06 Sep 2014

Speech by Mr S Iswaran, Minister, Prime Minister Office, Second Minister for Home Affairs and Second Minister for Trade & Industry at the SINDA Excellence Awards Ceremony 2014 on 6 September 2014 at Nanyang Polytechnic Auditorium

Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Finance, and Chairman, SINDA Board of Trustees

Ms Vijay Thakur Singh, High Commissioner of India to Singapore

Ms Indranee Rajah, MP for Tanjong Pagar GRC and President, SINDA Executive Committee

Mr K Barathan, CEO of SINDA

Members of the SINDA Board of Trustees and Executive Committee

Distinguished Guests, Award Recipients, Parents

Ladies and Gentlemen



  1. Good morning. I am happy to join you this morning to recognise the achievements of the recipients of the 2014 SINDA Excellence Awards.  The award recipients have pursued varied educational paths and excelled in diverse disciplines, from academics at different levels, to sports and the arts.  This breadth of young talent within the community, and your commitment to excellence, are truly causes for celebration.  My heartiest congratulations to all the award recipients, and also to your parents, family members, teachers and friends, who have nurtured and supported you through the years.
  1. SINDA presented its first Excellence Awards on 29 August 1992. The venue was the RELC; the GOH was then- Education Minister Mr Lee Yock Suan; and there were 46 award recipients.  I remember these details vividly because I helped to organise that event.  It was our inaugural effort to highlight the educational accomplishments of Indian students, and to hold them up as exemplars for all of us to emulate.
  1. 22 years on, SINDA and its Excellence Awards are a far cry from those early years. SINDA is now a mature organisation – more a well-established SME than the start-up venture it was in 1992.  The very idea of community-based self-help groups itself has also gained broad acceptance and recognition in Singapore.  This is a tribute to the collaborative work of CDAC, Mendaki, SINDA and the Eurasian Association, and their volunteers.  They have made a significant contribution to Singapore society by making a difference in their respective communities.
  1. While SINDA’s mission focus has been constant over the past two decades or so, its programmes have grown, and the modality of engagement has evolved, in tandem with changing needs and the social environment.  Today’s Excellence Awards is a case in point.  The difference is not just in terms of scale with nearly ten times as many award recipients now as in 1992.  The more significant change lies in the recognition of achievements in a far wider range of attributes and disciplines.  It is an acknowledgement that no matter what our chosen discipline or educational pathway, we can each make a meaningful and valuable contribution.
  1. This shift is apposite, and it takes on added significance in the context of one of the key challenges of the day – building the skills and nurturing a mindset that will enable Singaporeans to thrive in a changing environment.  To this end, we are engendering multiple pathways through which all of us can acquire the skills and knowledge that will enable us to seize the new opportunities that are being created.
  1. Disruptive technologies, like artificial intelligence and robotics, are enhancing our productivity but they are also eliminating certain types of jobs, creating new ones, and irreversibly changing the way we work. Problems are getting more complex and we need different disciplines to come together to solve them innovatively and create value.  Economies are getting more integrated and businesses, even SMEs, are operating across borders in order to grow and stay competitive.  In such a dynamic environment, the skills and attributes that are in demand, and needed for success are also changing.
  1. Increasingly, it is not just the hard skills but also soft skills like the ability to work in teams, and across cultures and disciplines that are needed. While technical proficiency and knowledge are essential, organisations are also seeking individuals who can work effectively with team members of diverse backgrounds and nationalities, and solve problems collaboratively and innovatively.
  1. For example, in an advertisement for a data scientist position, Google described the ideal candidate as someone who can not just crunch numbers, but is also able to work in diverse teams and mentor its people. Multi-national companies tell us that a key attribute they look for in senior management is international exposure and the ability to lead multi-cultural teams.
  1. Many of these attributes can only be cultivated through participation in CCA activities and community service. I am therefore glad that the SINDA Excellence Awards celebrate achievements in both academic and non-academic fields.  A good combination of both will put you in good stead to seize the opportunities that lie ahead.
  1. Let me highlight some examples among today’s award recipients who have excelled across both academic and non-academic fields.


Example 1: Mr Gurveer Kaven Singh Gill

  1. One of them is Gurveer Kaven Singh Gill, who will be receiving the Singapore Schools Sports Council (SSSC) National Colours Award for his outstanding achievements in rugby. Gurveer received the National Colours Award for Rugby in 2011 and 2012.  As captain of his rugby team, he has led his school team in several national level matches where they emerged champions.  He also coached the Saint Andrews Secondary School (SASS) Development Rugby teams (Under-15 and Under-17 teams).  He is qualified as an International Rugby Board (IRB) Level 1 Match Official and is currently getting his IRB level 1 Coaching Certification in order to gain an all-round knowledge of the sport.
  1. Gurveer is also the proud recipient of the EAGLES award and the SAJC Scholarship. Having attained five Distinctions in the GCE A Level examinations, he is currently pursuing his passion for medicine, with a scholarship from the Yong Yoo Lin School of Medicine in NUS.  Gurveer’s goal is to become a surgeon and to one day lead the National Rugby Team in the Asian Rugby Games.  He has three simple words to share, from the St Andrews motto which has guided him – “Up and On!”


Example 2: Ms Lavinya Arun Velu

  1. Next, we have Lavinya Arun Velu who is receiving the SINDA Excellence Award for her outstanding academic performance in the GCE A Level. She attained seven distinctions and is currently reading Law in NUS.
  1. Lavinya is a third time recipient of the SINDA Excellence Award, having received the award for both PSLE and GCE O Levels. She has also received the Prime Minister’s Book Prize twice, for her sterling performance in PSLE and the Integrated Programme.
  1. Lavinya has also been actively involved in community service. While in Secondary school and in JC, she tutored students from low-income families at the Toa Payoh Care Corner, and volunteered with National Library Board’s (NLB) KidsREAD programme, in collaboration with the Down Syndrome Association of Singapore.
  1. She was also a member of ‘Community Advocates’ where she worked with organisations such as HOME and TWC2 on projects related to migrant workers in Singapore. Upon graduation, Lavinya intends to join a law firm that encourages pro-bono work so that she can continue to be of service to the community.

Example 3: Mr Mohamed Hanurdeen Bin Hamid

  1. The third and final example I would like to share is Mohd Hanurdeen who is receiving the SINDA Excellence Award for SSSC Special National Colours for Boxing. He received the SINDA Excellence Award for SSSC Special Colours in 2012 as well.
  1. Hanurdeen emerged as a Gold Medallist at the Malaysian Boxing Championships, and has represented Singapore at the Southeast Asian Games, Youth Olympic Games, world boxing championships and numerous international tournaments/matches. He is a two-time recipient of the ITE Sports Excellence Award, ITE Eagles Award and Peter Lim Scholarship.  He was also awarded the ITE Bursary Award (Academic) in 2012.
  1. Upon completing his NITEC in Fitness Training, Hanurdeen plans to pursue his diploma in Sports Coaching at Polytechnic. He also wants to represent Singapore in the Olympic Games.



  1. The paths that Lavinya, Gurveer and Hanurdeen have taken, and the values that they uphold, are an inspiration to all of us. You and the other award recipients, past and present, epitomize what the SINDA Excellence Awards stand for – a resolute pursuit of excellence in your chosen fields, grit and tenacity in the face of adversity, and a heart for your fellow man.  My congratulations once again to all the award recipients.  I wish you success in your endeavours, and urge you to always remember to give back to the community so that others may also benefit as you have.
    Thank you.