Speech by Minister Lawrence Wong: Nurturing Stewards of the Environment
Joint Segment On Sustainability at MSE's COS Debates 2021 – Speech By Minister for Education Lawrence Wong
1 My colleagues before me have shared about the SG Green Plan that will take us a major step forward in building a more sustainable Singapore.
2 Beyond specific policies, we want to instill a broader mindset change and new environmentally conscious habits. These will take time to take root in our society. We must start young and inculcate these mindsets in our students through education. Several members have highlighted these in their speeches, including Mr Abdul Samad, Ms Cheng Li Hui, Ms Nadia Ahmad Sadin, Ms Shahira Abdullah and Mr Xie Yao Quan, and I thank them for their speeches and suggestions.
3 Environmental education is not new in our schools. It is part of the curriculum, and many schools have programmes to help our students learn to be more environmentally conscious. We will build on this foundation and take it further.
Introducing the Eco Stewardship Programme
4 In particular, we will strengthen and deepen the current strands of environmental education in schools, and weave these together to create an Eco Stewardship Programme in all our schools, from Primary to Pre-University.
5 The term 'stewardship' represents our individual and collective responsibility to take good care of the environment – not just in the short-term, but always with an eye for the future, and for generations. Doing so requires responsible and informed decision-making, and choosing to do what is good and right through our daily habits. It also entails an innovative spirit and a mindset of growth, where we can pioneer new ways of doing things in caring for the environment.
6 Through this Eco Stewardship Programme, we aim to inculcate informed and responsible sustainability habits in our students for life. We aim to empower them to make a positive difference in their schools, homes and community.
7 Under this Programme, environmental sustainability will be holistically integrated into the school environment and we will do this through four approaches, which we call the 4Cs.
8 The first C is the Curriculum.
9 Environment and climate change education is already integrated into subjects like Science, Geography and Social Studies. As Ms Nadia Samdin highlighted, and Ms Cheng Li Hui too, we can do more to enhance the teaching and learning of sustainability in both the Sciences, and the Humanities.
10 For example, in the new Upper Secondary Geography syllabus, the topics will be organised around the theme of sustainability where students will understand the impact of sustainability issues. We will also refresh and strengthen the Singapore perspective on sustainable development.
11 To make the learning come alive, we will develop more learning resources which feature sustainability initiatives within our school environment. These learning resources will help students to connect their learning to their actual lived experience in schools, and make the learning more authentic and engaging.
12 The 2nd C is Campus. We will progressively enhance the infrastructure of our schools with a range of green features.
13 We now have about 130 schools on the SolarNova programme with solar panels being progressively installed on their rooftops. We will extend this to cover most of our remaining schools in the coming decade.
14 We will improve energy efficiency of our school campuses. We will embark on a programme to gradually have LED lights as the main light source in our classrooms, and more energy-efficient Direct-Current fans.
15 Some schools have already actively harnessed sustainability features within their campuses to enrich students' learning.
16 For example, I visited Commonwealth Secondary School recently – they have several eco-habitats, including the Rainforest, the Stream and the Wetland. These outdoor classrooms provide students with real eco-systems that they can study and observe. Students also plant their own vegetables in the school's nursery, which are harvested for the canteen's use. Through this immersive environment, students develop a better appreciation for nature and biodiversity.
17 MOE will therefore continue to green our schools and testbed new innovations, so that our school buildings can be more sustainable and our school campuses can become learning laboratories for our students to see sustainability in practice.
18 Beyond academic learning and infrastructure, we also need to instil the right habits in our students. This includes encouraging them to reduce waste, recycle and reduce energy use as a matter of habit.
19 The third C is therefore about Culture. Through the Eco Stewardship Programme, we aim to strengthen the eco-culture in schools towards sustainability. We will build on existing efforts to instill daily habits of environmental consciousness.
20 We will expand our everyday responsibilities to include sustainability habits. It could be simple activities such as switching off lights and fans upon leaving the classrooms. Some schools have also encouraged students to reduce and recycle food waste.
21 For example, Elias Park Primary School has a food waste management programme, where students are taught and encouraged to order only what they can finish and use the bio-digesters in the canteen for food waste recycling.
22 We will expand such good practices to more schools, and pilot ways for students to see that their daily habits can make a discernible impact on the environment.
23 We will also help students champion sustainability mindset and practices through leadership opportunities so they can encourage their peers and friends towards more sustainable living.
24 Building a culture of sustainability requires schools, families and the community to complement one another's efforts. The learning from schools will reinforce our community efforts, and in turn, will encourage and cultivate more good habits to create a ripple effect on society.
25 So, the Eco Stewardship Programme will also encompass the Community. That is our 4th C.
26 Schools are part of a larger community ecosystem. We will work closely with partners, across different government agencies, and also with the private and people sectors. We will widen and enhance the platforms for students to participate in meaningful community projects to care for the environment and promote sustainable living.
27 MOE will also work with partners to strengthen students' awareness of future "green jobs".
28 Dr Shahira Abdullah suggested a greater push for youths to consider a career in the environmental and sustainability sector. And I agree that this is indeed a growing sector where we can raise awareness and appreciation amongst young people, of the opportunities in this space. So we are equipping our teachers and school Education and Career Guidance counsellors to build students' awareness of these future opportunities, and help them discover and explore their interests.
Building on existing efforts in Institutes of Higher Learning
29 These opportunities to explore and prepare our students for more careers in the environmental and sustainability sector will continue beyond schools to our Institutes of Higher Learning, or IHLs.
30 Our IHLs will connect students with relevant industry partners through career fairs and with the support of Education and Career Guidance counsellors. They will also work with industry partners to curate internships to expose students to jobs in these sectors.
31 Beyond a greater push for our youths to consider a career in these sectors, the IHLs themselves are also enhancing the green infrastructure and promoting sustainable living initiatives within their own campuses.
32 For example, The National University of Singapore has developed a Climate Action Plan 2030 to cool its campus by 4 degree Celsius and to build a carbon neutral campus. Other universities, too, are embarking on their own sustainability journeys.
Championing public education on sustainability through the new Science Centre
33 To further complement these education efforts at the school and IHL level, we will also leverage the new Science Centre at Jurong Lake District.
34 The Science Centre will champion public education on sustainability. It willserve as a showcase for innovative technologies through programmes and exhibits to engage youths and the public. With all these, we hope it will also inspire sustainable lifestyle changes amongst Singaporeans and in our society.
Reducing Net Carbon Emissions
35 Madam Chair, through the Eco Stewardship Programme, we aim to reduce carbon emissions from our schools significantly. We aim to achieve a two-thirds reduction of net carbon emissions from the schools sector by 2030.
36 We will work towards at least 20% of our schools to be carbon-neutral by 2030, with the rest to follow thereafter.
37 We will start by piloting sustainability features and related concepts in some schools. We have identified, as a start, 4 schools to be on-board – Elias Park Primary School, Mee Toh School, Commonwealth Secondary School and Tampines Secondary School.
38 These schools have already adopted a holistic school-wide approach to sustainability. We will work with them to further reduce net carbon emissions from their school buildings, and encourage students to actively reduce their individual carbon footprint.
39 We will learn from their experiences in the pilot, and progressively scale up good and practical solutions across all our schools.
40 Madam Chair, we have set ambitious plans for ourselves. They are not just hard targets in reducing carbon emissions, but equally, if not more importantly, they are about nurturing our young with the values, skills and know-how to become responsible stewards of the environment.
41 We hope to see in every student an eco steward for life – where they will have a sensible sensitivity towards the environment, and understand what it means to live sustainably.
42 Through our concerted efforts, we can seed and grow a sustainability movement where we can create a greener future for our children to harvest. Then, they can look forward with confidence to a better and brighter future for their own children, and for many more generations to come in Singapore.