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Edited Transcript of Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan's Remarks at the Re-naming Ceremony of the International French School (Singapore), 5 February 2020

05 February 2020

Your Excellency, Ambassador of France to Singapore, Marc Abensour

 

Excellencies

 

Ladies and Gentlemen

 

 

Bonjour à tous.

 

I am deeply honoured to be here on this occasion. It is a special event, especially for our French community. I want to congratulate the directors, the principal, the teachers, the parents and of course the students on this very important occasion. The Lycee Français actually started 53 years ago. There were only 15 students then. Today there are almost 3000 students, and the school is going to expand so that it will have space for more than 4000 students. I think this growth over 53 years is worth celebrating and as the Ambassador said just now, this goes far beyond a name change. Because in a sense, the Lycee Français has always been an international French school in Singapore.

 

France and Education in Singapore

 

What I wanted to tell you today, or to remind you of what Ambassador Abensour said just a little while ago, is that the French presence in Singapore has actually been a longstanding one. If you go back to 1819, when Stamford Raffles arrived here, there were in fact two French naturalists on board. And their work, their pioneering work 200 years ago, contributed to a deeper understanding of Singapore, and indeed our region’s biodiversity.

 

What may also be less well-known to some of you here is the deep and indelible impact that France has had on Singapore’s education system. I need to remind all of you of the incredible work of Father Jean-Marie Beurel, who was responsible for the establishment of some of Singapore’s most famous and historic schools. Father Beurel was a Catholic missionary sent by the Paris Foreign Missions Society. He arrived here in 1839, and obviously as a missionary his first task was to establish a church. He consecrated Singapore’s first Catholic Church, the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, in 1847, and it still stands to this day. He then went back to France in 1850 to seek further funding and came back and founded St Joseph’s Institution in 1852, and the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus in 1854. On a personal note, I can say that my own father was a student at St Joseph’s Institution.  Today there are 11 CHIJ schools and 8 Lasallian schools in Singapore. The point here is that the French have had a longstanding and indelible impact on our own education system.

 

Singapore –France Relations

 

In terms of bilateral relations, it is not a state secret that we have excellent relations. It is therefore no surprise that we host the largest French school in the region, and I hope it will continue to grow. We also have close to 2,100 French companies. These are global names such as Airbus, Thales, Sanofi and Danone, and many of them have their Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore.

 

We have the France-Singapore Festival - Voilah! – that has become a fixture in our annual cultural calendar. Because of the Ambassador’s hard work, we have also concluded a renewed cultural agreement which was signed in November last year.

 

On the political and diplomatic front, Singapore and France share a commitment – and I would say a reaffirmation, a strong belief – in multilateralism, free trade, and a rules-based international order. We are very grateful for France’s support for the EU-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (EUSFTA), which entered into force in November 2019. It means we can look forward to even more French companies, more French families, and more people knocking on the IFS’ doors.

 

Building on the Spirit of Excellence

 

So let me congratulate the IFS for having the foresight to expand. I was present at those meetings where we were deciding how to further support this school and I am very glad to be here. So I wish you all the very best and success, for your continued contribution – not only to Singapore – but to France and indeed for doing things in the special French way to leave your mark on the global stage. Thank you and congratulations. 

 

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MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SINGAPORE

5 FEBRUARY 2020

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