After the letter below was published, there was a follow-up in Today Online:

From Today Online, 20th April 2009:

What’s wrong with today’s kids?
Teacher in top boys’ school set poor example
12:24 PM April 20, 2009
Letter from Trina Tan Ker Wei

I WAS at the McDonald’s outlet in Marine Cove on April 14, from about 4.30pm to 5.30pm.

During that time, a group of between 10 and 20 secondary school boys in Victoria School (VS) uniform entered together with a lady who I assumed was their teacher, and occupied a long table and some bar seats.

From their loud cheers, I gathered the teacher was giving them a treat. The calls to confirm orders and the general rowdy chatter were a little disruptive but I was okay with it.

What got to me, though, was how the VS boys did not clear their trays when they got up to leave. Some placed their empty drink cups and wrappers on the trays, but no one bothered to empty the filled trays.

The trash bin was next to the tables they were occupying at most three steps away. The appalling thing was seeing how the teacher did not bother to ask the boys to clear their trays she just stood there talking to the boys.

Then they all left. The area they had occupied looked as if a tornado had swept through it. There were used napkins, burger wrappers and empty drink cups left here and there.

I sympathised with the McDonalds crew member who came to clear the mess with a look of helpless despair on his face.

I am saddened by the behaviour of the VS boys and the inability of their teacher to use that moment to teach her students manners. Victoria School appears to have failed in upholding its school mission of producing well-mannered, considerate men with good social graces.

My mother, a proud former VS girl, was surprised at the incident and felt the boys were tarnishing the schools name.

If the younger generation cannot master basic manners, I do not care if they are winning academic awards around the world as far as I am concerned, they are failures.


Contibuted by Hai San.

19 Comments. Leave new

  • It is unfortunate that VS should be discredited nationally in such a manner. The boys are at fault regardless of what school they come from. The blame should be on the teacher, who was described as doing nothing to educate her students. Or maybe it is the elitist education system that we have? Maybe character description should be added to our certificates? It is surely food for thought for MOE.

  • William Ku
    21 April 2009 13:20

    Its not just the teachers fault. How many of us, as parents today, is guilty of not clearing trays in Macdonalds?

    Children learn from their surrounding and their environment. When these boys visited Macdonalds when they were kids – their parents may not have the habits of clearing trays. And so is the teacher!

    I don't think this is only VS boys. Children from other schools might be guilty of the same. Its probably just our luck with the bad press.

    Cheers! WK

  • No excuses for the boys and teacher in charge. Period. Just a couple of weeks ago, I witnessed the same behavious from a group of primary school children doing the same at McDonald ECP. I agree that parents by and large should be responsible in teaching to clear after meal. Unfortunately, it's the herd instinct when a few don't clear, the rest follow. I wish the name VS was not mentioned. However, positively, the public at large is expecting a higher standard of manners and graciousness from a "top boys school". I have no doubt that the biys will gladly clear if reminded by the teacher or student leader. That's the VS Spirit. Let's take this as an opportunity to learn and move on. Victoria is something more!

  • Dear Miss Trina Tan Ker Wei.
    Though I left Victoria some 30 years back, I am still a Victorian and I will always be!
    Your choice of using these words, "I do not care if they are winning academic awards around the world as far as I am concerned, they are failures.", and what more, with your being very specific about branding it to Victorians, i can only presume that there must be some hidden agenda to it. Either, you're prejudiced against the Teacher, or any one of the Students or whatever, at any point of time!!!
    I sincerely do hope that you would retract your statement and make an apology to all Victorians, publicly.
    All I can say is,
    It takes a BIGGER one to know and called one!!!

  • Sorry Elders, Seniors and Fellow Victorians.
    This was my comment at the online "Voices" forum just now and the choice of words that I choose, is really, really, REALLY, under the influence of counting sheeps to 'caged' my frustations and feelings!!!
    I'm still counting, sheeps…
    1975 sheeps…
    1976 sheeps…
    1977 sheeps…
    1978 sheeps…

  • Old Proud Victorian
    21 April 2009 21:57

    Her vitriolic words only show how unlady-like she really is (brought up by a former Victorian?? Cannot be!! Tsk Tsk) and alert us to the danger of what hatred and anger can do to a human being.. he/she becomes self righteous, unforgiving and implacable. We must never be reduced to such a level. As Victorians, the boys involved ought to apologise for their unacceptable conduct, offer to redeem themselves by doing some community service to that establishment and learn from this human transgression.
    That's being gentlemanly. The school must not be disheartened by this 'lady' and remain steadfast in her mission in nurturing gentlemen; the process of which will inevitably encounter its fair share of ups and downs. Take heart.
    By the way, the way this incident was 'tied' to the schol mission statement raises questions such as those in the minds of some like Zan.. A coincidence?? Or someone following with rising 'anger' the recent blog comments?? Hmmmm

  • Wendy Wong
    21 April 2009 23:23

    I agreed with the comment made by William Ku, Even Mcdonalds itseft did not put a signboard said that after meals please clear your tray and I think all the parents also did not teach the kids to do that. How can we blame the school and the teachers.This is not their responsibility to do it and MOE did not state it too.I think none of the school will teach their student to do so. We should not made the Macdonalds workers jobless.
    What my boy in Victoria told me that he is actually feel very proud of his school. when he needs help his teachers will always there expecially his math teacher Ms Noorreny, therefore I do not have to pay for any single cents for his math tuition since he S1, although this year he is taking Add maths.I really appreciate it.
    He also told me that his form teacher Mr Raphael is a very open minded teacher,he always treat them as his friend.Mr Tan his track & field teacher always encourange and take good care of him during the training and competition. Mr Munir is a responsibility teacher, he will cover the lesson by using their recess time because he had to go for school cca competition, so he will not miss their Biology lesson.Sure their are still many more good teachers in VS but I can't write it all.

    Hence, all the boys and teachers please do not feel sad about this issue. By the way your are already so good, do not bother about others.

    Nil Sine labore

  • We should all send a clear thank you to Trina Tan. She , a duaghter of a proud VS girl, has shown us that we do have some ways to go to be really school mission oriented. We should look at it from a learning pointof view. Our boys and the teacher failed to uphold the school's mission by not being gentlemanly enough. The school now has to address this issue during their civics and moral programs. VS is something more and the school will impart proper manners to the students in the next coming weeks, months and years. We will soon be reading that VS boys were the only customers seen to clear their tables after their meal.

    All feedback, be it positve or negative , is a learning process. How the learning takes place and the outcomes are important. We should never shoot the messanger but send a clear signal tat we welcome all types of feedback and we will IMPROVE.


  • I am amazed that TODAY allowed the publication of her letter, when instead of using the schools name, they could have said a "reputed school". If the purpose of her article was to create awareness of a problem or an issue, the use of the school name would not have mattered. It does appear to me that there is some hidden agenda. I suggest that Trina Tan should patronize the mcdonalds outlets near Bishan and Bukit Timah to see that even here where reputed other schools converge at, the trays are not returned. But VS IS SOMETHING MORE, so students of VS and alumni should always be better. I urge the students and teacher involved to take note of their actions, learn from this and move on.

  • VS Observer
    23 April 2009 21:27

    I think we must thank Trinia Tan for highlighting what she saw. Possibly if these were some other school's students, she might or might not have written in to the press mentioning about the incident. Perhaps as a daughter of an old VS student, she felt compelled to write in as this affected the image of the school. It would be good of the students to be reminded that they are being observed by the public at large and should be conscious of what they do. By the way, the VS students being young as they are, as like any other students of similar age group, tend to let their guard down now and then. In fact, from observations of VS students, they are normally seen be a well behaved lot who are not proned to unruly behavior. I remember once watching a soccer final not long ago, where VS was involved, a student from another school was overheard commenting to his friends that VS students "are very well behaved" (while pointing in the direction of the large gathering of VS supporters occupying one big half of the stadium.)

  • If Ms Trina as a daughter of an old VS student felt compelled to do "something" about the situation as it affected the image of the school. Then the "something" should NOT be writing to the press, the letter should be on the Principal's desk instead.

    Can't make any sense of this action as a form of aid to uphold the school image by telling the story to Singapore if not the world. Furthermore extreme words were used instead of positive encouraging ones.

    She sounded more of a judge condemning a criminal than a good willed friend trying to build a friend.

  • Joo Peng is absolutely right!
    She sounded as if she had a personal agenda, against VS (at any point of time), with her last sentence in the article…
    I, occasionally write to the Principal or call the OM of the neighbourhood school, whenever I see their Students, hanging out and making a nuisance (i would'nt even dare to compare to what our VS boys did!!!) around the void deck of my Block, DURING and AFTER, school hours!!!
    I would'nt be writing to MOE or even the Press to discredit the School and ALL of the students, despite that few Students… would you???
    BUT …
    for the betterment of Victoria, let's forgive her and hope that she forgive herself for her moment of failure!
    WHY ???
    it's because, the one lesson, that I learn from this is, I am even MORE conscious whenever I put on my OVA T-Shirt or my OVA Jersey, be it to work or to VS… as I'm taking public transport…

  • an old vic
    26 April 2009 11:47

    As we all know, the late President Devan Nair was an old Victorian, having studied at Victoria School in the pre-war days. Mr Nair was well known for his mastery of the English Language. A Hindu, and not a Christian, he had read widely from young, and it was the bible, not Shakespeare or any of the great English poets, that he had credited for his lifelong love for the English language and his mastery of the language.

    Attached below is an extract from a piece written by his son Janadas Devan (Review Editor of The Straits Times) in his regular column "On Words" and published in this morning's The Sunday Times:

    "His (Mr Nair's ) detailed knowledge of the Bible was the result of teenage truancy. He had absented himself from Latin class one day – fed up, he recalled later, with having to memorise endless series of declensions – and climbed up the tallest tree in Victoria School to smoke a cigarette.

    As always happens to teenagers who do such things, he was caught – by the school principal, no less – and was dragged by the ear to the religious knowledge class.

    "This boy is unfit for Latin," the principal told the religious knowledge teacher. "See if you can knock some morals into him."

    My father said it was the luckiest break he got in school, for he fell in love with the Bible. In those days, religious knowledge meant Christianity, and the Bible had to be – thank goodness – the King James version, the Bible of the Church of England. My father had read widely from young, and it was the King James Bible, not Shakespeare or any of the great English poets, he recalled later, that first alerted him to the music of words."

  • A teacher from a very reputable school told me that if one station oneself in the Bishan, Orchard, Bukit Timah or Eastern part of Spore McDonald(you guess where she's from?), you would probably be able to find the same behaviour. What she is saying is, if you try to find fault, you will find it somehow!

    I agree if Trina is really concerned, she should have call or write to the Principal of VS. Or for that matter, her mother a "proud VS girl" ( I presume it's the preU batch), should have advise her likewise. wonder what's the agenda to do so on National Newspaper ???

  • Trina, it is apparent that you have injected a high level of malice in the content of your letter. Possibly a result of some unresolved issues perhaps?

    No one is a failure in life. That's too strong a word to use in this context. Trina, please go look up the word in the dictionary (if you have the habit of using one that is) to appreciate the gravity of the word 'failure'. A word of a better pitch would be 'disappointment' or the likes of it.

    It seems like you've taken the definition of the word 'failure' to a whole new level. Trina, I sympathise with you because, you are not schooled in the craft of writing an objective and a well-meaning letter.

    I say this because, I sense a veritable repulsion and crudeness in your letter. Not very sophisticated I must importantly add.

    If failure to return a tray tantamounts to a person's failutre, then, what about not saying 'please', 'thank you', Good morning', not moving to the back of the bus when the front of the bus is packed, smiling at a fellow colleague, just to mention A FEW.

    Trina, I'm pretty sure you're not a perfect person. So are we. Reflect and resolve this angst you have in you and the urge to throw your words without calibrating your remarks.

    Also, you should perhaps ask your mum to train you in writing empathetically and objectively instead of condescendingly with a greater than thou attitude. I say this because, it's deeply evident that your mum has not taught you this.

    Trina… remember always…'Let (only) he who has not sinned cast the first stone'

    A concerned teacher.

  • Hi guys, here's the link to Ms Trina Tan's apology 🙂

  • Alvin Poon
    13 May 2009 22:56

    Yes…VS boys are wild and flambouyant…but what's the fuss with having to clear the tables? Really don't understand. So it's ok for a small group to leave without clearning and not a class of students? Must we always submit students in school uniform, out in a class, on a gathering to the watchful and scrutinizing eyes of the public?

  • In VS right Now
    9 July 2009 02:14

    ok heres the deal.
    i can tell you for a fact then i have seen many poeple. much more than those who differ from this act, clearing food at fast food restaurants. the guys were experiencing euphoria after their game (i know them) and were just having a good time. come on lady! you make it sound like you got turned down by a victorian in your hey( OR NOT SO HEY) day. relax a little bit. its not a deadly sin not to clear food at a hawker centre: why should a fast food restaurant be any different? and does that constitute to failure? i dont think so madam.

  • You only want attention.
    A typical singaporean.
    Succumbing to societies pressures for perfection.
    Are you that perfect?
    Why didn't you ask them to clear those plates up if you had the guts?
    I bet you just waited for them to go and wanted to write a story here.
    Mindless prick.

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