Dear Minister Balakrishnan,
Dear Headmaster Zänglein, teachers and pupils,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
vielen Dank für die herzliche Begrüßung und dafür, dass Sie mir die Gelegenheit geben, an diesem besonderen Tag hier mit Ihnen feiern zu dürfen. Man hat nicht oft die Gelegenheit, den Campus einer deutschen Schule zu eröffnen – für mich ist es heute das erste Mal, und ich fühle mich geehrt, dabei zu sein.
Today we are inaugurating the New Campus of the German European School Singapore. This is a School where German is not only spoken in the classroom, but also on the corridors.
So I have allowed myself to start in German, and I feel that I have been understood, if not by all then by many. But as one of this school’s aims is to create understanding among its multinational crowd of students, I want to boost that mutual understanding by continuing in our “lingua franca”.
First of all, I would like to thank Your Excellency Dr Vivian Balakrishnan for taking time out of his busy schedule to attend today’s celebration. I consider the GESS as a beacon of the close friendship between Germany and Singapore. And I appreciate that by being here today you do the same. There is hardly a more telling symbol for the joint future of Germany and Singapore than opening a school together.
Secondly, I would like to extend my thanks to headmaster Christoph Zänglein und all the students, teachers and staff for your hard work and warm welcome. For me, the GESS is not just any school – when I was posted here from 2002 to 2006, my children attended the old campus of GESS. So, although the building is new – and impressively so – I already feel a certain familiarity, a little bit like coming home.
When – 16 years ago – my wife and I had to decide on which postings we would apply for (you can call it the “three-S-question”: Stockholm, Singapore or Sana’a?), a good school for our children was a very strong “pull-factor”. Access to the very best education is one of the deciding aspects of choosing a place to live and work.
This is what GESS offers, and this is how GESS has played a major role in making Singapore an attractive business hub for people and businesses from around the world. The Campus we are inaugurating today will make the school even more attractive. You are getting an Olympic-sized pool – I think I need to say no more.
This brings me to the third group I would like to offer my gratitude to.
The Campus would not be as “state-of-the-art” as it is today without the financial support by UOB bank, Deutsche Bank and a number of other Companies. In addition, the school has received great support through the Economic Development Board and other Singapore Government Agencies. The board of governors has put their time, energy and effort into achieving this milestone. All of your support is highly appreciated.
The school has come a long way from what started out as a private initiative in 1971 with only 6 pupils. Today, GESS boasts more than 1600 students from over 60 nations! At the same time, Singapore has grown from 2 to 5.6 million people. The development of Singapore does not fail to amaze again and again. But still: GESS was even more successful. And this in spite of fierce competition: as last weeks “Economist” pointed out, Singapore has the best education system worldwide, and its students the by far the highest PISA-score of the OECD. Even in this “environment of excellency”, GESS stands out.
One of the school’s success factors is your unique educational concept based on German and European values, as expressed already in the school’s name. This underlines the inseparability of German and European culture and values. At the same time, the school is not a European satellite in a far-away country, but closely intertwined into the society and culture of this city and this continent. The diversity embodied by this school is one more key to its success. To prove this, take your language curriculum: you teach your students Dutch and Danish, but also Mandarin and Japanese. This way, you are preparing them for a globalized world, where distances shrink and challenges interlink.
This world has a multilateral foundation and we have every reason to support and defend it.
You could even say:
Singapore and Germany are both champions of multilateralism. For us Germans some might say it is part of our historic DNA. Seen in this way this important school project has a political dimension, too. We know that relying on a rules-based international order is the best way to secure benefits for all. We see that a multilateral approach to any given problem creates more lasting and sustainable answers, even if it takes a little longer. This applies to the full range of issues, be it world trade, climate protection or peace and security. We are both convinced that the challenges of the future can only be successfully dealt with when our slogan is “side by side” instead of “every man for himself”.
This joint approach allows us to tackle problems together. Although our background is so very different, our approach is very similar: we all know that cooperation crossing national or even continental boundaries is greatly beneficial.
Three specific examples to illustrate this: 1.) The Free Trade Agreement between Singapore and Europe to be signed next month should create even more momentum for the “little red dot” of Asia as well as the 1600 German companies already doing business here. 2.) The many German research institutions here will boost science cooperation to the benefit of both countries. And 3.) the growing number of students from Singapore that are spending a semester at a German university, and vice versa which bring us even closer.
All these endeavors require innovative and bright people. That’s where you come in, dear students: it is your job now to fill this new campus with life and learning. Thank you and the best of luck for the future of your school!