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Welcome Remarks by Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At The 7th APRCSL on 19 June 2019

Speech By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President Of Singapore University of Social Sciences, at the 7th Asia Pacific Regional Conference on Service-Learning on 19 June 2019, 9.15am at SUSS, Performing Arts Theatre (Block D)


Mr Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development
Colleagues and Partners
Ladies and Gentlemen;

  1. Good morning! It is my pleasure to welcome you to the 7th Asia Pacific Regional Conference for Service-Learning (APRCSL). We’re holding this growing biennial conference for the first time in Singapore, and it is SUSS’ honour to host it. 
  1. Let me first express our gratitude and appreciation to our partners for making this conference possible. They are:

    (1) Founding Sponsor, the Lingnan Foundation;

    (2) Event Sponsor, Our SG Fund, which is championing SG Cares, a national movement which aims to build a more caring and inclusive home for all; and

    (3) Event Partners, Youth Corps Singapore, a division of the National Youth Council, and SkillsFuture SG.

  1. I also welcome over 300 service-learning advocates and leaders here with us. There will be no conference without you. Thank you. You’re all busy but you’ve taken time to network and share your knowledge. You represent the regional education institutes, non-profit organisations and social service organisations, who have gathered out of a common passion to exchange your best practices to build up a service-minded community within APAC. We hope to learn from you and aim to bring you all together to spark off deeper dialogue and partnerships in the areas of Service-Learning and Community Engagement, both locally and internationally. While you are in Singapore, first time or otherwise, we invite you to explore our sunny island and enjoy your stay here!

SUSS’ DNA: Serving the Society

  1. This year’s conference theme ‘Service-Learning: A Lifelong Journey of Social Responsibility’ is a bold challenge. Getting everyone to understand what service-learning is already a tall order, not to mention getting them all to perform some kind of service-learning. And then, lifelong? And taking this as a responsibility? To think in terms of social needs and well-being, rather than a self-gratifying activity? We may have gotten ourselves in a fix by shooting for this lofty goal. But, shoot we must, for every person’s benefit and for society’s good. As educators, beyond enriching minds, we are also called to impart core values to shape character, direction and vision of future generations. For this to happen, a holistic education must be provided! At SUSS, we have these all-rounded programmes which expose our students to both industry and society. These are rooted in our guiding ‘Head, Heart, and Habit’ education philosophy, to develop in them professional competencies (Head), passion for service towards others (Heart), and learning as a way of life (Habit). We hope that after their SUSS education, our students will go on to make their mark in their careers, lives and on society.

  1. As our society grows, progresses and ages, there will be significant social and environmental challenges placed upon the young ones to meet. All stakeholders in the eco-system today, including education institutes, will need to step up to equip and empower our youths to pursue life choices and decisions that will be socially-conscious, socially-responsible and socially-nourishing. Service-Learning will help towards attaining that end. But, lest all the others among us who are older think we have been let off the hook, our young needs the partnership, role-modelling and guidance of the older generation to make light work while achieving good.

Leading Service-Learning

  1. On this front, SUSS remains committed to lead the way in teaching and advocating Service-Learning. We have integrated it as a distinctive non-credit bearing graduating requirement in our full-time programmes since 2014. Our service-learning stints are staff-created and span a significant period of six to eighteen months - this longer immersive experience will help our students develop, act on, and sustain their sense of social responsibility in real-world settings. Today, our students have led over 200 Service-Learning and Community Engagement projects, in collaboration with over 190 partners. I am glad to share two recent initiatives:

    • Our partnership with the National Parks Board enables students to discover the importance of global bio-diversity conservation through hands-on propagation of mangroves, both locally and overseas. This is done at the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve. Through this, and by involving other SUSS Service-Learning groups and their community partners, our students learn to share the therapeutic benefits of nature with under-served populations such as seniors and youths-at-risk.
    • Another partnership is with the Women’s Education Centre in Village Ponda, a remote part of Northern India, where we started a Youth Expedition Project (YEP) supporting the Centre’s ability to provide free education to 56 girls. The YEP is a nationally-supported International Service-Learning programme. Our students designed conversational English activities for the girls, raised funds to procure additional laptops for the Centre, and taught student leaders to use computer applications like PowerPoint and Skype. This year, the project partnership evolves into a credit-bearing SUSS service-learning course on Women’s Empowerment in India.

Rallying Support within Ecosystem

  1. We are also pioneering work on a National Service-Learning Clearinghouse. It is spearheaded by SUSS but aims to serve as a shared resource for all. The Clearinghouse will serve as a digital repository for Service-Learning research, policies, pedagogies, programmes and resources in Singapore. The website will curate Service-Learning community resources and initiatives for public access and establish future community partnerships for the programmes. The proceedings of this conference will also be stored on this repository. Educators, Service-Learning practitioners, teachers, students and the public are welcome to contribute related information and resources to the website. My team is working to launch the website towards end of June. So stay tuned!

  1. Beyond the individual, or the single institution, the ability to scale and the impact that can be derived from service-learning are best attained through collective action. Building on SUSS’ Service-Learning work, we will continue to consolidate and spearhead efforts to strengthen our eco-system of education providers, welfare organisations and community partners. Collectively, we can engage, educate and direct efforts to chart the future of society for the greater good. Through this conference series, I hope that we can reflect upon, and advance, both the teaching and application of Service-Learning and Community Engagement. New initiatives and partnerships between SUSS and amongst our colleagues and partners will also multiply to enable youths in Singapore and the region to cultivate and exercise their social responsibility throughout their lives! 


  1. The line-up of presentations suggests strongly that the next few days will bring us yet greater insights into research findings, recommendations on pedagogy and best practices to teach and elevate Service-Learning and Community Engagement to the next level, and into the future of our youths and society.

  1. I’m glad that we’re also mindful of the social footprint we create in this conference to reuse, reduce and repurpose resources! I wish you a most fruitful learning and conversation ahead. Thank you.

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