ITE Student Leaders' Forum (Context Setting Session: Singapore - Our Future)
Context Setting Session: Singapore - Our Future
The National Youth Council (NYC) and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) co-organised the ITE Student Leaders Forum (Context Setting Session) on Friday, 31 March 2023, 3pm – 4.30pm, involving 79 youths from across three ITE colleges. The theme “Singapore – Our Future” involved the following panellists:
- Mr Bryan Wong, Manager, SG Partnerships Office, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY)
- Mr Rovik Robert, Founder, SGExplained and The Hidden Good
The session was moderated by Mr Azrin Hamdan, Digital Marketing Specialist at Hatch.
Here are the highlights of the session:
Context Setting by Mr Bryan Wong
- Mr Wong introduced the Singapore Together movement, launched by Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat in June 2019. He said that it was a governance approach based on partnership – the Government working with Singaporeans, and Singaporeans working with one another, to build our future Singapore.
- He said that in line with Singapore Together, the Forward SG (FSG) exercise, launched by DPM Lawrence Wong in June 2022, was a collective effort to refresh Singapore’s social compact. While the Government would set out a policy agenda to support the refreshed social compact, there would also be engagements with Singaporeans and stakeholders to invite people to take action and initiate/join in partnerships with the Government and one another.
What is a social compact?
- Mr Wong shared the four objectives of the Forward Singapore exercise were for the Government to partner Singaporeans as well as other stakeholders to (i) Create more opportunities, (ii) Provide assurances, (iii) Strengthen solidarity, and (iv) Come to an understanding on the responsibilities and obligations we have to each other in society.
- Mr Wong said that the social compact is a shared understanding of how all of us in society (i.e. Government, Businesses, Communities, Families and Individuals) relate to one another.
Why do we need to refresh our social compact?
- Mr Wong said that the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, challenging global environment and divisive forces have put pressure on our social trust. He said that as Singaporeans’ aspirations evolved, we had to relook at renewing our social compact.
- Mr Wong said that the Government valued the views of Singaporeans who have stepped forward to participate in the various engagements thus far and hoped to continue partnering with citizens to co-create policies needed to strengthen our social compact.
Six Pillars under Forward SG
- Empower [Economy and Jobs]
- Mr Wong said that with economic growth slowing down and concerns with on-the-job training and job disruptions, it was important to ensure that Singaporeans remain employable and competitive to secure jobs.
- Equip [Education and Lifelong Learning]
- Mr Wong said that Singaporeans felt that the education system was too stressful, with a strong emphasis on grades, and could do better to recognise diverse talents. He said that it was important to evolve the education and training landscape in Singapore to reduce overemphasis on grades, embrace different talents and strengths, strengthen lifelong learning, and build the capacity for creativity and innovation.
- Care [Health, Family and Social Support]
- Mr Wong said that the Care Pillar focused on how stakeholders in the community can all play a part in enabling Singaporeans to stay healthy, uplifting the disadvantaged, and providing support for families and vulnerable groups. As mental health was an increasingly salient issue, many participants in the engagements thus far also had ideas on how to promote mental wellness and support those who need help.
- Build [Home and Living Environment]
- Mr Wong said that as Singaporeans’ aspirations evolve, the Government has to meet a greater diversity of needs at different stages of life while facing tighter land and resource constraints. This included the provision of affordable homes and building a transportation system that would be accessible, inclusive, and sustainable.
- Steward [Sustainability – Environmental and Financial]
- Mr Wong said that with our forefathers’ efforts, Singaporeans could enjoy a clean environment and sufficient financial reserves, and it would be equally important for Singaporeans to ensure that the next generation thrives.
- Unite [Singapore Identity]
- Mr Wong said that Singapore had strengthened social cohesion by bringing people of different backgrounds together and growing our common space. As our society is becoming increasingly diverse, the challenge lies in growing our sense of belonging and shared responsibility. Hence, it was necessary to create safe spaces for civic conversations and ensure closer collaboration and partnership between the Government and other stakeholders in society.
[Wordcloud question on Slido] What challenges do you foresee Singapore experiencing?
- Top responses were ‘Birth rates’, ‘Ageing population’, ‘Inflation’, ‘Poverty’, ‘Mental health’, ‘Work’ and ‘Rise of AI’.
- Participants said that they were concerned about the future of their generation as lower birth rates and an ageing population could lead to lower economic productivity and growth.
Panellists’ sentiments on future challenges faced by Singapore.
- Mr Robert said that every developed country faces the problem of an ageing population. He said that structural changes had to be in place to support the ageing population, such as improving infrastructure accessibility and increasing elderly care facilities.
- Mr Wong said that one reason for low birth rates was the concern about work-family trade-offs, and we as a society would have to rethink how we can provide better support for young families.
[Wordcloud question on Slido] What are your hopes and aspirations for Singapore?
- Top responses were ‘Sustainability’, ‘Lower GST’, ‘Work-life balance’ and ‘Mental stability’.
- Participants responded that sustainability was important to them as they wanted future generations to continue enjoying the natural landscapes on Earth.
Panellists’ sentiments on hopes and aspirations for Singapore
- Mr Wong said that sustainability efforts had progressed under the Steward Pillar of the FSG movement. He said that the Green Action for Community Movement was one example of how the Government can work with the community to take action on sustainability ideas.
- Mr Robert said that sustainability was a prominent topic amongst youths, and youths could explore partnering with Government and non-Government agencies to develop initiatives to promote sustainability.
- Mr Robert also acknowledged the trade-offs to sustainability, such as reducing personal consumption in favour of the environment.
- Participants said that the Government should promote work-life balance to encourage couples to have children.
- Mr Robert said that Singapore’s current work culture made it difficult to achieve work-life balance. Hence, it would be important for Singapore to create a work environment where individuals would not be socially pressured to work overtime.
- Mr Wong added that beyond the Government, it was equally important to consider the roles that the other stakeholders in the society, such as corporates and communities, can play when trying to achieve work-life balance for Singaporeans.
Panellists’ sharing on how youths can contribute to renewing our social compact.
- Mr Robert encouraged youths to pursue their passion and get involved in their communities and projects.
- Mr Wong asked youths to think about how they could take action to embody the shared roles and responsibilities they could play in a refreshed social compact. He said youths could consider participating in various ground-up initiatives that had been important in complementing Government efforts.
An on-site participant asked about the brain drain in Singapore due to the lack of work-life balance and increased cost of living.
- Mr Robert acknowledged the lure of other countries that seemed to have a better work-life balance but said that the decision to migrate came with opportunity costs, such as assimilating into a new culture and being away from family. He said that instead of thinking about moving away from Singapore, youths could think about how to make positive changes here by being involved in policy co-creation with the Government and building a more inclusive society.
An on-site participant asked about the opportunities in the arts and entertainment scene in Singapore, and whether they should migrate to pursue better opportunities overseas.
- Mr Robert said that it is important to differentiate between migration and seeking opportunities. He said that the Government encourages Singaporeans to seek opportunities internationally and added that youths should use available resources, e.g. National Youth Council (NYC)’s ASEAN Youth Fellowship, to connect with youth leaders within the region.
- Mr Wong said that Singapore is a meritocratic society where opportunities are available for individuals with skills to gain success. He said that youths should strive to expose themselves to more learning opportunities while society works towards embracing more diverse talents and passions.
An on-site participant asked about the available avenues for people with special needs to be heard and understood.
- Mr Wong shared that there had been ongoing efforts to ensure that civic engagements were more inclusive and accessible. There were also deliberate attempts to encourage representation from different segments of society. He said that under the Care Pillar, the Government had been looking at more ways to understand the needs of vulnerable groups better to provide them with better support.
- Mr Robert said that all Singaporeans should be allowed to develop and achieve their aspirations regardless of background and abilities.
Participants asked (via Slido) out how The Hidden Good developed ideas to highlight and address societal issues.
- Mr Robert shared that the first step was establishing a narrative as a frame for ideas on a particular issue, inviting Singaporeans to share their views and gather multiple perspectives.