Colleagues, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

1. I am very happy to be here to join all of you in celebrating the achievements of our students today. First, my heartiest congratulations to all award recipients! I would also like to extend my congratulations to all the family members, friends and teachers here today � your care and support have been instrumental in our students' success.

2. The scale and breadth of this award ceremony have grown over the years. Today, two new awards will be presented at the ceremony � the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award and the Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award. These new awards, together with the existing nine special awards, recognise a broad range of skills, qualities and contributions among our students, across many schools and institutions. We are grateful for the generous personal donations of Mr Lee Hsien Loong and Mr Lee Kuan Yew which went into funding the various awards. This is a good reminder on the importance of giving back to the society and in nurturing our future generations.

3. Let me introduce the new awards. First, the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student Award. This award affirms the resilience and hard work of students from our 20 government-funded special education schools, who have risen above the odds to be exemplary role models.

4. Our government-funded SPED schools have come a long way in providing a meaningful and fulfilling education for students with special educational needs. A key recent development is the inclusion of children with moderate-to-severe special education needs under the compulsory education framework with effect from the 2019 Primary One cohort. Further, all special education schools now have a Transition Planning Coordinator. These developments, together with the launch of the Lee Kuan Yew Exemplary Student award, signify the increasingly inclusive approach in education, and our commitment to help every Singaporean child be the best that he can be.

5. Today, among the 25 recipients of this award, is a pair of twins, Jovin and Jovan. Jovin and Jovan are students of Metta School, and they exemplify their school values of compassion and resilience. They have been active members of their CCA, the Metta Simba Scout Group, since they were 13. As participants of their school's overseas Values in Action programme, the twins helped residents in Batam build a water irrigation system to supply water to a farm. Jovin and Jovan have consistently demonstrated care and concern to members of the community, and touched the hearts of many in the school community.

6. I would also like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and acknowledgment of all parents, caregivers and teachers of the recipients of the LKY-Exemplary Student Award. Thank you for your love and dedication in nurturing these students with sound values, big hearts and the self-belief that they can contribute to others in society.

7. The other new award that we are introducing this year is the Lee Hsien Loong Interactive Digital Media Smart Nation Award. This award recognises full-time polytechnic students who have contributed projects towards the Smart Nation vision.

8. As you know, digital technology features strongly in all our post- secondary education institutions, both in terms of curriculum and school- life. For example, the polytechnics are developing smart campuses, and establishing innovation centres with organizations such as Monetary Authority of Singapore and Microsoft. The universities set up research studies and clusters, innovative industry partnerships and new programmes within their curriculum. The Smart Nation Award is the first special award that recognises both individual and team contributions. This year, five projects from four polytechnics were selected for the award.

9. One of them is from students of Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Currently, there are no mobile applications in the market for the learning of Singapore Sign Language. Four students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic - Terence, Jasper, Rachael and Lynnette - saw this as an opportunity for them to put into practice what they have learnt to help the hearing impaired community � and so KinderSign was born. It is a digital solution that teaches Singapore Sign Language. In developing the solution, the team had to immerse themselves in learning new technologies such as Unity and Augmented Reality, which were beyond their usual curriculum. They worked with various stakeholders, such as the Singapore Association for the Deaf and the Singapore School for the Deaf, to better understand the needs and difficulties of their beneficiaries.

10. This year, the Lee Kuan Yew Award for All-Round Excellence has also been expanded to include students who excelled in their primary schools. Our recipients have shown that there is no age limit to demonstrate resilience and determination.

11. Al'Shafry Mohamed Masduki is one of the awardees of this award who personifies the spirit of 'all-round excellence'. Due to challenging circumstances in his family, Al'Shafry has to shoulder more responsibilities than what a typical primary school boy might experience. He has to help take care of his younger siblings by doing household chores and cooking for them in the afternoons. He sets priorities and routines, so that he can cope with both school and family demands. Al'Shafry's teachers from Woodlands Ring Primary School have commented that he has a strong sense of moral courage and takes concrete actions to correct the inappropriate behaviour of his peers.

12. Clearly, despite his young age, Al'Shafry displays an outstanding strength of character that makes him a role model for all of us. When asked about his future aspirations, the boy shared that he wants to be a policeman to make Singapore a safe place for everyone.

13. I have told the stories of a small sample of award winners today, but there are many other untold stories. Behind each story, is a story of resilience, enterprise, hard work and service to others around us. Our award winners may be young, but are all the more, an inspiration to everyone of us. I wish all of you the very best in your future. Use your drive, skills and passion to significantly impact our society, country, and maybe even the world.

Source: Ministry of Education, Singapore