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Welcome Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat At STEP Sociovation On 15 March 2019

Welcome Address By Professor Cheong Hee Kiat, President, Singapore University Of Social Sciences (SUSS), At STEP Sociovation Forum 2019 On 15 March 2019, 10:00 A.M.

Distinguished guests, colleagues, partners, students and teachers from Singapore and the rest of ASEAN

  1. Good morning and a warm welcome to SUSS!
  1. Let me first thank our partner, Temasek Foundation International (TFI) and my colleagues and students from SUSS, the Singapore University of Social Sciences, for their sterling effort in organising this event. I would also like to thank our community partners who are supporting this meaningful initiative, for investing your time and energy to mentor the students.

STEP Sociovation Forum 2019 and Social Focus

  1. The Singapore Technologies Endowment Programme (or STEP) Sociovation Forum 2019 is an interesting idea and in line with SUSS’s social focus. At SUSS, we endeavour to form attitudes, mindsets and behaviour in our students that prepare them for service to others after graduation, through our 3H education philosophy – Head (knowledge with practical application), Heart (social conscience) and Habit (self-directed lifelong learning habits). Through this activity with TFI and our community partners, we used design thinking and our know-how (the Head) to create value for society by addressing its needs and challenges (the Heart).
  1. Let me make three observations about the social innovation we hope to generate.
  1. First: If we have the Head but no Heart, we may not find solutions that really serve the people or we may not even seek to use our abilities to make life better for others.If we only have Heart, and not Head, we may not be able to offer good workable solutions for society even if we have wanted to.We need both Head and Heart.And, as society evolves, as new problems crop up, we need to keep having community in mind, keep finding solutions, keep learning new ways and innovating (that’s the Habit).I hope we can produce a new breed of graduates who have these 3Hs in their mindset and behaviour.
  1. Second: Why should we gather students from our region to take part? We could have done this activity within SUSS, or within Singapore.And each country can do likewise.Well, many similar issues are faced by different countries.Yet, they are experienced in different severity, and a problem in one country may be well-managed while in another, it is just rearing its ugly head.Countries are at different stages of development - so, the concerns are different, so are the needs.The social settings are different, what matters more in one society differs from that in another.Some problems cannot be contained in one country – they are trans-boundary.Problems like haze, pollution of rivers running through several countries, or water shortage when such rivers run dry, racial / religious strife, poverty leading to forced migration, security threats.Sometimes, one country’s problems overflow to become another’s.
  1. In STEP Sociovation, students from various countries get to share their perspectives and knowledge with one another.It can be revealing, humbling, transformative.Getting the right solutions in this exercise is not the crucial objective – it is gaining mutual understanding, new perspectives, a shared desire for good of society, and also, the realisation that what is a good solution for one community may not work well for a similar problem in another.Our Singapore students may see technology as an answer, but try that in a remote village elsewhere in the region!
  1. The third point: We must engage the youths in this venture. The future is in the hands of our young – they have a big say in how their society of tomorrow will function and tackle new challenges; they will live within that society and be part of its success or setback.They have the education, the energy, the passion for good, the idealism, and they have the long runway to grow networks and see results.They need not do it themselves –there are many older experienced well-meaning people who can come alongside to work things out with the young.

Three Areas of Focus

  1. The topics of focus in STEP Sociovation, namely, Environment, Ageing and Disability, are aptly chosen - these are crucial concerns affecting many countries. 

    On environment, with Asean’s growing urbanisation and rapid industrialisation, there’s a critical need for sustainable development.  One issue then is: how can we ensure that businesses recognise and prioritise sustainable growth, and keep the environment protected while remaining successful.

    On ageing, except for the Philippines, the proportion of people over the age of 65 in ASEAN is expected to triple from 2015 to 2050. Singapore is worst off here – we are set to become the world’s 4th ‘oldest’ country in the next three to four decades. How do we help this group of people?

    And on disability, how does a country help this group who tends to have lower levels of educational attainment, fewer job opportunities and are more likely to be poor?  How to finance this; how to get society more involved to help?
  1. Student participants, you had the privilege to speak with interested parties in the last few days to understand the situation better, as opposed to just reading about them or harbouring wrong assumptions. We all look forward to your final presentations later, to find out what you have learned and your proposed solutions. You will be getting feedback from your community mentors. Take them to heart, learn from them, and then, after you leave this place, excite and encourage your peers to join while you continue your investigations and conduct new ones on the needs of your own communities.


  1. As you leave today, do resolve to stay in touch with one another and build an ASEAN network of young change makers. These friendships could last a lifetime. To our ASEAN friends, have a safe trip home. Come and visit us again, soon!

Thank you all, once again.

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