SINGAPORE — The news of the impending mergers of eight junior colleges (JCs) on Thursday (April 20) drew mixed reactions from past and present students of the schools.
Those who felt strongly about the move, which will see eight JCs becoming four in 2019, were concerned about the impact on their school’s heritage and identity, as well as the reputation and culture fostered over the years.
For instance, Anderson and Serangoon JCs will merge. The merged school will be housed in Anderson JC’s campus in Ang Mo Kio, and Serangoon JC will not take in first-year students from next year.
Ang Yin Zhen, 18, in her second year at Anderson JC, said that the prospect of her school’s song and motto being changed made her “sad”. “It represents who we are as a (community),” she said.
A first-year Serangoon JC student, who gave his name only as Chia, said he was sad that he would not have “any juniors” next year, and “no one to carry on the school heritage”.
Others were indifferent. A 16-year-old final-year student from Anderson JC, who gave her name only as Wong, shrugged it off: “It doesn’t really concern us, unless we (get) retained.”
Former student Lynn Phua from Serangoon JC, 26, who works in the social service sector now, expressed dismay at the news. She recounted how the former principal Tan Teck Hock had single-handedly “brought the school to where it is today”, saying he would hold talks to motivate students just before the A Levels.
“He was the one who came up with this 10km run to raise funds for charity that all students had to attend, and also this festival where the teachers would put up short skits for the students just to thank the students,” she recalled. “To know that all the familiar structures will be lost in history, and end up (being) just another building... It’s quite a (loss),” she added.
Over in the east, Meridian and Tampines JCs will combine, with the merged school using Meridian JC’s campus in Pasir Ris.
Amar Hassan, in his second year at Meridian JC, voiced the views of some of his schoolmates that the college’s reputation might take a hit. He said: “There’s the perception that the quality of a JC is determined by the cut-off points (from the O-Level examination results), although that’s not really the case ... MJC’s cut-off point is higher than Tampines JC’s.”
Jurong and Pioneer JCs will also merge, and move into Pioneer JC’s Teck Whye campus.
Jurong JC principal Hang Kim Hoo, 58, said that students approached him immediately after the news was announced and asked what would happen to him, staff members and canteen operators. He found it “very touching”.
“I said I’ll be here with you until you graduate,” he told reporters, visibly emotional.
Dr Hang is hoping to bank on the college’s Chinese-language elective programme and Pioneer JC’s Malay-language elective programme to turn the merged school into a “centre of excellence for mother-tongue programmes” in the western part of Singapore.
Jurong JC second-year student Meg Ng said that new students may have ended up in the college even though it was not their first choice, but after a while, they would be glad they did. “The teachers are really nice… and we make the best of it,” she said.
Another second-year student there, Rivaldo Putra, said that he would miss the campus and school culture. He pointed out that efforts to renovate the campus over the last few years would go to waste.
The same view about infrastructure was raised by a student from another college. Husain Murtuza, a first-year student at Innova JC, felt that it would be better to use Innova’s grounds since the facilities are newer.
The college, founded in 2005, will fold into Yishun JC and the merged school will operate on the latter’s campus along Yishun Ring Road.
Commenting on colleges such as Innova which have a fairly short history, a former student of Anderson JC, who wanted to be known only as Ms Chua, wondered if the Education Ministry had “foreseen the changing demographics”. The 25-year-old social worker said: “If they keep opening new JCs, and keep merging (them), (it’s) also quite strange.”
In a statement, the Innova JC alumni group said that the school was “just on its way to forging an identity of (its) own”, but it accepted the move as a “timely and necessary decision”. It hoped that the college’s brief existence will not “get lost in ... history”.
Mr Michael de Silva, Innova JC’s principal, said that change would never be easy for students and staff members, especially when they are emotionally attached to the school.
However, he said that the smaller cohorts now do pose challenges in areas such as offering subject combinations and having enough students take part in co-curricular activities.
“The reasons behind it are sound, there’s a need for it, and I think deep-down, people will understand,” he added.