The Lee Kuan Yew Centennial Fund carries on his efforts to educate young S’poreans 


For the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew, a good education in school was vital for getting young Singaporeans to be all they could be, no matter where in life they started.  

“You must leave the boy or girl with something to start a life-long cultivation of mental habits,” our founding Prime Minister told educators during the final week of 1966 (Dec 27), not long before the new school year. 

Fast-forward nearly 60 years. Today, Mr Lee’s dedication to this principle has borne much fruit. Our national education system is among the world’s best and Singaporeans are top-class experts in many different areas. 

Source: National Archives of Singapore 

Appropriately enough, PAP leaders launched two initiatives honouring Mr Lee’s belief in the potential of our youth earlier this week (May 30): The Lee Kuan Yew Centennial Fund and, as part of it, the Singapore Young Leaders Programme (SYLP). 

“It will help to fund more scholarships, development programmes, as well as provide support for students from disadvantaged backgrounds at our Institutes of Higher Learning,” said Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong when, alongside other Ministers as well as the 600-strong batch of first-ever SYLP leaders, he officially launched the Fund. 

“This is a commendable initiative, and the Government will support it by providing a dollar-for-dollar matching of donations to the Fund for up to $50 million.” 

Uniting Singapore’s student leaders 

With this donation-matching, the Fund is now worth a total of $132.3 million, thanks to donations from individuals and the private sector. 

It will support up to 1,000 Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic students through paying school expenses and funding student development programmes. 

The Fund also supports and expands the existing Lee Kuan Yew Scholarship Awards for postgraduates in all fields. There is a new Post-Graduate Scholarship for Urban Greenery and Ecology as well — fitting since Mr Lee was affectionately known as Singapore’s Chief Gardener.  

Additionally, the new SYLP unites student leaders from across ITEs, polytechnics and universities.

Source: Edwin Tong/ TikTok  

“Each one of you has something in common,” said DPM Wong to the young leaders.  

“You have demonstrated leadership qualities in your own ways, for example, by providing peer mentorship and student support, volunteering your time to care for the vulnerable, or leading your respective student groups,” added the DPM.  

“Welcome to the programme and make full use of this opportunity to develop and hone your leadership skills!”  

“One enduring lesson” 

The Fund’s contributions to our nation’s highly-developed education system come in an era far removed from when Mr Lee gave his speech in 1966. 

At that time, the PAP Government had recently and quickly built schools and furiously recruited teachers to keep up with Singapore’s population increase, Mr Lee noted.  

As a result, in this newly-independent and resource-scarce Singapore, the Government could maybe afford at least eight or nine years of schooling for every boy and girl — ideally at least 10 years if economic growth continued, added Mr Lee at that time. 

And Singapore in fact experienced an economic miracle with the efforts of Mr Lee as well as the other founding leaders of Singapore.  

“It is especially heartening that many established institutions which have benefitted from our founding leaders’ values of transparency, non-corruptibility and good governance are now paying it forward,” said Minister for Manpower Tan See Leng who was also at the Fund launch with Minister for Education Chan Chun Sing as well as Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong. 

Source: Lawrence Wong/ Facebook, Chan Chun Sing/ Facebook 

The Fund is part of other initiatives which are being held to mark the 100th anniversary of Lee Kuan Yew’s birth; these include a nationwide tree planting campaign, community dialogues and a free National Museum exhibition (it ends October 29) about Mr Lee and the Pioneer Generation forging a new spirit for Singapore.    

“Through all of these activities, we hope to reflect on the values and principles of Mr Lee and our founding generation of leaders,” said DPM Wong. 

“One enduring lesson is the importance of developing our young people, and helping them to realise their full potential — to be the best versions of yourselves.”