder to call Singapore their home.


Eunice Gan (4E5 ’16) & Wayne Lim (4E3 ‘16)