DPM Heng Swee Keat at Dunman High School 65th Anniversary Celebration

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 9 July 2021

Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Heng Swee Keat at Dunman High School 65th Anniversary Celebration on 9 July 2021.


Mr Ng Ser Miang,
Chairman of the School Advisory Committee 

Mr Teo Kek Yeng, 
65th Anniversary Organising Committee Chairman 

Mrs Wendy Lim, 
Zonal Director for Schools (East), 

Mr Tony Low, Principal,

Minister Josephine Teo, MOS Low Yen Ling, 

Mayor Alex Yam, Mr Lim Biao Chuan, Ms Poh Li San, 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Good afternoon. Thank you for your very warm welcome to Dunman High School’s 65th Anniversary celebration. 


Listening to the speeches that came before me, I noticed that we had a good mix of English and Chinese speeches! 

Almost 65 years ago, before bilingualism became a cornerstone of our language policy, it is interesting that a Chinese-medium secondary school adopted the name of a British gentleman – our first commissioner of police Sir Thomas Dunman – who probably spoke no word of Chinese. Your first permanent campus was located along Dunman Road, and this was how the school took on its name. 

In 1979, enrolment in Chinese-medium schools was dwindling, and the Government introduced the Special Assistance Plan or SAP scheme. Dunman High School was in the first batch of SAP schools, providing opportunities for students to study both English and Chinese to a high standard. Since then, the school has gone on to become an educational institution with strong bilingual traditions and a deeper appreciation of the Chinese culture.

Today, English is our working language and the primary language of instructions in our schools. Our mother tongues are important in enabling us to better appreciate our cultural inheritance. They also enable us to converse with a generation of older Singaporeans, who are more comfortable speaking in vernacular. The Ministry of Education has a whole range of support for students to not only have a basic command of their mother tongues, but to also pursue higher levels of mastery – not just in Chinese, but also in Malay and Tamil.  And with Asia’s rapid economic rise, a strong command of vernacular languages enables our people to access more opportunities in the region. 

As Dunmanians deepen your understanding of the Chinese language and culture, it is important to understand the broader context behind bilingualism. Our bilingual language policy was established in 1966, at a time of turbulence and social unrest in Singapore. Learning our mother tongue gives us a better appreciation of our cultural roots. But it was also the belief of our founding fathers that beyond understanding and preserving our own cultural heritage and traditions, we must also respect those of others, and go beyond our individual cultures to build a common national identity and shared purpose. Bilingualism has to be viewed in the context of the values we hold dear as a society, that regardless of race, language or religion, we can build a fairer and more just society, living harmoniously together, and progressing as one united people. 

This is the distinctive feature of our Singapore identity. But race and religion will always be work in progress. Looking at the divides in many societies around the world, embracing diversity and living harmoniously together is not the natural order of things. We must build on what we have achieved, and continue to nurture and grow this sense of togetherness. Recent incidents remind us that the harmony that we have enjoyed over the decades, and the unity that has allowed us to manage COVID-19, can be easily lost if we are not careful.  So we must proactively grow what we have in common, even as we become more diverse as a society. 

The glue that holds a society together are our shared experiences, especially through tough times, and our shared values. 


So I am happy that in your commemorative yearbook, and in the various speeches I have heard so far, a common thread that runs through is the values shared by generations of Dunmanians – The values embodied in your school motto: 诚,信,勇,忠. These values have provided the ballast for generations of Dunmanians to succeed in diverse fields, including business, sports, the arts, education and politics. While we often associate schools with academic grades, the intangibles – character and values – matter as much, if not more.

The teaching of values is ingrained in a Dunman High education. Your Chinese name – 德明 – a transliteration of Dunman, is derived from the Confucian Classic – 大学 – or the Book of Great Learning. Its meaning roughly translates to – the path to greatest learning lies in understanding the brightest virtues. Confucius had a saying – 修身、齐家、治国、平天下.  By cultivating ourselves, managing our family and governing the state well, we can achieve peace and prosperity for all. Hence, starting with cultivating the self, Principal Tony explained to me that Dunman High seeks to enable Dunmanians to internalise the values of your school motto – honesty, trustworthiness, moral courage and loyalty.  

And what better way to internalise these values than to put them into action. I am glad that school is guided by both academic excellence and character development – 为人、为学.  Dunman High has a comprehensive Values In Action programme to empower your students to Care, to Serve, and to Lead. The student-led Community Council develops new areas where students can further contribute their energy and passion, and make a difference to those around them. The desire to give back to the community extends beyond your students. As part of the celebrations, the school’s Parent Support Group and alumni organised a "Virtual Run 65". The run built in many worthy causes, rallying everyone involved to lead a healthy lifestyle, and raising funds for "The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund". I commend parents and alumni members for being good role models. In addition, Dunman High also has a strong partnership with the St. Hilda's Community Services Centre. Students often volunteer their time serving seniors staying around Jalan Batu, a stone’s throw away from your school campus.  As part of the 65th anniversary, Dunmanians donated generously to provide additional resources for St Hilda’s to help these seniors. Congratulations to the school for producing generations of Dunmanians that have lived the values in your school motto, with a dedication to give back to society. I hope this can in turn inspire future generations of Dunmanians to excel and to serve. 

Values unite us as a society, and enable us to stand in solidarity with one another when COVID-19 struck. Dunmanians displayed strong values in action in your response to COVID-19. Last year, a group of Dunmanians, led by then-Year 3 student Beatrix Koh, worked with several NIE teacher trainees to create an online message board to show appreciation for frontline medical workers. They gathered words of encouragement and well-wishes from Dunmanians and presented them to the staff of various hospitals. From this project, another initiative sprang forth. On learning about the foreign workers warded at the hospital, several students – Nadhira, Sharon, Isanne, Jin Guo, Zhenghao and Charlotte – came together to record a performance of two Tamil songs to show appreciation for our foreign workers. They sang, played the erhu, guzheng, flute and drums, recorded their performance over Zoom, and edited the recordings to create a video.  This display of concern also showed how your students contribute to strengthening multi-culturalism and racial harmony. 

Building Our Future 

This spirit of working together, anchored on the right values, will be crucial for Dunmanians and our youth in the years ahead. COVID-19 might have disrupted some of their immediate plans, but it has challenged us to adapt and stay resilient. As our population ages and our people become more diverse, it would be harder to forge unity, even as it becomes more important. Our youth will be growing up in an exciting time. In an era of rapid changes, there will be greater uncertainty and unprecedented complexity. But it will also be an era of great potential and new opportunities. 

Dunmanians and youth of today are better prepared for the future than youth of yesteryear. In school, our youths have opportunities to develop strong foundations in numeracy and literacy, to explore their interests in the arts and sciences, and to appreciate the cultures and history of people around the world. Just as important, through values in action, our youths can internalise our core values as a society, and the distinctive ethos of each school. We must empower and support our youths in their journey of discovery and growth, for in their hands the next chapter of our nation is written.

To Dunmanians who have graduated and gone on to explore the world, may you continue to make a difference to those around you, and make an impact on our society and the world. 

To all teachers and staff of Dunman High School, thank you for your hard work and dedication, and for going the extra mile to bring out the best in your students. Always remember, through your hands passes the future of our nation. And I hope our parents will remain supportive partners as we work to enable every student to be an engaged learner.   

Before I end, let me say a few words in Chinese.  德明所培养的人才,一直以来学业优秀。如你们的校歌里所提到的:文艺科学,同冶同攻但更难能可贵的是你们所体现的价值观。正如你们的校训:诚,信,勇,忠 。秉持这些价值观,历代德明人多年来,在各个领域,发光发热。你们的校歌里所提到的“松影”和“海风”虽然经历变迁,但事实证明,引导德明人前进的价值观是经得起时间的考验的。我希望在未来的岁月这些价值观继续指导并激励后代的德明人,为校争光,为社会和国家做出贡献。


The school’s motto – 诚,信,勇,忠 – have stood the test of time. May these values continue to guide all Dunmanians as they navigate the world ahead, and contribute to building a better Singapore. May they continue to inspire future generations that pass through your gates. Thank you once again for inviting me to be a part of this milestone celebration.  Congratulations, Dunmanians, on your 65th Anniversary.