SINGAPORE: With their sleek green-tinted glass windows, expansive open spaces and greenery lining their walls, the two new towering blocks along Sin Ming Place could be mistaken for office buildings.
But they are not.
They form part of Eunoia Junior College's (EJC) new campus which boasts the tallest buildings among JCs in Singapore.
The campus was built upwards to compensate for the smaller four-hectare plot of land it sits on, compared to the six-hectare average plot size of other JCs. One of the academic blocks is 10-storeys high, the other reaches 12 storeys.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) said EJC cost S$100 million to construct. In its 2019 budget documents, the ministry said the total project cost for the development of the campus was estimated at almost S$144 million.
The total development cost of the project, which includes consultancy costs, improvement works and other related fees, is still being finalised and is expected to be lower than what was budgeted, said the ministry.
DESIGNED FOR STUDENT INTERACTION
A duplex library takes up the ninth and tenth floors of one of the academic blocks. It offers a panoramic view of nearby Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park. The library is part of a student hub, which includes an activity deck on level 10, an art studio and special learning rooms.
A stage within the library provides a space where students “can perform spontaneously”, said principal Mrs Wong Mei Heng.
The interaction areas are “really huge spaces created for the students to carry out many of the activities to facilitate their bonding and facilitate the ability to initiate activities”, said Mrs Wong.
“The learning spaces are designed from the start with the intention of encouraging collaboration, encouraging active student life, and encouraging the students to really make use of space to support their learning,” she added.
Students were invited to give input on how they would like the spaces in the new campus to be furnished and who gets to operate stalls at the canteen.
“When we selected and shortlisted our canteen vendors, the students joined us in tasting the food and giving us the vote. So all the vendors that we bring in really are a result of students’ vote,” said Mrs Wong.
PERCEPTION OF IP SCHOOLS "HAS NOT BEEN VERY FAIR"
EJC took in its first batch of students in 2017 at its interim campus at Mount Sinai. Students from the Integrated Programme (IP) of Catholic High School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School and Singapore Chinese Girls’ School make up about two-thirds of the 1,250-strong student body.
The remaining one-third are students from the O-Level track, and they come from about 80 different schools, said Mrs Wong. The school has about 120 teachers.
Responding to questions on the perception that EJC is an elite school with mostly IP students, Mrs Wong said: “Actually maybe the perception of IP schools has not been very fair because our students grow in the heartlands of Singapore as well. And they face every challenge that every teenager faces.”
Mrs Wong said that classes are mixed, all students choose their co-curricular activities at the same time, and the college’s flagship IP programmes are available to students from the O-Level track as well.
“About two-thirds of our students come from IP schools that have rich traditions, and they have four years of forging friendships and they’re going to have another two years to continue that. But they are also sensitive to the fact that there will be another batch of college mates that come in and join in. Inclusivity is something that we have focused on right from the start,” she said.
“For us, I think it is important that once our students come into EJC, then they are Eunoians and we don’t differentiate between IP and JAE (joint admissions exercise) students.”
Student mixing is one of the major factors that influenced the design of the college’s new campus. Next to the classroom blocks is a five-storey student activities centre that houses an eight-lane track and full-sized field on its roof. It also houses a 900-seat lecture theatre, the canteen, and Bishan North Community Club.
As the first JC to be co-located with a community club, Mrs Wong said that the plan is for students to be involved in activities such as reading programmes for children, digital literacy programmes for the elderly, and organising activities for residents.
LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEW CAMPUS
On Jan 6, a symbolic relay from Mount Sinai to Bishan via Rifle Range Road and the Central Nature Reserve, will mark the move to the new campus.
"We will miss Mount Sinai but we look forward to the Bishan campus. In terms of giving closure to our students, some of them were also involved in saying goodbye to Ghim Moh, because, in a way, we would say that the school has grown up in Ghim Moh," said Mrs Wong.
Appreciation notes written by the students had been distributed to the stallholders at Ghim Moh hawker centre, a Eunoian haunt for the past three years, she said: "It’s touching to see the students value a space that they also have been able to learn from."