PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Opening of NorthLight School's New Campus and 10th Anniversary

SM Lee Hsien Loong | 21 September 2016 | ​NorthLight School

Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Opening of NorthLight School's New Campus and 10th Anniversary on 21 September 2016.


Mr Bruce Poh, Chairman of the NorthLight Board of Directors, Ms Euleen Goh, Chairperson, NorthLight Board of Governors, Mr Martin Tan, Principal, ladies and gentlemen, good evening to all of you.

I am delighted to be here at NorthLight School to open this beautiful new campus and to celebrate your 10th anniversary. NorthLight School provides pathways for students who learn better with a more hands-on applied curriculum. It helps them to gain basic skills so they can continue their training at Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and eventually get a job. It lays a foundation for them to develop their potential, to achieve mastery and further their careers, for themselves and for their families.

NorthLight has not only changed the lives of its own students but has also influenced our wider education system. It helped us to rethink how we should develop a school’s culture and how teachers relate to students and to the curriculum. NorthLight’s success is the result of many different partners doing their part. Parents, donors, supporters from the community, Ministry of Education (MOE), ITE, members of the school board, employers who offer attachments and support in kind, and many others too.

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I would like to acknowledge particularly Mrs Chua Yen Ching, the Founding Principal, who had a clear vision of what the School should be. She had a real heart for her students. She believed in her students, helped them to believe in themselves and nurtured their character as reflected in the school’s SHINE values – Sincerity, Honesty, Innovation, Networking and Excellence.

Her vision was compelling and her enthusiasm was infectious. She personally chose and recruited the team for the school. Many educators volunteered. I remember meeting the team when I visited the old campus in 2009. They were passionate about their work, cared deeply for their students, as do the school’s staff today. They poured their hearts out for the students, encouraging them to stay the course, visiting their homes to make sure the students were alright and taking them to the doctors when they were unwell.

Yen Ching shared one story of a teacher who kept on visiting a student at home, who was skipping school, and bringing him food each time. The student was stubborn and persisted in staying away from school. But the teacher was even more stubborn and continued to visit the student. After 14 visits, the student was finally won over by his teacher’s care and belief in him, returned to school and graduated with a perfect GPA of 4.0. Congratulations to the student and also to teacher.

Because the NorthLight experience was so inspirational and positive, MOE went on to establish Assumption Pathway School to offer the similar, special curriculum to meet the demand. Ten years on, NorthLight has retained its unique character. Its mission has not changed – to provide students with a good balance of foundational education in literacy, numeracy and information and communications technology, character education and vocational training.

So far seven batches of students have graduated from NorthLight School. About one third of the graduates have progressed to ITE. 14 went on from ITE to the polytechnics and so far three have graduated with polytechnic diplomas. Among the other graduates, 17 received Singapore Hotel and Tourism Education Centre scholarships and are working in the hospitality sector. Some are doing National Service before they continue their education.

NorthLight has gone further to create more pathways for its students by setting up the NorthLight Academy. The Academy supports graduates who have chosen to work instead of going on to ITE. It offers a two-year programme. Students work three days a week and take skills modules at NorthLight School on the other two days. They receive a monthly allowance from the companies and work towards a Workforce Skills Qualification certification. I am glad that nearly 60 students have chosen to carry on in the Academy and they are doing well.

The greatest satisfaction for all of us involved in this project is to see how the students have thrived under the care of their teachers and though the curriculum that has been worked out for them. You had some stories just now, let me share just a couple more with you. Paul Tan is a student in NorthLight’s pioneer 2007 batch. He came to the school with low self-confidence. The teachers saw potential in him, encouraged him, and the school supported him financially with help from MOE and donors. He went on to do Electrical Engineering at ITE, did well and earned an Aerospace Engineering Diploma at Republic Polytechnic. He is now an Associate in the Facilities Management team at Changi Airport and continues to upgrade his skills under SkillsFuture. He is also giving back to his alma mater by serving as Chairman of the school’s Alumni Council. Congratulations and thank you Paul Tan.

You saw a snippet about Muhammad Asyraf Bin Chumino just now in the video. He was only 10 when he decided to leave school to take care of his mother. His mother was suffering from depression after his father had died of cancer. Three years later, he resumed his studies through a Mendaki programme for out-of-school youth and then enrolled in NorthLight. He worked hard, achieved good grades and qualified for ITE. He is now a student in the Hotel and Leisure Facilities Management at Singapore Polytechnic. Like Paul, Asyraf contributes to NorthLight through the Alumni Council. So congratulations to Asyraf as well.

There are many more moving stories of students and families who have been touched by NorthLight. Parents and family members share how different their children have become after joining NorthLight. They have gained in confidence and self-belief because they have learned skills and values which will serve them well throughout their lives. That spirit of caring for each other and believing in our children is what we are celebrating tonight.

It starts off with all of us sharing a fundamental conviction, that there is something special in every child. We recognise that students all have different interests and aptitudes.We are determined to do our best for every child, to tailor the education to each child’s needs. We have worked out this honest, pragmatic and successful approach that works for NorthLight’s students and for students throughout our education system in Singapore.

To the students and alumni of NorthLight, I hope you will continue to do your best, remember that the precious lessons you have learnt here, keep on chasing your rainbows and keep on shining. Congratulations and happy 10th birthday to all of you!

Thank you very much.