Author: Raffles Press

Enrichment Programme Preview: Science Olympiads

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Kang Yi Xi (15S03N)

Photo by Mani Hemavaathi (15S03N)

You might be one of those who can seamlessly recite zoological nomenclature, one of those who enjoy analyzing the reaction mechanisms of organic compounds, or one of those who feel at home with complex mathematical formulae. If you’re passionate about the sciences and willing to delve deeper into them, consider trying out for these prestigious science competitions: the Singapore Biology, Chemistry and Physics Olympiads. Topping the scoreboards may even grant you the opportunity to participate in the international versions of these competitions.

Expect to take part in plant identification sessions during your preparation for the Biology Olympiad
Expect to take part in plant identification sessions during your preparation for the Biology Olympiad.

Biology Olympiad

The scope of this competition is very broad, for it encompasses virtually the entirety of Campbell Biology—the holy book of many a Biology student. Prospective participants will have to undergo a relatively gruelling selection test before being shortlisted for this enrichment programme. According to participant Judy Hong (15S03R), the test in 2014 resembled an International Biology Olympiad (IBO) theory paper; hence, one can potentially prepare for the test by reviewing sample IBO papers available online and by reading Campbell Biology. Last year, a second selection test was also held some time after the commencement of the programme, though no one ended up being cut from the programme.

The competition itself consists of two rounds: the theory round, and the subsequent practical round. The former involves a series of multiple-choice questions, and only those who score well enough to get past this initial gauntlet will be eligible for the practical round. The practical round comprises 4 experiments under the themes: Animals (dissection and classification), Plants, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. “I went through unique experiences, especially in the practical round. You don’t get to do things such as dissection, plant sectioning, and DNA extraction in your normal Biology classes,” said Judy. Judy also walked away with the impression that the Biology Olympiad is one of the hardest of the Olympiads to get a medal in; she pointed out that only half the participants (16 people) from our school qualified for the second round last year.

During protected time on Mondays, you can expect to engage in a variety of enriching activities. For the 2014 Olympiad, a focus was placed on lectures in the first two Terms, while practical sessions became the emphasis in Terms 3 and 4. Though the trainers change every year, the 2014 participants had the privilege of receiving coaching from IBO Gold Medallist Jin Chentian. Even so, be prepared for a lot of self-study—the lectures and practicals “are insufficient to fully prepare you for the Olympiad”, remarked Judy, who underscored the importance of consistent effort.

A sample of potassium ferrioxalate synthesized by the Chemistry Olympiad particpants.
A sample of potassium ferrioxalate synthesized by some Chemistry Olympiad participants.

Chemistry Olympiad

Like its counterpart above, the Chemistry Olympiad is only open to students who have passed a selection test—in 2014, only 28 people succeeded in qualifying for the enrichment programme, as Brendan Chong (15S03R) said. As the organizers limit the number of participants RI can send every year, further selection processes may also take place, a factor that makes consistent effort all the more imperative. The format of this Olympiad also involves a theory round and a practical round, with participation in the latter similarly being contingent on one’s performance in the former. Only 53 students in Singapore managed to qualify for the practical round last year.

The protected time slot on Mondays will be occupied by theory training sessions, which are mostly delivered as lectures. Short assignments will also be distributed after these sessions for you to hone your skills in the concepts learnt. Training sessions will become more intensive from Term 3 onward, with sessions being held on Wednesday afternoons as well last year. Moreover, you probably won’t get ample opportunities to relax after the Promotional Examinations either, as practical training sessions will be held about five times a week. “We got to do titrations in different contexts, organic and inorganic qualitative analysis and synthesis. Prior to the practical round, we did a practical test with all of these components!” said Brendan regarding the practical training sessions. He also appreciated the trainers’ supportive and helpful nature, citing how they were willing to hold an extra practical session for a few students who had failed to obtain a product of the desired quality.

Physics Olympiad

Unlike the other two Olympiads, the Physics Olympiad is targeted at those in Physics RA. As participant Parthasarathy Sreemathy (15S06J) explained, all Physics RA students will learn the Olympiad’s syllabus during their lessons. However, if you’re a non-Physics RA student willing to put in some extra work, you can still sign up for the Olympiad and be given the relevant notes, though you will have to rely heavily on self-study to master the required content. Though the content departs significantly from the H2 syllabus, Sreemathy still felt that the deeper understanding of the concepts she gained throughout the programme did help her do better in H2 Physics, and concurrently served as a good precursor for H3 Physics. “What we learn in the Physics Olympiad is harder than what is taught in the H3 syllabus!” she remarked.

The competition itself also consists of a theory round followed by a practical round for those who have succeeded in the former. The theory round lasts a taxing 4 hours and contains ten questions, while the practical round requires participants to conduct experiments and gather data. Physics RA students will still have to attend training sessions, which were not held during Monday protected time last year but occurred in the late afternoon. “During these training sessions, we go through Olympiad questions, which we are expected to have attempted in our own time,” said Sreemathy. More intensive training sessions will also be held in the time between the conclusion of the Promotional Examinations and the start of the dreaded Project Work Oral Presentations, as the Olympiad takes place during this interim period. In any case, don’t be demoralized by your perceived incompetence at the subject; as Sreemathy reassured, ”If you face any problems in the beginning, don’t let it dishearten you, because truthfully speaking, it is possible to be one of the best in about a few months’ time if you start studying very early.”

Ultimately, all 3 participants interviewed by Raffles Press clearly valued the extensive learning process they went through more than what took place during the competition itself—as Brendan succinctly put it, “Don’t think too hard about winning a medal or doing well, just enjoy the experience!” So, if you’re a science student eager to meet like-minded peers and to stretch your limits, do think about trying your hand at these highly-acclaimed competitions.

RI’s Leadership Model: Inherent Shortcomings

Reading Time: 5 minutes

By Yeo Jia Qi (15S03H)

For a school that aims to mould every single one of its students into Thinkers, Leaders and Pioneers, leadership in RI is too narrow and too exclusive. Exposure to leadership opportunities and their benefits are limited to those who have made commitments that can be so remarkably heavy as to present an intimidating entry barrier. And upon the completion of their responsibilities, leaders are recognised too superficially, and too automatically. Because of these inherent shortcomings in how our school tries to fulfil its commitment to developing all of us as leaders, I argue that we must seriously reconsider our model of leadership.


The predominant way our school presents leadership is as service – to lead is to serve others. Required attributes of ‘good’ leaders would necessarily include selflessness and sacrifice. A significant number of us, including the Student Council, will have poured in a full seven months of effort when Orientation commences next week. This will no doubt help their personal development; and for their sheer collective efforts in organising an event truly meaningful to the next Year 5 batch, they definitely deserve our respect.

But leadership in RI is not inclusive. Any discussion of new suggestions on how things should be done originates from inside rather than outside a selective tight community of appointed leaders. Granted, this does not prevent minor shifts from year to year in the spirit of continual improvement, necessarily dependent on the dedication, creativity and dynamism of those appointed, such as Council rebranding Snack Attack with a pay-it-forward initiative.

Still, this creates an exclusive mentality. Everyone in the batch either has an appointment and is therefore expected to fulfil the appointment’s responsibilities, or is reduced to a passive follower without a voice, not targeted or included in school leadership initiatives. To illustrate this artificial divide, consider the CCAL Conference 2014. Though it comprised in-house workshop sessions about widely applicable leadership skills and competencies that any student could have benefited from and found useful in his or her capacity as a CCA member, the conference was only open to CCALs, despite it being held on a day without lessons. At least offering others without formal appointments the opportunity to sign up if they were interested would have cast leadership as a skill set available to everyone rather than an exclusive few. While the explanation was that the number of seats was limited and sessions were oversubscribed, it was observed by participants that there were numerous vacancies in some sessions.

In this manner, the entry barrier of the appointment, while undeniably creating an important culture of commitment and responsibility, creates a culture of leadership being an appointment-linked equivalent. Even some appointments’ promised commitments are not fulfilled, such as subject representatives being promised consultation sessions with respective subject departments in the student handbook, while no evidence of this exists in practice. A lot of Rafflesians may have a lot of appointments and leadership responsibilities, but a community that is relatively large with respect to the population is not necessarily less difficult to join. If we define leadership as service, ensuring accessibility to recognition for all should be very crucial, but we do not seem inclined to see leadership as anything other than contractual obligations and responsibilities of an appointment.

Further, the appointment is the pre-requisite for Raffles Diploma recognition of leadership. If everyone receives the RD, then opportunities to be recognised should be equally available to everyone. This would be similar to the idea behind the Community & Citizenship domain, which recognises everyone’s community service hours logged regardless of the form of service. The present status quo, however, denies recognition to those who cannot pass the entry barrier of receiving an appointment first.

To make matters worse, the selection process for leadership appointments is inevitably semi-democratic and complicated with innumerable shortcomings, so few will have the courage to apply and even fewer will have the luck to take up the said appointment. It follows that even the enthusiastic and passionate may be denied recognition simply because of the vagaries of the selection process. Then upon handover or completion, appointment holders are assured that a single or at best a few lines of text following a standardised format will automatically appear in our CCA record or RD. This utterly fails to capture the respect that truly effective leaders receive from their followers, criticise ineffective performance, point out areas for improvement, or describe the associated struggles and sacrifices of our leadership journey.

I argue that we need to make leadership more inclusive and more dynamic by extending its boundaries beyond appointment-based leadership to include personal, day-to-day leadership, whether in daily school life or community service, thus lowering the entry barriers to recognition. We can also recognise leadership effectiveness more qualitatively. We can do this in three ways: by broadening recognition, redesigning the preparation process for leaders, and making committing more flexible.

First, we should attempt to broaden recognition of acts of leadership, which are equally valid however small they are. More personal leadership, including matters such as conduct and character, could be recognised too. Those who organise their own events, or initiate their own community service projects involving working with peers, should be given credit for leadership on top of the community service they perform. Peer appraisals and testimonials from friends or teachers involved can better gauge one’s actual effectiveness as a leader than automatic recognition on one’s portfolio upon completing one’s duties or a simple quantity of CiP hours. Internal school awards such as the FIRE award represent valuable platforms to realise this possibility. In particular, the RD presents a real opportunity to improve on the standardised MOE CCA grading system, which summarises one’s sacrifices in a black-and-white printout of tables and numbers of points, by actually offering qualitative rather than quantitative recognition. The Diploma is, however, a missed chance at present because any recognised merit still needs to fall under neat categories of positional basis.

Second, we should redesign the ways in which our new leaders are prepared for their responsibilities. We can do so by making the preparation more open and more diverse. Making preparation more open would mean offering opportunities for learning, such as the CCAL Conference, to all students. This is something the Foundations of Service Learning workshops have already achieved and in so doing successfully presented service as a universal endeavour everyone is equally capable of. Making preparation more diverse would mean focusing on holistic exposure, such as inviting alumni for assembly talks on leadership. It should also involve toning down the focus on physical preparation: developing leadership and self-confidence through bonding on expeditions or challenging adventure trips like ALPS, which though effective, are but one way to prepare students for leadership roles. This would widen our expectations of our leaders and give leadership a more flexible, fluid and inclusive definition.

Third, we should make committing to leadership in RI more flexible. No one should fear that any contribution is too insignificant or informal (being not dignified by an appointment or title) to be recognised qualitatively, and thus be willing to commit themselves to their own degrees of comfort. More people, especially those without formal appointments, or the deserving who have had to decline such commitments for personal reasons, should be invited to come onboard in any way they can in the managing of events by those already responsible, since an important skill of leadership is managing peers in complex, practical contexts. This should be an indicator of effectiveness of leadership and can be included in the way our school assesses and recognises leaders’ contributions.

These suggestions are ambitious and wide-ranging. I am under no illusion that most of them will be exceedingly difficult to implement in entirety. Meeting the resultant challenges will require much willpower and persistence. But the spirit of reform and continual improvement is fundamental to ensuring leaders through the times continue to be effective in serving their followers and fulfilling changing expectations, setting themselves apart. RI needs to rediscover that spirit. It is time to begin thinking about making our model of leadership more inclusive.

CCA Previews ’15: Fencing

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“The true measure of a person is who they are with sword in hand…”

— Aldo Nadi

Our 2014 CCA Yearbook photoshoot
Our 2014 CCA Yearbook photoshoot

Modern Fencing descends from the 700-year old art of European sword fighting and duelling. While the using the sword as a practical weapon has fizzled out today (and is actually considered illegal), its use still carries a kind of romantic appeal. From Captain Jack Sparrow, James Bond and Joan of Arc to Obi-Wan Kenobi, Zorro and Mulan, who doesn’t love a good swordsman/woman? The fact is, fencing is cool and always has been, yet it is becoming less and less common to find anyone truly proficient with a sword.

Today, fencing is a fast-moving, fast-growing sport that reflects the practices of a different era. Because sword-fighting is inherently an individual’s sport, it’s pretty much whatever you want it to be. Some people use it as a sport to challenge their minds while others find cathartic benefits (there is no better way to de-stress than with swordplay!). Regardless, it takes a great deal of self-control and practice to reach supreme proficiency. In other words, it takes a lot of training to turn your perception of fencing into your personal reality, since fencing is a sport that requires the use of muscles you may never have unlocked before and acute hand-eye co-ordination (all of which we will help you hone when you enter the CCA. Imagine the benefits!!)

Common perceptions of fencing, taken from Google
Common perceptions of fencing, taken from Google

Albeit an individual sport, we train hard and play hard as a team. You won’t be alone in your fencing journey, for your teammates will always be by your side, bonding and training together as a family. Along the way, you will probably find yourself closest to your weapon group, of which fencing has three: foil, epee, sabre, with each having its own characteristics, equipment and rules. However, the whole CCA does still gather to do basic fencing footwork, warm-up and have meals together.

The team during a break at training
The team during a break from training

Most will never have the opportunity to pick up this relatively unorthodox sport outside of school, but RI is one of the few JCs to offer it as a CCA. Many may think it too late to pick this sport up in Year 5 at 17 years of age, but fret not! Our boys and girls put in a good showing every year at the National Interschool Championships in April, to be specific, our 2014 results: Girls’ 1st (we have been champions in the girls’ category for the past 4 years), Boys’ 3rd, despite our team comprising mostly of brand new fencers who just started in Year 5. No prerequisites are needed when joining the team! Just a will to learn and dedication to the sport will suffice. And for those wondering, being tall is not always an advantage. In fencing, being tall or short will help you in different ways, since fencing is a holistic sport that transcends physical superiority. The world no. 2 in women’s foil in 2012 was just 154cm tall. Nothing is impossible.

During one of our training sessions in the MPH
One of our training sessions in the MPH

Training is helmed by Coaches Henry, Marin, Samson and Oleg, some of them ex-national fencers, from one of the renowned fencing institutions in Singapore—Blade Club. The sessions are conducted twice a week on Tuesday and Thursday from 4.30pm to 7.00pm, and usually maintains a balance between drills, the learning of new tactics and actual sparring bouts. Blade club also provides free sparring sessions on Saturdays for our fencers.

Practising footwork at training
Practising footwork at training

Throughout our journey in Raffles Fencing, we gear up for the National Interschool Fencing Championships, as well as several other competitions and invites throughout the year. They include the Novices Championships, U-17, U-20 and Open competitions, as well as Fencing Invitationals by other schools, including our own Raffles Invites we organise every December!

Fencing is a creative sport enabling free development of the personality. It offers no ready recipes. It only provides the notes, while the athlete himself has to compose the music. If there is one thing it does teach, it is discipline. As you train in the heat and balance having to do homework with physical and mental fatigue after training, your body and mind are taken to a whole new level and you will develop the valuable life skill of perseverance through tough times.

The Team
The Team

So just come in, try your best, have fun and make new friends in the process.

Your experience will be unlike any other!

CCA Preview ’15: Ultimate Frisbee

Reading Time: 3 minutes

You are here to make the ultimate decision of choosing your CCA, and we will convince you that, ultimately, what you are looking for is Ultimate.

Hard-earned victory. (Photo credits to Matthew Kwan)
Hard-earned victory (Photo credits to Matthew Kwan)

If you hear the sounds of discs dropping or hear victorious shouts of glee coming from the amphitheatre, well that’s just us – Raffles Ultimate. We spend plenty of our time there throwing, scrimmaging and doing what we love best.

The Ultimate team
The Ultimate team

Where is the appeal in a sport so hardcore, so dirty, and still relatively new? Why do we eagerly ask for extra trainings, push ourselves to breaking point, and instinctively dive to save a disc? you ask. The answer is simple: Passion – all of us here in Ultimate have an intense passion for this sport we play. Whether under the mercilessly hot sun, or drenched in sweat, rain or mud, we love Ultimate, and we play it because of the sheer joy it brings us.

Damn, what a dashing layout. (Photo credits to Eric Lim)
Damn, what a dashing layout. (Photo credits to Eric Lim)

Raffles Ultimate prides itself on the team spirit found very strongly in every member. We all have immense pride and love for the team and the game, giving our hundred percent every training in order to become the best. As one of our J2s, Ryan Yap, always says, “Teamwork makes the dream work” – every member of Ultimate plays a vital role in our journey towards success, and our (now not-so) secret weapon is our team chemistry. A testament to the Raffles Ultimate family is how our team extends beyond merely 2 batches – in addition to our more than capable coach, Benjamin Ho, we are proud to have alumni (some of whom have graduated 8 or 9 years back!) who regularly come back to coach, cheer, or just chill with us. It is this love for Ultimate that acts as a connecting thread, knitting us all together as one playful and passionate family.

Here is the T E A M in ultiMATE. (Photo credits to Eric Lim)
Here is the T E A M in ultiMATE. (Photo credits to Eric Lim)

On top of promises of fun and joy, we aim to excel and advance. There is no room for half-heartedness here. Our goal is to continue our reign as indisputable champions at the yearly inter-JC competitions. In Raffles Ultimate, every training is an opportunity to better ourselves as players, as teammates, and as people. So if you’re looking for a way to challenge yourself beyond the physical, into the mental and the emotional, then you should give Ultimate a shot.

And finally, we present you The Ultimatum: Go hard, or go home. See you at trials!

CCA Preview ’15: Track and Field

Reading Time: 7 minutes

“The whole idea of Track and Field is not to beat your opponents, but to beat the little voice inside your head that wants you to quit.” – Lee Jun Lei, member of RI Track and Field 2014-2015

Track and field is the epitome of athleticism, a sport at its purest. Sweat, tears, blood constantly coax us to give up, and yet despite all these, we trackers continue to adore running, jumping and throwing. Why? Well, this is best encapsulated in our motto for this year: “We run because, we train despite.” Our differing goals and motivations are unified by the shared passion and shared vision of just very simply, doing our best.  It isn’t an easy sport, but the will and grit it imbues you with may well make it one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime. And you can be sure that every step of the way will be accompanied by the myriad of voices from our team so variated, yet unshakeable in our ardent unity.


The range of events in Track and Field is perhaps most telling of its all-encompassing nature where all are welcome no matter where your abilities lie. The specialisation of events brings out the focus needed to perfect the specificities of each event.  Gifted with strength? The javelin, shot put, discus beckons. Have an extra spring in your step? The sand pit and high jump mat are an inviting home where hours will be spent perfecting your jump technique. And of course, running. The intensity of a 100m race where months of training boil down to little more than ten seconds of a race, the mental fortification of running kilometre after kilometre in preparation of 800m where it’s do or die. You may ask, why do we do this? To us, it is not about the medals or winning competitions. What drives us is the simple satisfaction of beating our previous best timing, height, distance. Being able to see improvements with training, no matter how slight they are: that is enough to keep us going.


However, RJ Track and Field isn’t all hardcore trainings and competitions. We and our coaches want to have fun as a team too, so every now and then we have exciting trainings at Botanic Gardens or the beach, where the training is a game and there are even cash prizes to be won. Besides that, members can look forward to team events throughout the year such as Track Camp (February), Track Night (June) and Track Chalet (December), and Movie Nights where we bond and spend time together off the track.

Intense game of Juggernaut/Running Man during Track Camp
Intense game of Juggernaut/Running Man during Track Camp

For many of us, Track and Field is our second family. Our teammates are our pillars of support, both on and off the track: from cheering each other on during gruelling trainings, to last-minute mugging together before CTs. Our seniors, who are much more like older siblings than seniors, are always willing to give advice regarding training or even school life in general. Many of our seniors continue to return to guide and mentor us even after they have graduated. Behind the scenes, our kind and passionate CCA Teacher ICs guide our EXCO in doing what’s best for the team and work tirelessly to ensure that all our CCA’s needs are met. And of course our dedicated and (self-proclaimed) hilarious coaches, whose training and mentorship have not only enabled us to perform the best that we can in our events, but who have imparted values in us and have nurtured us into being the people we are today.

Beach Training at East Coast Park
Beach Training at East Coast Park

Now, many of you who are reading this may have never had experience in Track & Field, and you may be wondering whether it is a good decision to join Track & Field in JC. Many of us had the same dilemma that you may be having now when we were choosing our CCAs one year ago. Indeed, we had our initial fears and doubts. However, we will wholeheartedly tell you that we have had no regrets joining Track & Field, this CCA that we’ve grown to love. Gabrielle See, Clara Chua, Rachel Ang and Huang Zi Xian, all of whom did not have prior experience in track nor sports CCAs in secondary school, share why they joined Track & Field and their experiences thus far:

Gabrielle See: I have always loved running since I was younger. Other than track relays held within school, I have had minimal experience, and hence jumped at the opportunity to do so here. I had especially loved long distance running as it was my outlet to clear my thoughts and to release my energy (and to build up fitness at the same time!). But somehow, I ended up in jumps instead! But I’m still very thankful for the chance given to be able to train under such a patient, loving and understanding coach, as well as alongside teammates that are encouraging and have been there for me every step (literally) of the way in track. These people are the sunlight to this budding seedling of a journey, and similar to how a budding seedling grows, there is no way but up!

The senior batch at Track Night ‘14
The senior batch at Track Night ‘14

Clara: I have always enjoyed running but never really got the chance to in my previous schools as I was in photography CCA. I joined sprints at the start of JC to build up my fitness.  I think many of us may fear that it may “too late” for newcomers to catch up as some Track and Field members have trained for several years. However, just one month after I joined Track and Field, our coach presented me with the opportunity to race 800m relay at Singapore Press Holdings Relay Championships. It was a bit overwhelming at the start and I even felt that my lack of experience might burden the team. However, my teammates and coach never left me to go through it all alone. With the support, guidance and encouragement, I eventually pulled through and our team won a 3rd place relay medal at the national level! Eventually, I moved to jumps to explore other aspects of the sport, and it has been a tremendously enriching and enjoyable experience thus far.

Rachel: I was never in a sports CCA before (I was in Debate previously), so I decided that JC was a good time to try something new. And that’s what led me to join track! Initially, track seemed like a individualized CCA to me. But I’ve been very fortunate to have met genuine and lovely people who have become some of my closest friends. Also, Track undeniably has a high commitment level, with training 3 times a week and with few breaks during the holidays but personally, I think this has allowed us to grow closer as teammates. I’m very grateful for being able to train with individuals who are incredibly driven and determined to excel, and I hope one day I’ll be able to perform as well as them!

Zi Xian: I too, was very apprehensive about joining a sports CCA as I was previously from photography CCA and a sport CCA seemed extremely demanding. To be honest, I only joined initially because I was rejected from my first choice. However, I am really glad I got rejected and joined Track and Field instead because otherwise, I would not have gotten to know my teammates with whom I spend a sizeable portion of my school life with! Them constantly being there for me spurs me to seek close relationships with them. Moreover the intensity of training serves as an opportunity to give each other moral support, which is always a nice feeling to have!

The RJTrack family at the National Inter-school Track and Field Championships 2014
The RJTrack family at the National Inter-school Track and Field Championships 2014

Ultimately, the simplicity of a sport at its purest leaves us unable to walk away from its trainings, its hardships and the journey to be your best. And perhaps it is also the reason why any and all newcomers are welcome to a sport that has no prerequisites other than that same desire to put in no less than 100%, to end our seasons with nothing but a sense that we have indeed done our best.

Training Information:


Consists of 100m-800m events, as well as hurdles events. Training are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday/Saturday, 3 times a week with the fourth training optional at RI


Consists of Long Jump, High Jump and Triple Jump. Trainings are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 3 times a week at RI


Consists of Javelin, Discus and Shotput. Trainings are on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 3 times a week at RI

-Pole Vault

Trainings are on Monday, Thursday, Saturday, 3 times a week at RI


Consists of the 3000m & 5000 Walk. Training are on Monday, Wednesday, Saturday, 3 times a week a RI Y5-6 Track/ Macritchie reservoir


Minor competitions from January-March, usually for exposure.

National Schools Championships are in early April.