Monday, August 31, 2009

RI Founder's Day Speech, 15 Aug 2009

Board members, distinguished guests, parents, staff, fellow Rafflesians, past and present, friends.

1 The theme for this year’s Founder’s Day is One. One, to me, signifies Focus, a trait we want to see in all Rafflesians. One is Unity that comes from the reintegration of RI and RJC as well as the close partnership with RGS. One embodies our Aspiration for Rafflesians - to be always leading, pioneering and making a difference.

2 There are several old boys in our midst today. I know that in all your minds, there is only ONE Raffles Institution – the school where you spent the best years of your lives. The RI that you know – be it at Bras Basah or Grange Road - is different yet strangely similar to the one you are in right now. While the physical facilities may be vastly different, the Rafflesian spirit is strong as ever. The Rafflesian drive to push the limits and excel is as evident now as it was in your time.

3 Let me give you evidence of this through a recount of our recent achievements. At the national examinations, no other institution had students scoring 9 distinctions, we had 6. Among them is Soh Ming Quan who topped the whole Singapore cohort, having offered 13 units in 9 subjects and gotten distinctions in all of them. Ming Quan was from St Anthony’s Pri School and for six years, he took the MRT from Jurong East at dawn to get to RI. He would read his notes on the long way to school. Ming Quan is currently teaching at the JC and will be reading Science at Imperial College on a Teaching Scholarship. He says there is now a direct bus from Jurong to Bishan which he takes, but nothing else has changed for him.

4 At the “A” levels too, we had 100 students with 8 distinctions and 250 students with 7 distinctions. Among the 1200 students who graduated, one in two had 4 As and three in four had 3 As. Nine out of the 10 medals given out by the Institute of Physics for top Physics exam scorers went to Rafflesians. The Angus Ross prize winner who turned in the best literature paper at “A” levels is Aaron Chee. Aaron was very active in the NCC at RI and was a prefect too. He has been awarded a PSC Foreign Service Scholarship and will read Economics & Management at Oxford University.

5 There is more to Raffles than intellectual rigour. Last year, across the A, B and C divisions, we won 27 championship titles – that is, 27 team Gold medals in sports such as Track & Field, Cross Country, Badminton, Tennis, Cricket, Swimming, Table Tennis and Waterpolo. The sporting season is not quite over yet. So far, we have garnered 24 Gold, 20 Silver and 13 Bronze medals. This includes the championship title for “A” Division Rugby. Last year, RI, as a six-year institution chalked up 67 Team and 109 Individual National Colours Awards - the largest number among schools in Singapore.

6 Nine Rafflesian athletes represented Singapore at the inaugural Asian Youth Games. Year 5 swimmer Quah Ting Wen contributed 4 of the 9 Golds for Singapore. 39 Rafflesians represented Singapore at the 1st ASEAN school games held in Thailand. They contributed 5 medals to the 13 won by the Singapore team. Year 4 swimmer Yeo Jia Cheng won 2 gold and 2 silver medals while Year 2 boy Bryan Teo returned with a gold and silver medal for table tennis. He must have been the youngest in the team.

7 Our performing arts groups comprising the Malay, Indian, Chinese & Modern Dance, String Ensemble, Guitar Ensemble, Chinese Orchestra, Choir, Symphonic Band, Chinese Drama, English Drama and Harmonica Ensemble achieved 14 Golds, 5 of which are Gold with Honours, 6 Silver Awards and 1 Bronze Award. One of our boys, Jonathan is so talented in music that he was admitted for a degree program at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory while at Year 3. Instead of going through JC, he is now pursuing his Music degree full time, at NUS.

8 Our uniformed groups have maintained a very strong track record. The Scouts, Red Cross, NCC and Boys Brigade attained Gold & Excellent Unit Awards. Three of our Boys Brigadiers received the President’s Award this year. This is the highest award that a Boys Brigadier can hope to achieve in his school life. Those of us who were at the Istana to witness the ceremony were very proud of them. One mother told me that the family had been in need since her husband passed away from an illness and she was glad that the school was there to support the family.

9 In RI, every student who has a passion will be able to find a platform to develop his interest. In the Report that you have in front of you, we have attempted to capture some of these. In national competitions such as the Eco-Challenge, the NTU-NUS Astro-Challenge, National Science Challenge, Creative and Heuristic Applications of Science or CHAOS Competition, Singapore Chemical Science Fair, NJC Mathematics Challenge, NUS-MOE Amazing Lab Race Championship Title, Green Wave Environmental Care Competition and the National Infocomm Club Competition, our Year 1 to 4 teams outdid their competitors to win first prize. The Infocomm Club even won themselves a fully paid trip to Silicon Valley for the second time.

10 We also have students who represented Singapore at the International Olympiads. This year, Amyas Chew, Yuan Zhengxiang and Wang Daobo brought back a Gold medal for Physics, Biology and Chemistry respectively. At the Taiwan International Science Fair, Daniel Chew won First Award in the Zoology category while our team of Physicists (a mixed level team) were Champions at the US Invitational Young Physicists Tournament held in Virginia.

11 The debating tradition has grown very strong in RI. In the National Secondary debating championship, our team won the championship title for the 6th consecutive year. The all-Rafflesian Debate Team that represented Singapore in the World Schools Debating Championships in Athens this year was placed third with three of the speakers ranked within the top ten. This is an unprecedented achievement for Singapore. There were two Year 4 debaters in this group and one of them, Teoh Ren Jie was ranked 4th in the world.

12 What do we expect of Rafflesians? What are scholarship boards, top universities, top faculties and employers looking for? Time and again, I am told by interview panels that they are looking for students with intellectual rigour, individuals who are able to articulate a strong sense of purpose and mission in life, and team players who can empathize and connect with others. To the credit of the staff at all levels, the Raffles Programme has helped our students differentiate themselves and develop their own individuality and a strong sense of social responsibility.

13 The many programmes that we have put in place such as the Raffles Academy for Talent Development, the Raffles Leadership Programme, which is a boarding programme for local students, and the Overseas Immersion Programme which Year 3 students participate in help hone individual strengths and passions. Service-learning projects, self-initiated community projects and expeditions abroad enhance our students’ empathy and connection with communities within and outside of Singapore.

14 Rafflesians are certainly going places. More than 250 of our graduating cohort were offered places in top US universities last year. Over 60 had offers from Oxford and Cambridge, and close to 440 were offered admissions to the London universities. The Scholarship lists are just out: 39 out of the 84 PSC scholarships awarded this year went to Rafflesians. This is close to 50% and the largest number of PSC scholarships we have had so far.

15 3 out of the 6 SAF Overseas Scholarships went to Rafflesians Jerik Mok, Chua Sheng Hao and Jamie Lee. These boys were active in their secondary years in RI, in NCC, waterpolo and track and field, and moved to other pursuits like canoeing, Students’ Council and Youth Flying Club in their JC years. 2 out of the 3 Singapore Police Force Overseas Scholarships went to Rafflesians, Jonathan Auyong and Justin Ong who both spent six years in RI.

16 We took the lion’s share of the other top scholarships this year: 7 Foreign Service scholarships, 4 EDB scholarships, 6 GIC scholarships, 8 DSTA scholarships and 18 A-Star scholarships. We have two Presidents’ Scholars -: Jonathan Au Yong and Alex Woon. Jonathan, who led an ultra active life in his six years in RI, will be reading Ethics, Politics & Economics at Yale while Alex, who spent his secondary years in Belgium, will be reading Law at Cambridge. This brings the number of President’s Scholars RI has produced since 1965 to 79.

17 Here is another piece of information that may delight or worry you. The medical faculty at NUS takes in 260 freshmen a year – 114 places went to Rafflesians this year. The law faculty at NUS takes in 240 students each year. Rafflesians took up 133 places. This means that if you are ill or in trouble with the law, there is a one in two chance of you encountering a Rafflesian doctor or lawyer. You would want to know that we had done a good job educating them.

18 As a merged institution, we are setting our sights on international benchmarking as well as pushing our students to spar in a bigger arena. We launched the Raffles Science Hub last year with its suite of research labs and programmes centred on specialized areas such as photonics and materials Science. This year, the Humanities Hub took shape to provide video-conferencing facilities and customized space to develop talents and interest in History, Literature and Geography. We are also working on a global alliance among top schools across the continents (in countries such as Denmark, Korea, Taiwan, the US, France and England) to bring together bright young minds to work on global projects in annual symposiums to be hosted by one school each year.

19 The Rafflesian spirit of enterprise grows stronger by the day. And it will grow even stronger as we begin to reconnect and draw past generations of Rafflesians to build the RI of the future. There are many in the Rafflesian community who are eager to help redefine education at Raffles. I must first thank our staff for their devotion to the cause at Raffles, to educate students of integrity and fortitude. I thank our parent volunteers and the RPA for being always there for us, be it at fundraising or outreach events such as Open House, I thank the Board of Governors for being our pillar of strength and for being so supportive in all our ventures. To all Rafflesians, past and present – thank you for keeping faith with us and for reminding us of what Raffles must stand for.

20 RI was not built in a day. Generations of principals and headmasters, such as Mr Eugene Wijeysinghe and Mr Rudy Mosbergen who are here today, have devoted themselves, to shaping its ethos and mission. To all of them, we owe a debt of gratitude. And we will build on the foundation that they have laid.

21 The word “auspicium” in our motto is derived from the word “auspex” which refers to the ancient art of foretelling the future from the flight of birds. From its inception, Raffles Institution is meant to be an education hub that draws together those who will have influence on the land to equip them to serve their community better. Auspicium Melioris Aevi. One Raffles, One Vision. One Hope for a Better Age.

Message for the Launch of the 1823 Fund

1 On 8 Aug, Prof Koo Tsai Kee, a Rafflesian & Minister of State for Defence, wrote to The Straits Times about his “secret” hero – his ex-neighbour and senior in RI who never made it to university, even though “he could easily have done so… (as) he was a bright and diligent student”. Prof Koo also referred to how many of his classmates, including himself were poor, and did not have much to augment their education.

2 We hope for history not to repeat itself for the likes of Prof Koo and his classmates. Together with support from alumni members, the board and staff of RI, I am happy to announce the launch of the 1823 Fund. The Fund draws its inspiration from the Founder’s vision of building an inclusive and diverse school, based on the ideals of personal endeavour and social responsibility. It will serve two purposes: to provide needs-based financial aid to deserving students and support pioneering projects that will have a strong community impact, by current students.

3 Our goal is to raise $50 million in ten years. Financial assistance could go to post-PSLE students who might otherwise be deterred from enrolling at RI due to its independent school fees. It could also go towards educational grants and local tertiary grants to Rafflesians who are affected by the economic downturn. The Fund will also enable current students to pioneer projects which will benefit the community and extend the Raffles thought leadership.

4 I am pleased to tell you that some of our alumni have already taken the first step in empowering our students with the gift of flight. Funds have been raised to provide ten RI Scholarships for deserving post PSLE students this year. Each of these RI Scholarship is worth $12 000 spread over 6 years, and will cover what a student needs to pay over and above what MOE provides for those who meet our PSLE aggregate cut-off.

5 Two groups of students will also be able to carry out their dream project this year: one group of sportsmen will put together a 3-day sports camp to reach 200 underprivileged 10 to 12 year-olds from various homes and family service cetnres, teaching them how to play sports like tennis, floorball, tag rugby and handball. The camp will culminate in a mini-Olympics where the children will learn about sportsmanship and put their new sports skills to the best. Best of all, they can take the sports equipment home so that they can continue playing the sport after the end of the camp.

6 Another group of social advocates will be knocking on the doors of one and two-room flats in Ang Mo Kio as part of a health mapping exercise. They’re visiting low-income families with a view to conducting health screening and raising awareness of chronic illness and heart disease. The grant they’ve applied for will be used to provide needy residents with a small food token that introduces them to healthier food choices.

7 The 1823 Fund is about reconnecting our alumni to build and invest in the future of RI. We are excited about its mission to make a real impact and hope that all of you will join hands and heart with us, to accomplish this goal..