By Afeef Ikhwan (21A13B)
Wahah Cendekia—the Oasis of Intellectuals.
Upon walking into school from the Marymount gate, you may have noticed these exact words adorning the front of the Blue Room. However, there’s a catch: it is no longer officially called the Blue Room! Formerly a multipurpose room, hosting classes and meetings alike, this room has now become the headquarters of the school’s new Malay Language Elective Programme (MLEP). The aptly named MLEP Room had undergone major renovation works over the December holidays and is now open for students to partake in the programme’s plethora of events.
MLEP’s history and its introduction to RI
The MLEP’s backstory has been nothing short of illustrious and eventful. It dates back to 2001, where it was first introduced to the now-defunct Tampines Junior College (TJC). Following this, MLEP was additionally offered at Innova Junior College (IJC) starting from 2006. In 2012, Pioneer Junior College (PJC) joined the lineup of schools offering MLEP to its students. It should be noted that due to the merger of schools, Jurong Pioneer Junior College (JPJC) took PJC’s place in 2016. Finally, RI and National Junior College (NJC) followed suit in 2020, becoming the latest schools to offer MLEP.
The Ministry of Education (MOE) identified RI as one of the schools to offer MLEP in 2020. MOE provided some funding, allowing the school’s Malay Language teachers to convert the Blue Room into the MLEP Room. The MLEP room will be used for lessons and enrichment activities. In addition, students can reap benefits from the room’s various resources, including a wide variety of books and artefacts.
Ilmu Pemecah Ruyung, Cita Murni Mengangkasa, Jati Diri MembumiRI’s MLEP slogan
RI’s slogan for MLEP literally translates to Empowering Knowledge, Boundless Aspirations, Staying Rooted. Through the MLEP, its teachers envisage their students unleashing their boundless aspirations and talents as they contribute actively to the community and beyond, whilst staying culturally rooted as Singaporeans.
In RI, the MLEP cohort is essentially coterminous with the H2 Malay Language and Literature (MLL) cohort; all MLL students are highly encouraged to participate in MLEP as the programme adds value to the core MLL curriculum. (More on that in our Please Mind the Platform Gap article pertaining to the subject!)
Being the very first batch of RI students to undertake MLEP, expectations were sky-high. Nevertheless, they took the challenge on with no less fervour than schools who have been in the programme for much longer.
2020 MLEP at a glance
Pre-COVID, activities in store included an overnight literature appreciation camp, learning journeys to various state media headquarters, with the year 2020 culminating in a cultural immersion trip to Malaysia. Alas, safe management measures necessitated the cancellation of all these events, which have since been replaced with virtual equivalents.
Nonetheless, it would be outright wrong to claim that it hasn’t been a fruitful year for MLEP students. The latest installment of the Ceramah MLEP (MLEP Lecture) series, titled ‘The Relevance of Malay Language’, was organized via Zoom on the 9th of October last year. The speaker, Dr Norsharil Saat, imparted his expertise from the ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute, proving that the continued importance of the Malay language is not mere rhetoric.
In addition, RI’s MLEP students have had the honour of hosting Dr Maliki Osman, Second Minister for Education and Foreign Affairs, in an official visit to the school. Dr. Maliki observed the students as they made use of the various learning technologies at the Raffles Discovery Studio. Needless to say, he was heartened to see the students creating mind maps suggesting improvements to the lineup of Bulan Bahasa (Malay Language Month) activities. The visit came to a close with a forum, where the minister discussed with the MLEP students their thoughts about Singapore’s education system, as well as how it could be made better.
As a substitute for an offline orientation experience, first-year MLEP students had theirs on Zoom in December. Ending the year on a high note, they engaged in intellectually stimulating discussions on language and cultural issues over the course of three days. MLEP Scholars, who have undergone a rigorous selection process, were entrusted with facilitating the entire event, planning activities and leading their assigned groups in accomplishing various challenges. Perhaps the most interesting segment was the sharing session in collaboration with 12th grade Malay students (equivalent to Singapore’s JC2) whose families are based in Melbourne, Australia. On the last day of orientation, an appreciation video was played to commemorate the graduating batch of MLEP students, followed by a virtual award ceremony. And with that, MLEP’s year came to an end.
On the ground: comments from MLEP teachers and students
Needless to say, students and teachers alike took away many learning points from this year’s MLEP activities.
Mr Abdul Malek Bin Ahmad, referred to as Cikgu Malek by his students, is the head of RI’s MLEP. This is in addition to his role as the sole teacher for RI’s H1 Malay Language cohort, and the Language teacher for the H2 Malay Language and Literature cohort.
Mr Ali Hanifiah Bin Abdullah, likewise addressed as Cikgu Ali, plays an auxiliary role in the school’s MLEP. He is also the teacher for the Literature component of H2 Malay Language and Literature.
When asked about the greatest takeaway from leading RI’s first year of MLEP, Mr Malek answered, “How to design a programme that maximises the benefits for the students of RI, especially during the COVID-19 period.”
“This is rather challenging but with the help of teachers from other MLEP schools, we were able to carry out meaningful activities for the students,” Mr Ali added.
Mr Malek believes that despite not being able to go overseas for immersion programmes, the MLEP cohort was still able to connect with their counterparts in Melbourne, Australia.
“This is perhaps the most interesting activity for MLEP this year,” he said. “Leveraging technology, we had a fruitful and meaningful interaction and dialogue sessions with teachers and students from the Language Other Than English (LOTE) programme.”
Imanina Binte Mohamed Zailani (21S06A) shares the same sentiments as Mr Malek; she particularly enjoyed the dialogue session with the Melbourne students as well. In fact, she also cherishes the orientation camp which the dialogue session was part of.
“It was a three-day online day camp where we got to ‘meet’ MLEP students from other JCs, working and learning together,” she explained. “There was an array of exciting activities, such as a translation workshop where we learnt the beauty of the subject. We also had to do a group presentation, my team did a parody of a radio podcast and that has to be the highlight of the camp for me.”
Imanina also expressed her hopes for MLEP to return to a state of normalcy, COVID-19 pandemic and all. “MLEP is fairly new in RI and it is a little unfortunate that the first few batches may not be able to experience the real thing. I hope future MLEP students will too be able to appreciate and enjoy the activities.”
Mr Ali has similar aspirations for the programme. “The number of students in the programme will increase. We also hope that activities could be carried out in full swing, especially the overseas trips, so that students will have more windows of opportunities and a more enriching experience.”
With a fresh batch of Year 5s keen to participate in MLEP and an official programme logo in the works, it doesn’t seem like it will be losing momentum any time soon. Here’s to the continued success of the programme in the years to come!