SINGAPORE: Are the names of the merged junior colleges a mouthful or do they go a long way in preserving the interests and identities of the schools affected?
The reaction of students affected was mostly one of relief.
"It's very good that they combine the school names of both the JCs, because this helps to preserve the identities of both colleges and ensure that it's fair to both of us, said So Ee Cheng from Yishun JC.
A former student of Innova JC, Foo Fang Fang, agreed: "I'd very much prefer that our name is still there in the new merged JC."
The Ministry of Education announced on Thursday (Jan 11) that the four pairs of JCs to be merged in 2019 will adopt a combination of the full names of both colleges, with the name of the older JC coming first. This is the first time JCs here are merging.
At Serangoon Junior College (SRJC), which will merge with Anderson Junior College (AJC), students were circumspect about the name Anderson Serangoon Junior College.
“I think it’s really long, but I do understand the rationale because it does give us a sense that both the colleges are being represented,” said Sim Yaowei, a second-year student.
He added that there is still some sadness knowing that there will not be any first-year intake at SRJC. First year students will be at AJC instead, the chosen location of the merged college.
This feeling is something SRJC principal Manogaran Suppiah had anticipated.
“Normally the J2s (second-year students) see themselves as the big brother, big sisters of the newer students, and there is a sense of pride helping them adjust to the college,” said Mr Manogaran, who was also announced as the principal-designate of the new Anderson Serangoon JC.
Mr Manogaran said this is why many more J2 students have been given roles this year as college ambassadors during orientation when term begins on Feb 2. The orientation will be held at AJC's premises.
He said students from both schools have been working together since early December to organise a six-day orientation programme for new students.
At Innova Junior College, which will merge with Yishun Junior College, principal Michael de Silva said students from both colleges met at a camp and came up with orientation plans which will take place at YJC.
“We got to see how both colleges worked, their strengths and put the input into the programme for the upcoming orientation,” Ang Ying Xuan, a second-year student at Innova said.
SEAMLESS TRANSITION, INCORPORATING STRENGTHS OF JCS ARE PRIORITES
Mr de Silva, who will be the principal of the new Yishun Innova JC, said both he and the outgoing principal of Yishun JC did a stock take of the colleges’ strengths in terms of offerings when the mergers were announced in April last year.
This is seen in the way a new Co-curricular Activity (CCA) will be introduced at the merged school premises.
“We brought over digital literacies from Innova JC to Yishun JC, and we combined it with (Yishun JC’s) entrepreneurship (club) to form a new club,” Mr de Silva explained.
Tapping on the strengths of the two colleges is also a key focus for Mr Manogaran and outgoing AJC principal Tay Lai Ling.
While many CCAs between the two schools overlap, Mr Manogaran said AJC has agreed to include two CCAs that SRJC excels in - taekwondo and touch rugby for girls. Art, which SRJC offers as an academic object but is not offered by AJC, will also be offered at the new school.
“So because of that, the infrastructure had to be looked into,” Mr Manogaran told Channel NewsAsia.
“An art room has to be built at AJC, and for taekwondo, a new facility will also be built for. All this shows we started work very early, to make sure all these things got approval.”
Teachers, too, are not left out of the preparations. A top priority for Mr Manogaran and Ms Tay is in ensuring a seamless transition for about 80 SRJC teachers who will be moving to the new school. Mr Manogaran said a little more than 30 have already moved to AJC.
He said staff from AJC came to meet teachers at SRJC who will be going over. This is where the AJC vice principal and other staff shared AJC’s culture and practices so that the new teachers are mentally prepared.
Ms Tay told Channel NewAsia that time and resources at AJC have been set aside for staff to bond at the department level. Several engagement sessions have also been planned throughout the year.
UNIFORMS, MOTTO AND CRESTS WILL FOCUS ON INCORPORATING SIMILARITIES
For now, both pairs of schools are focused on the upcoming open houses and orientation to settle in new students. Mr Manogaran said first-year students will be considered AJC students due to technical reasons of being at its school premises.
But an interim school uniform for them has been designed so that they identify with the merged JC. He said the first-year students will wear a polo-shirt with both the school’s crests side by side, and with both the colleges’ names etched on the back. The bottom uniform attire will, however, reflect AJC uniform colours.
Mr Manogaran said the schools will set up a joint team by the second-half of the year to decide on the Anderson Serangoon JC’s new motto, badge and uniform, saying it is not something to rush into.
But their guiding principle will be incorporating elements of both schools and the similarities between them. He said both schools focus on service, which is a coherent running theme in their school mottos.
In western Singapore, Pioneer JC and Jurong JC also set up a joint committee to design an interim uniform for first-year students for the new Jurong Pioneer JC. They include a polo shirt, house T-shirts and orientation T-shirts.
Pioneer JC, which will be the site of the new merged JC, said the principal-designate will be the one who will oversee the design of the new uniform.
The affected schools are also ensuring that former students were not left out of the planning process. President of SRJC’s Alumni Association, Lee Deming, told Channel NewsAsia that the association was consulted on the new name by the Education Ministry and the JC.
Both the schools' alumni associations have met and will continue to communicate. While the top question on their minds is what graduates of the merged college will be known as, Mr Lee said his association will continue to carry SRJC’s crest and continue its legacy.
Additional reporting by Deborah Wong