Speeches/Interviews

May 05, 2018

Speech by Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, Ministry of Education, at the Official Opening of Eunoia Junior College

Dr Su Guaning, Chairman of the College Advisory Committee

Mrs Wong-Cheang Mei Heng, Principal of Eunoia Junior College (EJC)

Colleagues, school leaders, teachers, parents, and Eunoians

1. A very good afternoon to you all. I am happy to join you today, to celebrate the official opening of EJC. This is actually my old school. I used to study here for two years. The track out there – I must have run thousands of rounds on it. So this is a place that has a lot of memories. Last year, in fact, we had our 30th year anniversary gathering here. Everyone still looked the same. Thirty years later, you too may come back and have your reunion.

2. I asked Mrs Wong-Cheang Mei Heng why the official launch is held now, when the school is no longer in its first year of operations. Why not when EJC moves into its permanent campus at Bishan next year? She told me that they did not want to do an official launch last year because there were only JC1 students, no JC2 students yet and the school was not filled up. Next year, the current pioneer batch of JC2 students would have graduated. She felt that the school should be launched now, when the school is completely filled with JC1 and JC2 students and the pioneer batch can be present too.

3. So to all our students here today – the Principal chose the timing of this launch with you in mind. I think this is a fine illustration of how our educators put students at the centre of everything they do. This is what I pledge to do too, as Minister for Education.

A Diverse Student Body

4. So the most important people here today, and the reason for all our hard work, are the students. Collectively, you hail from 73 secondary schools – Commonwealth Secondary School, Crescent Girls’ School, Maris Stella High, Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, even all the way from Temasek Secondary School in the East Coast, and many others. This means that close to half of all secondary schools in Singapore are represented here at EJC.

5. And if I count the number of primary schools all of you have attended, about 80% of all primary schools in Singapore are represented here – almost from all over Singapore!

6. Diversity of students needs to be supported by diversity of learning pathways and environments. MOE has recognised for a long time the need to adapt the education curriculum and experience to different students’ learning needs, so as to develop each and every student to his or her fullest potential.

7. The Integrated Programme is one such pathway, and was first implemented more than a decade ago in 2004. A few years later, Catholic High School (Cat High), CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School (St Nicks), and Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS), each with a unique history and heritage, decided to collaborate and build an innovative education programme to better prepare students for the future.

8. Hence the Joint Integrated Programme was implemented in 2013, when the current JC2 students attended Secondary One then and now, the JC1 and JC2 students are attending classes at EJC. Today, these three feeder schools account for two-thirds of the enrolment, and students from many other secondary schools make up the rest.

9. We must continue to maintain this character of EJC – keeping the community open and accessible to students of all secondary schools, even as you are part of the Joint Integrated Programme with the three feeder secondary schools. Over time, EJC, you will build your own distinct school culture and identity around this diverse community, which you will be very proud of.

Unique Curriculum to Nurture Students of Tomorrow

10. A large part of EJC’s distinct character is in your curriculum. Being a new school, you had the opportunity to embark on something fresh, contemporary, and relevant. Let me highlight a few distinct features that will help nurture students who are ready for the future.

11. First is the emphasis on holistic education. At EJC, academic excellence is not seen as the be all and end all. Students are nurtured to be well-rounded individuals. You need to be grounded in sound values, have the heart to serve the community, and appreciate all disciplines – from science and mathematics, to the arts and humanities.

12. Community service and leadership is therefore a strong feature here, and EJC gives students ample opportunities to contribute to their respective causes. For example, students interested in environmental protection can work with teachers to co-develop the curriculum for the Environmental Literacy Programme, to learn more about Singapore’s ecosystem.

13. Students also get to participate in “Deep Dive Days”, for five to eight times a year, during which they explore personal and community values. One of these “Deep Dives” was titled “The Singapore Way”. Students got to experience our country through the eyes of different stakeholders, such as a member of a minority race, a foreigner, or a disadvantaged member of society.

14. Second, is your emphasis on soft skills. We know technology has been replacing labour. Today, computers and artificial intelligence can also replace the human brain. But we are quite a long way from a robot-run world. In fact, history shows that every technological leap displaces and creates jobs at the same time. Human qualities such as judgement, teamwork, empathy and appreciation of the aesthetics, are most resilient to disruption.

15. Our students therefore need to be well-versed in the essence of being human. And a multicultural society like Singapore is an excellent place to learn this.

16. EJC therefore puts a strong focus on humanities studies. Students can offer the Humanities Scholarship Programme and the Bicultural Studies Programme. The Liberal Arts Programme is open to all students regardless of their subject combination. Under this Programme, students study interdisciplinary concepts such as the mathematics behind Mozart’s music, and whether race is a sociological or scientific construct.

17. Cross-cultural skills are also a major focus. The World Readiness Programme uses experiential learning to help students function effectively across diverse cultural settings. One interesting example is the “5 Tricks” card game. I will not describe the game here as it is somewhat complicated. But it involves students completing complex tasks without speaking a single word. Deprived of the medium of communications, students are forced to be more culturally attuned to understand one another.

18. Third, to help students find their passion in life, and groom them into motivated lifelong learners. JC is a time for you, students, to firm up your competencies in your chosen cluster of discipline. From there, you will begin to search for your purposes and roles, in your lives and careers

19. The greater the clarity of where your interests and passions lie, the more motivated you will be in continuously learning to improve yourself, and the higher the chance of you achieving mastery and the pinnacle of success.

20. EJC has therefore put in place a student-centric Education and Career Guidance curriculum. It leverages applied learning, life coaches, and strong alumni engagement, to help students uncover what they love to do.

21. It has implemented a multi-tiered Talent Development Programme, where teachers help students Discover their interests, Explore the subject further, build up their ability to Perform, and finally Soar towards excellence.

22. It is also offering students internship opportunities. 52 students have gone on internships so far, and I hope more will do so as this is real life learning.

Tribute to EJC’s Founding Principal, Mrs Wong-Cheang Mei Heng

23. Let me end with a few words about EJC’s founding principal, Mrs Wong-Cheang Mei Heng.

24. All of us will not be here without the contributions and hard work of Mei Heng and her team. She has been spearheading EJC’s development for almost four years now. She has been personally involved in almost every aspect of the school – from engaging students and parents, working out the infrastructure plans, to developing the curriculum.

25. EJC is the second school that she has founded. In year 2000, when Sengkang HDB Town was just launched, she led the team that founded Compassvale Secondary School, which served an essential need for the families moving into the new town. Mei Heng is the start-up principal!

26. In between her stints at Compassvale and EJC, Mei Heng also served as the Principal of Serangoon JC, or SRJC. She told me that SRJC is a school of hope and optimism. The school tries to build up perseverance and resilience in students, and this gets ingrained in the DNA of its students. For example, students participate in the annual WILL Run, where they run continuously for one hour to raise money for charity and overcome their own physical and mental barriers.

27. Thanks to the vision and devotion of Mei Heng and her team, as well as past and present school leaders and staff from EJC, Cat High, St Nicks, and SCGS, today we have another pathway to help students develop into confident, motivated, resilient, and well-rounded young men and women.

28. Congratulations EJC on your official opening, and you know ah, I think you are going to have a great future.