Heng Swee Keat: I protested when I was moved
They were the first among the '4th Generation' of leaders to be identified. Over their last term, four became ministers and cut their teeth on managing some of Singapore's most pressing issues. In the first of our four-part series on the first-term ministers, we ask Education Minister Heng Swee Keat to give us a flavour of his experiences
Just two weeks after Mr Heng Swee Keat was voted into Parliament in 2011, he was appointed Minister of Education.
He was already a high flier, having been a Singapore Police Force Overseas scholar and Principal Private Secretary to former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, who called him one of the "finest minds among the civil servants I have worked with".
Since going into politics, he has been put in charge of national initiatives such as the Our Singapore Conversation national feedback exercise and the recent SG50 celebrations to mark Singapore's Golden Jubilee.
Some have even whispered that he has the makings of a future Prime Minister.
But when asked to describe himself and his leadership style, Mr Heng smiled and said: "I would leave others to describe me. I am what I am."
Despite accolades he has received, Mr Heng has a certain earnestness, with no airs about him.
Shown an old picture of him on the Prime Minister's Office website wearing a classic pair of glasses, he laughed.
"I remember I went with my wife and we tried various pairs. But none of (them) really suited me at that time, except for this one," he said.
The picture was taken when he was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, he added.
During a wide-ranging interview with The New Paper before the Writ of Election was issued, it became apparent that Mr Heng has a penchant for things that represent old-school values such as hard work, community and humility.
Fond of using the word "Gee!" as an exclamation, he touched on the pursuit of degrees, his most trying moments, and whether civil servants are moved around too often.
"I can tell you that when I was a public servant, as a civil servant, I almost always protested every time I was to be posted," he said.
"Because I always felt that 'Gee, I'm just starting to get the hang of this, I'm learning, I'm just beginning to become good at my job and I want to be able to contribute in this particular area a little bit more, so please don't rotate me, don't move me'."
Mr Heng visits the residence of Mdm Lim Choo Neo, 63 (in purple), and daughter, Heidi Chan, 33 (in green) at Tampines TNP PHOTO: PHYLLYCIA WANG
But with hindsight, Mr Heng said it was a positive experience.
"It's because of that variety of things that I was exposed to that it helped me in many ways, in ways I didn't appreciate until I was older, until you have the benefit of it."
Read more of his interview here
Heng Swee Keat, 54
Minister for Education
Married with a son and a daughter, both in their 20s.
Year he joined politics: 2011 (Tampines GRC)
1995: Director of Higher Education, Ministry of Education
1997: Principal Private Secretary to then-Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew
2001: Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Trade and Industry
2005: Managing director, Monetary Authority of Singapore