SINGAPORE: Serangoon Junior College’s (JC) principal Manogaran Suppiah spent the June holidays mulling over the college song for the school he will be heading next year - Anderson Serangoon JC.
Mr Suppiah said the lyrics for the song, For the Service of Others, were inspired by the mottos of both the merging schools.
“Serangoon’s motto is ‘Discere Servire’ (To learn, to serve) and Anderson’s motto is ‘Non Mihi Solum’ (Not for myself alone). Both have a key idea of serving others,” he said.
“My staff here felt that being the first principal for the new college, it will be important to pen the lines, and I see it as an opportunity to provide direction for the college.”
Schools that are involved in the first-ever JC mergers next year are putting the final touches on their new college identity.
The mergers - involving four pairs of JCs - were first announced in April last year.
STUDENTS GET TO DECIDE NEW UNIFORM
To come up with a new uniform, Anderson and Serangoon JCs held a uniform design competition that was open to both students and staff.
Ten designs were submitted, and three were eventually put to a vote.
“I think they see themselves creating history too. Creativity was seen and, most importantly, there was a sense of ownership. It was not just the principal deciding on things – that gave them a lot of stake in the future too,” said Mr Suppiah.
Over at Tampines and Meridian JCs, both schools formed a committee to come up with four designs – three sets of two-tone and one set of single-tone uniforms.
Dean of JC 2 at Tampines JC, Wendy Goh, who is part of the committee, said different factors were taken into consideration for each design.
“For one of the designs, we tried to play with the idea of the combination of blue and light green - Meridian being blue and Tampines being light green. So we put together a combination of a hybrid of the two colours,” Mrs Goh said.
Another design opted to use neither school’s colours in the uniform, to evoke the idea of neutrality. Instead, it paired a white top with a khaki-coloured bottom.
Both students and staff had the opportunity to vote for the design they liked best, and Mrs Goh revealed that one of the two-tone uniforms is currently the most popular among students.
MOST PROGRAMMES TO BE RETAINED
Meanwhile, the four schools Channel NewsAsia spoke to said that almost all of their programmes will be retained.
All programmes and subjects at Tampines JC such as its Malay Language and Drama electives, as well as Art and China Studies, will be brought over to the merged school at Meridian.
Tampines JC principal Pamela Yoong, who will head the merged school, said: “One of our promises is to ensure that students will not feel that any subject is sacrificed or rather, we want them to have options.”
To accommodate the new subjects, Meridian JC spent S$300,000 to convert its facilities, such as turning one lecture theatre into a black box and a reading room into an art room.
And while Anderson JC has shut down one of its co-curricular activities, wushu, which had a low take-up, it will preserve all of Serangoon JC’s CCAs, such as taekwondo and touch football.
With four of the merging schools not taking in new students this year, the other JCs expanded their Year 1 intake.
Meridian JC took in 893 students this year, up from 680 in the previous year, while Anderson JC’s Year 1 cohort increased from 660 last year to 852 this year.
This is about a 30 per cent boost for both schools – which also saw a rise in cut-off points as a result.
“We were 11 points for the JC2 cohort when they were JC1. The current JC1 cohort is 14 points,” said Meridian JC’s principal Lim Yan Hock.
In response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, the Ministry of Education said the increased intake this year is not permanent and is expected to fall as cohort sizes shrink in the next few years.
TEACHERS FEEL THE STRETCH
But the changes have already brought about challenges.
At Anderson JC, teachers have felt the stretch due to the increase in workload as they coordinate and plan a new identity and culture for the school.
Its principal, Tay Lai Ling, said staff were also adjusting to having new colleagues.
Thirty-four Serangoon JC teachers have already moved to Anderson, with more slated to join them next year.
“While they get along well, we must always keep an eye on them and get all the teachers to work well in support of the students,” said Ms Tay.
She added that communication with external vendors, such as uniform suppliers, also take extra effort, especially when it comes to delivering the uniforms on time.
HERITAGE GALLERIES OPENED
Ahead of the mergers, the schools have set up a heritage gallery to commemorate their leaders and milestones.
The heritage gallery at Meridian JC opened in July, equipped with a digital platform for visitors to scroll through the history of both colleges.
It also has a terrarium containing soil dug from both sites, as well as time capsules containing 32 artefacts from Tampines JC and 15 from Meridian JC.
The numbers signify the number of years the schools have been in operation.
In April, a six-panel heritage wall at Anderson JC was unveiled - with one panel left empty. It will be filled with the next chapter of the schools’ history, following the merger.
Some Year 1 students at Anderson JC say it was an honour to be part of the pioneer batch of the merged school next year and were looking forward to it.
“Anderson has a more studious culture, and Serangoon has a more relaxed culture. But with both cultures coming together, it will form better programmes for us to enjoy in the future," said arts student Valerie Tan.
Echoing the same sentiment, science student Zeph Tan said: “We can expect to see a change in culture. I would say it will be more balanced.”