Speech by President Halimah Yacob for the School of the Arts (SOTA) 10th Anniversary Celebration

Ms Grace Fu

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth

Mr Baey Yam Keng

Senior Parliamentary Secretary

Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth & Ministry of Transport

Mr Philip Jeyaretnam

Chairman, SOTA Board

Ms Lim Geok Cheng

Principal, School of the Arts (SOTA)

Distinguished guests, SOTA staff, parents and students


Good evening. It is a pleasure to be here today to celebrate SOTA’s 10th  Anniversary.

Before SOTA was established in 2008, there was no dedicated programme at the pre-tertiary level to fully develop the potential for creative thinking and talent of youths who showed interest and aptitude in the arts. The establishment of SOTA signalled a new chapter in our arts and education landscapes. The vision was to have the school nurture artists, creative professionals, and leaders to shape and impact society. SOTA’s mission was not just to provide academic and arts education to artistically-talented youth, but also to positively influence society through its arts-enhanced curriculum and partnerships with community. A decade on, as SOTA’s pioneer batch of students start entering the workforce, it is heartening that the school’s founding objectives are bearing much fruit.

Through its unique curriculum and programmes, SOTA has played a vital role in expanding the definition of success for our youth, while providing opportunities to develop their artistic talent.

Many SOTA graduates have excelled in their chosen artistic fields. One such outstanding alumnus is Joy Ho1. Joy was a visual arts graduate from SOTA’s pioneering cohort. She went on to pursue a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Illustration with Art History and Book Arts at the esteemed Maryland Institute College of Arts. In 2016, Joy became the first Singaporean to receive the prestigious Will Eisner Scholarship by the Society of Illustrators in America. She has since become a successful illustrator and cartoonist. Recently, Joy created new works of art for the National Museum of Singapore's ongoing exhibition, The More We Get Together: Singapore's Playgrounds 1930–2030. The tiffin carrier souvenir on our seats is also the result of her creative work.

The school has also developed students who have excelled and are contributing outside the artistic sphere. Many have received awards and scholarships in various fields, including the President’s Scholarship. They are equipped to continue their studies in the best local and overseas universities, and embark on diverse career pathways, such as in social services, medicine and architecture. One example is Nabil Jasmani2. He entered SOTA with a strong interest in theatre, and became fascinated with the human condition after studying Anthropology as part of the curriculum. Today, he is pursuing a double major in Political Science and Public Policy at the Singapore Management University, as he values the policy-making process as an avenue to make a positive change in people's lives.

I am glad that SOTA has also nurtured your students to be well-rounded individuals with a heart for the community and the potential to lead in various fields. I had the opportunity of meeting SOTA students on several occasions, such as during community engagement activities held at the Istana, or when they helped raise funds for the President’s Challenge. I have found them to be engaging, open-minded, empathetic and committed to doing their part for society.

SOTA plays an active role in contributing to the wider community, preparing its students for service and lifelong learning. One example is the "Your Community Service" programme, which provides students with the opportunity to take part in service learning projects and use their talent to benefit the society. Through the programme, students gain a greater appreciation for Singapore’s cultural diversity, as well as understand the need to care for the people around us.

Another example of a community service initiative is "Project Bite-sized". Led by eight students, the project sought to raise awareness and improve dental healthcare among pre-schoolers and Primary school pupils. The team used their talent to write and illustrate an original story book, which was distributed with sponsored dental kits at over 20 roadshows, reaching out to more than 2,500 people. In addition, the students contributed an article about oral health to parenting website, The New Age Parents. The team’s good work did not go unnoticed. I understand that they recently won first prize at the National Finals of the Future Problem Solving Programme, which encourages critical and creative thinking, and leadership skills. Congratulations!

SOTA would not be where it is today without the support of the wider school community. Its achievements were only possible because of the passion, dedication and grit of the school’s staff, past and present. Credit is also due to SOTA’s numerous supporters, including donors, industry partners and parents. Thank you for believing in SOTA!

As SOTA runs the next lap of its journey, I look forward to SOTA’s continued role in the development of arts education and art related endeavours. With its expertise and drive, SOTA is well-positioned to lead this exchange of ideas and experiences that will benefit both the art fraternity and the wider society.

I wish SOTA every success in your future endeavours. My heartiest congratulations once again to SOTA on your 10th anniversary.

Thank you.