The New Faces: 38th Students’ Council Feature

By Wong Zi Yang (19A01D) and Joyce Lee (19S06O)
Photos courtesy of the 38th Student’s Council

Managing a 1200-strong student population with a team of 60 is no easy task — especially with the additional burden of academics, and for some, a second CCA. In spite of all this, our newly-inaugurated student Councillors strive to overcome these tribulations to bring a little something into the lives of Rafflesians. To get to know our new Councillors better, Raffles Press presents part two of our feature on the 38th Student’s Council, as interviewees Chew Jay Hong (19A13A), Tan Huiying (19S06O), and Fu Xianli (19S03O) share their feelings about Council and the ideals they wish to realise for the student population.

  1. Although you just joined Council, do you feel that there are already clashes between academics/CCA work?

Jay Hong: I think, to some extent of course, as Councillors there is a certain expectation of us in terms of workload, and sometimes it sort of clashes when, say, some of us 38ths have a second CCA and EXCO positions in Council; [these responsibilities] may be hard to reconcile. I think the problem we all face is not necessarily clashes, but how to deal with certain things; how to set priorities, say for exam revision or Project Work. The hardest part, I think, is not to sleep too late (like at 2am!) and to try to put in our best as Councillors even when the going gets tough. Sometimes it’s so hectic trying to put things together that we lose our enthusiasm and drive. So I think that’s the main problem that we need to be solved — we just started off our term, so I don’t want to jump to conclusions!

Huiying: I don’t know about other Councillors, but for myself personally it has already shown that time management is very important — that’s what I feel so far. It’s like what Jay Hong said, it’s about prioritising, because there are a lot of things to do, and JC by itself is not an easy thing; in general there’s always that moment where you are trying to decide which is more urgent and act accordingly. There are measures in place to make sure we don’t fall behind academically — there’s the block-out period — Council is also involved during the CCA block-out period [whereby Council work is not to be done during this period].

Jay Hong: To build on that, one more point is that the general perception is that, because of the nature of our Council work, our lives revolve only around Council throughout our 2 years here. We hope to debunk that perception because as Councillors first and foremost we are just like our batchmates — just like regular students, we fail our CTs as well, so we have to deal with that.

In Council, we ensure that we don’t make it a 24/7 affair: we have block-outs. We make it a point that besides our Council work, we also try to pursue our other commitments and build stronger relationships with those outside Council as well, and I think that is the defining role of what at least each councillor tries to do.

Xianli: I think to echo what Jay Hong has to say, for us Councillors, as we are recognised as the student leaders of our school, we have a strong sense of duty towards the school population.

For example, during our peak periods, the natural thing to do would be to like structure our timetables, our schedules, around Council commitments because I think that’s something that is important. That doesn’t mean our lives revolve around Council work though, as what Jay Hong mentioned, we have curfews as well, we have block-out periods. We can see what challenges lie ahead, so that we can, if possible, do things ahead of time before block-our period in case it’s too late.

Then there’s also the block-out period which mostly applies to teachers, since we don’t want to disturb them (after 6pm). I think that’s a form of respecting teachers’ personal time and also helps us plan our strategies for communication properly. Indeed, Council takes up a lot of time, but from our seniors, our role models, it is evident that it is definitely possible to balance both Council work and academics.

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38th Student Council members during a Department Meeting
  1. [To Jay Hong] How do you feel about being elected as Student Council President?

Ah, frankly it’s quite a scary role for me; in spite of my previous experiences, being Student Council President is unique in the sense that, compounded with the hustle and bustle of JC life, there’s always something new to learn (and to screw up!) on the job every day. For the large part, however, I’m really humbled by the dedication that my fellow 38ths display in the execution of their duties, and the fact that they always go above and beyond in their work. Therefore, one thing I’m really grateful for is the opportunity to work much more closely with a tightly-knit team this year. Our batch has 60 members, which is actually a much smaller size as compared to the average batch sizes of 75-80. But, I think that allows us to form deeper bonds within the Council, and it’s also a good opportunity for us as Councillors to prove our mettle in spite of the gap in numbers.

I think the perception would be that [the Presidency] is a very lofty role that makes me detached from the school, but I think instead, being president has allowed me to reach more people, as just the average Jay Hong, I guess!

I think that whatever roles we have in Council, our student leadership system is still rather egalitarian, everyone has a voice, and that’s the direction I want to lead our Council into and to better serve the school community together.

  1. What are some of the challenges you foresee Council facing?

Jay Hong: First and foremost, would be time constraints. I think that is the perennial problem for our batch, once you come in. We’ve just started off our term, but if we count the number of weeks we have left, we barely have enough time to cover all bases, and this calls for us to really plan ahead. I think in Council, one thing we pride ourselves on is the ability to be adaptable — there’s always something happening every week, and if we can’t respond to sudden changes, that snowballs into greater problems for our future events — so I think that is one problem. Also, well, we have a smaller batch size, but I believe it’s something we can find our way through.

The second problem that I foresee is trying to reach out to the school more. Council will do our best to continue to build and strengthen our relationship with the rest of the school population. We hope in our initiatives that we can reach out to our Rafflesians and likewise allow everyone to understand how Council works and what we stand for, and that’s one challenge we foresee but are hoping to overcome.

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The Executive Committee of the 38th Students’ Council at their first meeting
  1. What are some of the most pressing issues in school that Council aims to address in your term?

Huiying: I think, because I’m taking departments, the main thing, departments-wise, is to promote inquisitiveness and to encourage school spirit. That’s one of the main issues that arise basically every school year — for Council, for Commz’D (the Communications Department), the major initiative we have is a feedback drive — a tea session for students to come down and talk to Councillors, who will then compile the feedback and send it in the form of a report to the Principal at the end of the year.

Another issue that comes up every year would be school spirit. A lot of people complain that school or house spirit basically dies after Orientation, and only comes back during events, but in our everyday lives it’s not something that everyone believes exists — it’s just for show. So I think that for us, I hope that we can ensure that every Rafflesian feels that school spirit isn’t just something that comes out of nowhere during an event, or something that is simply superficial, but something that you feel- a feeling like you belong here, and that the school is a home to you. That’s the main thing that I’m aiming to do, I suppose.

Jay Hong: I think that one would be communication — another would be, strengthening unity in school as well. I think first and foremost, [since] RJ is a huge school — 1.2k in our batch — it’s really hard to be able to know everyone, and probably sometimes we believe it’s better to stay within our class and those we are familiar with, but I believe as council, what we hope to do is to give Rafflesians the opportunity to branch out and meet others beyond their normal social circles. It’s a lofty goal, that I think is definitely going to be difficult to achieve, given the short time span and considering that JC is a measly two years, but I believe that if people take their JC experience well and have an open heart — which is what council is striving to do — that will give everyone a more pleasant experience.

Lastly, it would probably just be a general disdain or ‘dead-ness’. We’re constantly tired, since JC is constantly draining our souls. *laughs* Therefore, I suppose what we hope to do is make a small difference in the lives of Rafflesians where we can, such as every morning when you step into Gryphon Square— these are the little things that matter, to just sort of perk peoples’ day up. And as Council, we want to make the student population understand that we’re all in this together, so we hope to extend support wherever needed. That does not need to be in the form of large-scale events, but just through what we do consistently to help the student population feel that this is an environment in which they can look to for support.

  1. Do you have any plans in the works the student body can look forward to?

Huiying: If I were to be perfectly honest, we do have some ideas, but most [of them] are not finalised yet. Actually, this year, we are scrapping and changing a few things because we have a smaller batch, so the amount of time and effort we can commit is quite limited, which is a challenge we are currently facing. As for what the student body can look forward to, I suppose where school spirit is concerned, for Spirit Week next year, we’re planning to put in more budget. Like Batch Night [last year], where all the Year 5 and Year 6 students were invited to come in their CCA groups — so basically, people came down to order pizza through Council and there were games. We’re considering adding that to Spirit Week next year. Right now, I feel like it’s hard to give anything concrete, as our final plans are still not finalised yet.

Jay Hong: [We are] still in the formative stages of planning, yes, but one direction we hope to take is to give the student population more input, in small ways — for example, we recently introduced our morning song choices on our Team Raffles Instagram page, and we hope to make that a permanent fixture. I think giving the student population a voice and sort of making our events more collaborative, such that it’s not exclusively Council planning it but rather a collective effort on the part of the batch as well- that is what we hope to achieve. 

Huiying: Actually, I guess one more thing you can look forward to is making the Team Raffles page more interactive, so it’s not just us posting match support all the time, or posting about school events. Since there’s a lot of new features on Instagram, we want to do something that will make the students feel like it’s actually something they can follow and be updated about, like the song choices, and for the recent match supports we have decided to do live streaming. So everyone, even if you’re not at the match, you can still take a look — that’s one of the more concrete plans we have.

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Song choice poll on the @teamraffles Instagram page. Do cast your votes too!

Certainly, school spirit is necessary to inject a little something into drab school mornings. Though it may seem a lofty goal, the 38th Student’s Council appears determined to facilitate a positive JC experience for all of us. Raffles Press looks forward to what Council has in store for the school and wishes them all the best in their term ahead!

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With love, the 38th Pressecs.

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