By Arissa Binte Kamaruzaman (24A01A), Chia Kei Yin (24S03C), Jermaine Lee (24A01A), Shannen Lim En-Qi (24A01A) and Syaura Nashwa Rasyiddin (24S03R)
On 8 September 2020, RI started its 1000-day countdown to FD200 with the launching of the RI Bicentennial Wall and Countdown Timer. Since then, a flurry of activities have commenced, including the launch of the RI200 microsite, the virtual Raffles Archives and Museum, the 1823 Trees campaign, the English compilation “Some Dreams From Now: 135 Years of Rafflesian Writing”, the Mandarin publication “莱到两百年” (or “Our StoRIes”) and the Festival of Ideas.
All these events culminated in the 200th Founder’s Day celebration at Singapore EXPO on 28 May 2023. Ultimately, it was the product of months of hard work by many staff, students and alumni. Close to 6000 guests—including alumni, teachers and students from both the secondary school and junior college sections—gathered together to celebrate the day’s theme of “Honouring the Past by Inspiring the Future”.
“We are the first school in Singapore to reach its 200th anniversary,” Chua Yu Jie (24A01B), chairperson of Raffles Archive and Museum, pointed out. “We’re here today to celebrate a really huge milestone in our school’s history, so naturally I’m feeling quite hyped up about it.”
“It’s very nice to see how everyone is really coming together to showcase their school pride and how people are coming down from their busy lives to commemorate this special event,” commented Grace Melody Tam (24S06A).
To formally kick off the celebration, the Opening Act introduced performers from our various Performing Arts CCAs, along with the top Raffles’ Got Talent performers.
To mention just a few of the dazzling acts, 7UP’s invigorating performance never ceased to amaze, as they nailed seamless transitions and put their full energy into a collaborative Sun Dance—an Orientation staple—with Council members.
Bringing the Opening Act to an impressive finale, Raffles Street Dance integrated more than ten alumni cohorts of dancers with their current batches to put on a show-stopping performance. Mr Yee Chun Tuck Ernest (Class of 2013) choreographed the item to showcase “the unique Rafflesian spirit that binds us together even as alumni step out into the working world.” In response to their energetic piece, many audience members threw their lit-up wristbands into the air, creating waves of colour throughout the hall.
Following the Opening Act, Raffles Chorale and Raffles Military Band welcomed the Guest-of-Honour in a tradition that has existed through the ages—performing the Founder’s Day Song “Rafflesians Salute Your Alma Mater”.
In his Welcome Address, Mr Bey Soo Khiang, Chairman of RI’s Board of Governors, explained the importance of RI’s 200th Founder’s Day, emphasising the school’s cornerstones—service and excellence—which has guided many Rafflesians through the years to be distinguished contributors to the community.
Principal Mr Frederick Yeo stressed increasing RI’s diversity, inclusivity and community engagement efforts so as to nurture students to care about the society around them. Mr Yeo mentioned steps the school has taken to provide more opportunities for RI students to interact with students from other schools, such as reintroducing football as a CCA in the Y1-4 section of the school for the first time in over 20 years, as well as joint sports programmes with Guangyang Secondary School.
More non-academic tracks into RI will be established, such as expanding its Direct School Admission domains for Year 1 entry to include Basketball and Year 5 admissions to include leadership and character.
“No parent should feel that they cannot afford to send their child to RI, or that their child will feel out of place in the school.”Mr Frederick Yeo
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s speech, as delivered by Education Minister Chan Chun Sing on his behalf, acknowledged that many Rafflesians have “made their mark and contributed to the growth of our nation in their respective roles”.
PM Lee urged RI to continue exemplifying Singapore’s “inclusive spirit and egalitarian ethos”, where people from diverse backgrounds should have equal chances of success. He also reminded Rafflesians to demonstrate excellence throughout life, beyond just their years in RI.
Challenging Rafflesians to define excellence “not just by personal achievements but by [our] contributions to society”, he cited examples of alumni who have made a significant impact on the community.
After the Guest-of-Honour speech was the Founder’s Day prize presentation, which celebrated the achievements of current or graduating Rafflesians in various areas of talent, such as in the creative arts, sports, community service, leadership and academics.
The Y1-Y6 Raffles Players members then presented a skit that must have brought back fond memories for alumni in the audience. From the endearing beginning scene of “From Pasir Panjang to Parliament” to the heartwarming ‘meet-cute’ at the Mount Sinai campus, it was a performance with unmistakable passion and sincerity. The soothing background music playing during the skit was composed by Chia Ren Cher (23S06B) and recorded by Raffles Chamber Ensemble.
In the last Act of the event, Inspiring the Future, four speakers from different walks of life took the stage to share their anecdotes taking place at the campuses of their respective times.
In 1951, Professor Lee Soo Ann (Class of 1956) enrolled at Raffles Institution, then located at the Bras Basah Campus. Prior to the system of centralised grading, such as the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE), candidates were judged based on ‘character’ and ‘diversity’, with qualities such as integrity and responsibility being valued above all.
Even with the current national examinations put in place, the value of these qualities is still evident today. Both past and present generations of Rafflesians will continue to display gumption and verve to contribute to their country and community.
In 1981, Ms Laina Raveendran Greene graduated from the Pre-University section of Raffles Institution (not yet formally referred to as Raffles Junior College) at the Grange Road Campus. Ahead of graduating and being a curious Pre-U student, Ms Greene excitedly participated in many, and relatively dissimilar activities: cross-country, debate, science club and Charity Squad—an organisation started by Ms Greene’s mother, Mrs Indira Raveendran.
Mrs Raveendran was known to be a strict Physics teacher with a heart of gold. There were numerous times in which she displayed her generous and giving nature, such as paying for disadvantaged students’ school fees. Ms Greene’s and Mrs Raveendran’s acts of kindness beget RI’s commitment to volunteerism.
“What the world needs is people who come alive,” Ms Sarah Pang, the third speaker, expressed. Ms Pang, a professional tennis player, defined “coming alive” as the brave pursuit of one’s true calling. This is a bravery that captures the essence of the Promethean flame: inspiring us to dare to dream, and dare to be the best versions of ourselves.
Ms Pang’s remarkable display of resilience inspired many Rafflesians in the audience as she shared her story of chasing her dream of playing professional tennis. Years of struggle led her to where she is today: breaking into the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) singles’ ranking in 2019, after more than four years on the World Tennis Tour full-time.
“It’s the most scary but also the most powerful revelation that we can come to: staying true to the voice that’s in your heart.” Ms Pang hopes for the next generation of RI students to be unafraid to be vulnerable with themselves, and through that display of honesty, uncover what they hold dear, deep down in their hearts.
Finally, Muhammad Irfan Bin Sanuse (Class of 2026) shared about his great pride and joy in being a Rafflesian, even with the responsibility and expectations that come with it. To him, the patience and support of his teachers embody the essence of the Promethean flame, empowering him to continue to shine and work towards being the hope of a better age.
“I can be more than what I thought I could be,” he said, encapsulating the confidence, bravery and support that comes with being a part of our unique Rafflesian community.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end. Closing with a literal bang, sparklers illuminated the hall as Rafflesians past and present sang the Institution Anthem and cheered Unite together with much gusto. With around 6000 people performing the cheer together, the spectacle truly unified all Rafflesians as one.
FD200 took us across space and time, celebrating the stories passed down by generations of students, hailing from diverse backgrounds. Yet, at its core was this same message, that RI has become more than just a school to many of us. It is a home where we make mistakes, form lifelong friendships and create memories that we’ll fondly look back on years down the road.
“Honouring the Past by Inspiring the Future” could not be a more apt theme for our school’s 200th Founder’s Day. As the future becomes ever more complex, it is up to us Rafflesians to stay close to our roots, do our parts for the communities around us and honour our school’s motto of being a “Hope for a Better Age”.
FD200 Prize Presentation Awardees:
Chloe Chen Jiaen — Creative Arts Award
Rayner Chew — Community Service Award
Isaac Goh — Sportsboy of the Year
Lim Khoon Leng — Sportsman of the Year
Bonnie Yeo Lu-Anne — Sportswoman of the Year
Wong Kin Feng — A.K. Sigamoney Award (Leadership Excellence)
Chua Zern Hee — Stamford Raffles Award (Year 4)
Chua Jean Ee — Stamford Raffles Award (Year 6)