Monday, July 27, 2009

College Day Speech 2009


The theme for this year’s celebration is One. One describes the spirit of focus, characteristic of Rafflesians and the Raffles Schools. One is also about the Unity that comes from the reintegration of RI and the JC as well as a close working relationship with RGS. One refers to the aspiration of the Rafflesian and the Institution to be a leader in many ways - paving the way for pioneering efforts that will have an impact on our community and nation.

28 years ago, Raffles Junior College was formed from the pre-university section of Raffles Institution. Those associated with its early years must remember the trepidation, uncertainty and difficulties that plagued its birth on temporary premises in Paterson Road. On its 28th year, and the year prior to its reintegration with RI, the Junior College has exceeded all expectations.

More than being assured of its standing and credibility, the college is clearly the leading junior college inSingapore. Credit must go the former principals, Mr Rudy Mosbergen, Mr Lee Fong Seng and Mr Winston Hodge and cohorts of staff who have laid the foundation and worked untiringly to make this possible.

The performance of the Class of 2008 has surpassed that of past cohorts. No other JC had students scoring 9 distinctions at the 2008 “A” level examinations, we had 6. Among them were four who were allowed to take 13 units. Soh Ming Quan topped the “A” levels in Singapore, having offered 13 units and gotten distinctions including A1 in Mother Tongue, in all of them. Ming Quan has opted for a MOE Teaching Scholarship and will be reading Science at Imperial College in Sep.

No other JC had close to 100 students getting 8 distinctions or 250 students getting 7 distinctions, nor 1 in 2 getting 4 As and 3 in 4 getting 3 As.

Not in the past 27 years have we had 57% of our cohort scoring A for the General Paper, nor a third of the cohort scoring the perfect university admission score of 90. All these, we managed to achieve last year. In addition, 9 out of the 10 medals given out by the Institute of Physics for top Physics exam scorers went to Rafflesians and the Angus Ross prize for top marks in Literature at the “A” levels went to Aaron Chee from the Humanities class of 2008. (Aaron has been offered a PSC scholarship to read Economics & Management at theUniversity of Oxford.

In sports last year, we won 19 championship titles – that is, 19 Gold with 12 Silver and 5 Bronze medals. We also had the most number of athletes and teams among Singapore schools receiving the Colours Awards. The college chalked up 36 Team and 93 Individual Colours Awards in total. Some of our athletes blazed the academic trail as well, emerging with 5, 6, and 7 distinctions in the “A” level examinations. I am pleased to note that national tennis player, Sylvester Wee and Sandra Go, our JC Sportswoman of the Year – a national table tennis player, have been awarded Government Investment Corporation Scholarships. This is a testimony of the focus, determination and academic rigour of Rafflesian athletes.

The standards set by the Class of 2008 have inspired their juniors to stretch their limits: this year, even before the “A” division sporting season is over, we have garnered 20 Gold, 9 Silver and 4 Bronze medals. We had double Golds for Badminton, Cross Country, Swimming, Table Tennis, Track & Field and Waterpolo. The badminton, table tennis and rugby finals were, to me, the best of the season – they truly showed the tenacity, determination and mental stamina that are possessed by the best of our Rafflesian sportsmen and women who fought hard to bring home the championship title.

Seven Rafflesian athletes from the junior college represented Singapore at the inaugural Asian Youth Games.Swimmer Quah Ting Wen did the institution and country proud by winning 4 of the 9 Golds for Singapore. 32 of our JC students are now in Thailand, representing Singapore at the 1st ASEAN games .

This being the year of the Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging, I am also pleased to announce that our performing arts groups comprising the Malay, Indian, Chinese & Modern Dance, String Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Chinese Orchestra, Choir, Symphonic Band, Chinese Drama and Harmonica Ensemble have achieved 9 Golds,4 of which are Gold with Honours, and 2 Silver Awards. This was a stronger performance compared to 2007 when we achieved 8 Golds, 3 of which are Gold with Honours, and 2 Silver Awards.

Rafflesians have also distinguished themselves at every major International Olympiad held last year as representatives of Singapore. Our gold medalists for 2008 included Yeong Li Qian for Chemistry, Men Yi Fei for Biology and Ronald Chan for Physics. Li Qian was ranked no. 1 for theory and second overall at the Chemistry Olympiad, while Yi Fei was ranked fifth overall for Biology. Others received Silver, Bronze and Honourable Mention awards.

This year, at the Taiwan International Science Fair, Daniel Chew won First Award in the Zoology category while our team of Physicists were Champions at the US Invitational Young Physicists Tournament held inVirginia.

The all-Rafflesian National Debates Team that took part in the World Schools Debating Championships was placed third with three of the speakers ranked within the top ten list. This is an unprecedented achievement forSingapore.

We are pleased that the Class of 2008 has received more university admission places to top US Colleges,Oxford, Cambridge and top UK universities compared to previous years. The Public Service Commission Scholarship list is just out and 39 out of the 82 PSC scholarships awarded went to Rafflesians. This is close to 50% and the largest number of PSC scholarships we have had so far. 3 out of the 6 SAF Overseas Scholarships went to Rafflesians, Jerik Mok, Chua Sheng Hao and Jamie Lee. 2 out of the 3 Singapore Police Force scholarships were awarded to Jonathan Au Yong & Justin Ong. 4 out of the 5 EDB scholarships given out went to Rafflesians, one of whom, Li Yizhen is heading for Beijing University to read Economics and another, Shauna Lo has left for Science Po (Ecole Science Politiques) in Paris to read International Relations & Economics. I don’t have the DSTA nor A-Star figures as yet. 5 of the PSC scholars have been shortlisted for the President’s Scholarship this year, the outcome of which we shall know soon.

Facts and figures don’t make a college. Grades do not make a scholar. It is really the dynamic programmes, the quality of instruction and the nurturing relationship between teachers and students that enable all to constantly grow in capacity. It is the extra that Rafflesians pack into their lives and bring to the lives of others that sets them apart from other strong academic students.

It has been my pride and joy in the last one and half years, to witness the many events that Rafflesians initiate amongst the community that convince me that they have initiative, empathy and courage of conviction. CrimeZero @ Bishan, Youth Got Heart, the Boon Lay Countdown, Sports Chronograph@BIshan, the Raffles Community Leaders’ Forum, the Humanities Initiative – our students keep me very busy attending their many extended social ventures. And they continually surprise me with the GOHs they manage personally to invite to support their events, such as DPMs, Ministers and MPs.

Visitors to Raffles are constantly fascinated by what we do here – the numerous programmes we put in place to allow for our energetic and driven young people to grow in. Recent visitors such as the Vice Chancellor of Cambridge, Prof Alison Richards, the PRC State Councillor, Mdm Liu Yandong, several Ambassadors and renowned educators and scientists all want to know what makes Raffles tick. My answer to them is this - the Rafflesian quest for excellence that is so much part of the DNA of our students, institution and staff.

Last year we officially launched the Raffles Institute for Experential Learning – an arm of RI that looks into diversity education, ecological literacy, adventure training, service learning and social advocacy. This year, with the setting up of our Open Lab and Biodiversity Pond and several specialized labs, the Raffles Science Institute began its journey, to develop in-house research and mentor young researchers. We have currently two PHD researchers focusing on biodiversity and biological sciences and we will be bringing in more to focus on other scientific disciplines. In our new biodiversity pond are South East Asian plant and fish species such as the bala shark and catfish.

We gave out 13 Sports Scholarships this year to support top sports talent who play at the national level, and there will be programmes targeted at the needs of our sportsmen and women when the Gryphon Institute for Sports is fully established. New facilities have been added to the college: the Raffles Media Studios will be open for students of the English Language Elective Programme and others interested to use the broadcasting and video-recording facilities.

What next? With the reintegration of RI and the JC, we will be working towards international benchmarking, and reconnecting alumni to build an even stronger institution. We will also draw on external partnerships to further our strategic goals. One such plan is the Global Alliance – a network that we have formed with Winchester College in England that includes top schools such as the Colegio Claustro Moderno Bogota in Columbia (South America), the Johannes Kepler Grammar School in Prague (Czech Republic), the Karachi Grammar School in Pakistan, the African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg (South Africa), Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville, Tennessee (USA) and the Naga School in Japan. Each year, one school in the alliance will host a roundtable of its principals, as well as a few students and staff, to work on a global project. When bright young minds from top schools across the continents come together, each bearing a cultural perspective and different ways of looking at a problem, facilitated by some of the experts in that area in each country, we are sure there will be stunning outcomes. The first symposium will be held in Mar 2010 at Winchester College in England and the students will be working on issues surrounding the global financial crisis. A few other schools that we will forge a strong networked relationship with are Langkaer School in Arhaus, Denmark, the Korean Minjoot Leadership Academy in Seoul, Perse School in Cambridge, England, Shenzhen Experimental School in China, Dalton School in New York as well as a school in Israel.

There is never a static or dull moment in the college. It leaves me to thank the staff at the JC, RI as well as RGS, who worked hard to lay the foundation that has contributed to the success of our students, who constantly see to define and redefine education at Raffles, our parent volunteers and the RPA for being always there for us (be it at fundraising or college events or the outreach programmes such as Open House and the A level supper), the Board of Governors for believing in us and for being so supportive of our ventures, all Rafflesians, past and present, for keeping us on our toes, always questioning, always pushing the boundaries and always achieving. One Raffles, One Vision. One Hope for a Better Age.

Auspicium Melioris Aevi.

Lai Cheng