Tuesday, December 1, 2009

November: Why History Matters in RI

I was not able to be present at the townhall meeting on 21 November to discuss leadership development in RI. I was quite tickled by the fact, when told to me by Deputy Principal Mr Kenneth Kwok who chaired the session, that there was a discussion on whether it is preferable to be a big fish in a small pond, or a small fish in a big pond. I am extremely grateful to the parent who stole the show by his calm explanation that, whether it is “a big fish in a small pond” or “a small fish in a big pond”, the “size of the fish is still the same” and that what is important is the “quality of the water”. What a clever way of putting it!

RI, as most of you know, provides a unique environment for our students. Apart from being a place where curious minds are constantly being challenged and opportunities abound for students to pursue individual passions and interests guided by passionate teachers, one irreplaceable factor that makes it stand out from any other school in Singapore is its history.

RI would be just another one of a few high performing schools, without its heritage and history. Which other school in Singapore was personally founded by Sir Stamford Raffles himself, and designated to be the education hub that would inspire the best in those who would inherit the leadership of the land? Which other school in Singapore has a patron, William Wilberforce, who was the only member of parliament in Victorian England to dare to question the inhumanity of the slave trade and worked for decades to abolish it? Which other school in Singapore can boast of headmasters who were Queen scholars, or able to shoot tigers that appeared in the billiard rooms, at the turn of the century? Which other school in Singapore has nurtured fiery young minds who, adorned in white uniforms, went on to shape the future of a new nation?

Every student in RI has a copy of “The Eagle Breeds a Gryphon”. I hope that every child and parent will take time to read the book and appreciate the evolution and development of Raffles Institution. Realize that the success of RI and Singapore is not by chance. It is instead founded upon sheer tenacity and a steely will, on the part of those who knew what they had to do, and were prepared to sacrifice their lives to make vision a reality.

To be able to grasp the future well, we have to connect with our past and realize our destiny. May every Rafflesian student charge ahead, like the gryphon on our crest, ever willing to blaze the trail and lead the way.

Auspicium melioris aevi. Hope of a better age.