Old Boys and the turf they guard
by Lin Yan Qin
EDUCATION for all, regardless of exam results, and shared memories of a time when character development came first – it is this sense of pride in their school, they say, that drives them.
So, for the second time in three years, a group of Victoria School (VS) alumni hope to scuttle a proposal that would change things for their alma mater.
More than 1,500 Old Boys – to date – are objecting to Victoria Junior College’s (VJC) proposal to expand its current four-year Integrated Programme to a six-year one.
The proposal, which has been submitted to the Education Ministry, would allow VJC to draw students who do well at the Primary School Leaving Examinations.
And cannibalise VS, turning the two close schools into rivals for good students, ultimately resulting in the loss of an egalitarian ideal, say those against the idea.
“We’re a school that’s for everyone, from all backgrounds, not just those with the best results, and developing each one of us in a holistic way,” said alumnus Kevin Lam, 41, a senior vice-president at UOB.
“With the IP, if we admit students based strictly on academic merit, we would lose that.” This egalitarian ideal, he added, is part of “the greater debate about education in Singapore”.
Call it an ideal, call it heritage, too – the reason why VS alumni vigorously objected three years ago when the all-boys school and the JC considered admitting female students in a merger so as to offer an IP.
The plan was shelved; now this vocal group hopes to dash VJC’s latest bid out of concern their dreams would be dashed.
VS alumnus Mr Sanjay, 21, who started the FaceBook group objecting to VJC’s plans, said: “Even at the late stage in Secondary 4, I was invited to join the school track and field meet to represent VS. This enormous faith the teachers and coaches had in me inspired me to further my goals and dreams.”
Other prominent schools have had it easier when faced with such choices.
Mr Cheng Soon Keong, former president of the Old Rafflesians’ Association, who helped oversee the merger between Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College said the two schools “had it easier” because both worked together closely even before the merger
“Victoria has a very unique set of problems … I think it’s natural the alumni have such strong feelings because of the shared camaraderie people go through together in their secondary schools,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Old Victorians’ Association (OVA) said it was not clear how much consultation VJC did with stakeholders before submitting the proposal. The association was “disappointed” by the move.
According to the Lianhe Zaobao, VJC vice-principal Fong Yeow Wah said both schools will continue to maintain ties, regardless of whether the proposal is accepted. The expansion, he said, was necessary to give its IP students an uninterrupted education experience to develop holistically.
Today understands the OVA sent a letter to Education Minister Ng Eng Hen last week to explain its stand.
Ironically, a merger of sorts doesn’t seem so bad any longer. “The preferred outcome is for a merger to take place and the IP programme offered to VS students, and other students including female students entering at the junior college level,” said the OVA spokesperson.
There is a gnawing feeling among another segment of alumni that VS may not otherwise be competitive enough.
Education consultant Fang Xiong Kun, 25, who attended both VS and VJC, told Today: “As it is, the good students are going to the IP schools, so we’re losing out on the quality of students we can attract.
“There are parents who are alumni but will not send their child to VS if standards fall behind other schools.”
Mr Lam, who is also an OVA member, hopes both schools can work out a compromise, rather than go their separate ways.
If the schools part ways, VJC will need to reconsider its present use of the Victoria school anthem, badge, and its brand name, said the OVA spokesperson.
“Because, is it still Victoria?” he asked.
Source: Today Online