Parents urged to widen definitions of success
Minister also says society can be 'agent of change' for education system
Some parents, when asked at a conference about the one promise they would make to their children, said they would give unconditional love.
Others told Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing they would promise their child a happy and meaningful life, and support them to excel.
Mr Chan said: "My promise to my children is, I will help you to discover your gift... All of us are gifted in different ways."
While it is natural for parents to want their children to excel in certain fields, it is important to note if the child will be happy in that field, he told about 400 people at the Singapore Children's Society's 65th anniversary conference yesterday.
He added: "Have we helped our children to discover their gifts, count their blessings and in turn use their gifts to help others?"
The minister reiterated the importance of widening the definitions of success during an hour-long speech and dialogue session with educators, parents and young people at the conference.
Success should not be measured by a single yardstick, he said. Neither should it be only defined by what a person can achieve for himself. Rather, how he contributes to the wider society should count too.
In fact, having a diversity of talents and skills will help society stay resilient and weather challenges, he added.
He also addressed questions and concerns from the audience.
These ran the gamut, from a mother asking for advice on what her sons should do after their A-level exams to the perennial concern over the popularity of tuition classes as parents fight to give their children a leg up in their studies.
A primary school teacher wanted to know how and when the education system would really change from being focused on grades.
Mr Chan said: "Who makes up the system? We are all collectively responsible. We all make individual responsibilities for ourselves, our families, our children. We all have a responsibility to do this together."
He said society itself can be an "agent of change", instead of waiting for the system to change.
Citing the example of parents who lamented the tuition culture, he said of one pair: "I asked them, 'You just told me your son loves cooking. Did you send your son to cooking class or tuition class?'
"They have a choice, they made a choice - yet there is some impersonal system out there."
Singapore Children's Society chairman Koh Choon Hui said in his welcome address that success should not hinge on academic achievements alone.
"It is equally, if not more, important to strengthen the socio-emotional competence of our children, and to nurture the other talents they may have," he said.
"We see this as the key foundation in building our nation's future."