One Space

Schools possess a sense of history. In Telok Kurau Secondary and National Junior College where Yahya Aljaru met leaders in the making, we see evidence that sometimes by design, and more often by chance, schools are places where our paths cross with others. It was Sir Winston Churchill who said that "we first shape our building and then our building shapes us." To many, a school shapes our personality. School buildings hold strong memories for us as institutions where we come to learn and know what the world is about. When a school building is pulled down, we experience a sense of loss.

SCHOOL IS ALSO A PLACE WHERE WE MAKE FRIENDS AND INTERACT WITH PEOPLE FROM A RANGE OF BACKGROUNDS. FROM VERY EARLY DAYS, CO-CURRICULAR ACTIVITIES WERE MADE COMPULSORY IN SCHOOL. THIS WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE BELIEF THAT THE LEARNING THAT TAKES PLACE IN THE PARADE GROUND AND ON THE PLAYING FIELDS IS AS VITAL TO THE CHILD'S HOLISTIC GROWTH AS WHAT GOES ON IN THE CLASSROOM.

Who can forget marching in the hot sun, just to do your school proud at the National Day Parade, or rehearsing every day for the Singapore Youth Festival Central Judging to ensure that the Band, Orchestra, Drama or Dance Group attains a Gold with Honours? Every student who has ever been a member of a competitive sports team, club, uniformed group or performing arts group will tell you that although the going was tough, it was all worth it.

Because of the mass congregation of students of different ages, races and backgrounds, schools are also the most vulnerable places when there are national crises, such as the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak in March 2003. No other national event showed up the grit and tenacity of a nation better than the concerted efforts at warding off an invisible enemy. The daily routines of temperature taking, monitoring of students' health and quarantine of those who had been in contact with victims of the deadly virus were a gruelling experience. But the school community emerged the stronger because of the sense of a shared destiny.

The Programme for Rebuilding and Improving Existing Schools (PRIME) is an initiative born of the Ministry of Education's "Thinking Schools, Learning Nation" vision. Under the programme, about 290 schools are to be upgraded or rebuilt to ensure a conducive physical environment to enhance teaching and learning. Schools constructed before 1997 would be upgraded or rebuilt in phases, determined by the age of the schools, state of existing facilities and availability of sites. New facilities include computer laboratories, media resource libraries, IT learning resource rooms, pastoral care rooms and health and fitness rooms. Implemented in tandem with the Ministry's Masterplan for IT in Education, the schools are networked for access to the internet. By 2007, 210 schools have already been upgraded.

When Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959, the government had to deal with high unemployment and an uncertain future. The first priority was the development of its people and the introduction of technical training to cater for the expansion of industries. Hence during the period 1961 to 1973, a total of 32 primary, 38 secondary, 7 technical and 16 vocational schools were built. The typical design for a primary school was a compact four-storey H-shaped building. The design for secondary schools incorporated facilities for academic, science and technical education.

The first junior college was built on a mere plot of 2.6 hectares of land. The $1.6 million college building comprised a four-storey triple block of classrooms, a two-storey Science block of laboratories and a two-storey hall cum canteen block, and two non-air-conditioned lecture halls with a seating capacityof 250 each. Under PRIME, a refurbished college building like Nanyang Junior College would sit on six hectares of land and have five lecture theatres, a range of air-conditioned facilities and newly-designed Science laboratories. Some even have a performing arts theatre. This move is in line with the decision to let schools have some 'white space' so that they can trade standard facilities which are not needed for special facilities that are more useful for their school programmes.

In 2006, in tandem with the initiative to encourage Innovation and Enterprise, MOE set aside 40 million dollars for a new framework, FlexSi or Flexible School Infrastructure. This is to support initiatives such as Strategies for Effective and Engaged Development (SEED) and Teach Less, Learn More (TLLM) and spur greater exploration in pedagogical strategies in a ground-up approach. Some schools, taking advantage of the scheme, have come up with new design concepts such as modular classrooms that can be opened up for larger group lectures. Others have opened up common spaces and study areas so that they are integrated with formal facilities to provide further flexibility.


Of Crouching Tigers

AND HIDDEN DRAGONS. Imagine I was colleagues with Iskandar Jalil, now Singapore's renowned potter, who taught Chemistry and Art. Iskandar and a very good Art teacher by the name of Freddie Goh made the Art room their second home… and these two teachers guided their students to produce beautiful work.

For years, Mr Yahya Aljaru went to work with crouching tigers and hidden dragons.

To read the full story, please refer to the publication available at major bookstores in Singapore.


N(T) To NTU


We have always been talkative. And maybe mischievous. So in class, the teachers sat us apart.

Twins Simon and Lawrence Tan still keep the habit of adding to and finishing each other's sentences. Their school found ways to help them learn, so that the pair went from N(T) to NTU.

To read the full story, please refer to the publication available at major bookstores in Singapore.


Room For Being Inclusive

Do you know when I know a foreign-born pupil has integrated into the school community? When he gets into a fight with a Singaporean pupil!

It is not that Mr Phua Kia Wang, Principal, MacPherson Primary, loves to see children fight, but he has gained insights from observing children at work, at play, and even in conflict.

To read the full story, please refer to the publication available at major bookstores in Singapore.


Two Marys

AND THEIR REBELLIOUS LITTLE LAMB. For the first time in my life, my whole mind felt free. Listening to the two Marys share with us what they saw in the different cities of the world, what they did, what they had read, opened up my world.

Sitting in the modest art room of Tampines Junior College, Ban Yinh Jheow first felt the yearning to explore. Today, Ban's creation, Stikfas Action Figures, has fans across Japan, Europe and North America.

To read the full story, please refer to the publication available at major bookstores in Singapore.


On Target

"One day in Primary 6, the Principal spoke to us about Direct School Admission. I went through the list of schools and studied their niche programme. I chose Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School because I was interested in shooting." The next thing that Bernice Chua knew was that her school, Chongfu Primary, had hired a bus to ferry her and others to Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary for a selection test. At the test, 12-year-old Bernice held a rifle for the first time in her life, seated in a chair, while an adult made notes of her posture and her every move. She also had measurements taken: the ratio of hip to body, the ratio of forearm bent to shoulder, the length of her trigger finger, and her heart rate before and after shooting. Today Bernice is in Secondary 2 and training hard in shooting.

Read the experience of Bernice, the poster girl for our fresh understanding of how our schools develop potential. Read also the story of a partially blind staff at Bernice's school, a place where the weakest-sighted can be classmates with the best-sighted age-group shooters.

Read the book for

  • the 'Walls that Teach' at Bowen Secondary School.
  • adventurer Edwin Siew's debt to Whitley Secondary School, and more.