By Nguyen Hoang Nhan (14S03K) and Chu Phuong Anh (15S06C)
Today, Raffles Press features Mr. Alfred Chan and Ms. Eva Hor – two freshly-inducted Year Heads just starting out on their new roles – to further explore their interests, passions and impressions on the batch of 2015.
By Jayne Chan (14S03D), Sushma Pai (14S03R), Divya Muthiah (14S06C)
At the start of every new year, 300 brave O level survivors will enter the realm of the Raffles world, facing excitement, apprehensiveness and awkwardness in equal measure. All around them, they will see green, black and white, and unfamiliar faces huddled together in groups, chattering away animatedly. This is how JC life typically begins for a JAE (Joint Admission Exercise) student. Life in RI will definitely be very different from how it was in a non-Rafflesian secondary school – intimidating even – but most JAE students find themselves blending in perfectly well by mid-year. With a few tips to guide you and the clearing up of some misconceptions, we hope to ease and quicken a JAE student’s adjustment into the Rafflesian family.
RP (Raffles Programme) students are snobbish.
False! This is one of the more common rumours a JAE student would hear about RI, but in actual fact, most RP students are friendly and accepting – it would be unfair to generalise all RP students as snobbish. With that said, every JC has its fair share of arrogant kids and of course, RI is no exception. Even if you do face such negativity, learn to take it in your stride. There can’t always be nice people out there in the world, and there’s no harm in learning how to deal with it earlier in life.
RI is a very competitive place.
Competition is an inevitable feature of any education system, but in RI, (due to the nature of the student body here) competition will be more intense. Then again, it’s all part and parcel of the RI experience. However, we would like to stress that it’s healthy competition, and not just pure cut-throat competition. Most students are more than willing to rally around to help their fellow schoolmates, so you don’t have much to worry about.
RP students are higher achievers than JAE students.
A person’s academic capability is absolutely not linked to whether they are from JAE or RP. In fact, there are many JAE students whom the writers have witnessed outperforming their RP peers (though this is sadly not true of the writers themselves, who happen to be JAE). Ironically enough, since JAE students have just been mugging their hearts out for O levels while RP students have been taking their lives relatively easier, JAE students are expected to get into the swing of JC academics faster. Many claim that they’re supposedly more well-prepared to sit for a major nationwide exam than their RP peers, whose last such experience was, well, PSLE.
Rough Seas and Rocky Shores
“A ship is always safe at the shore – but that is not what it is built for.” – Albert Einstein
Here we discuss some of the issues you’re likely to deal with in your first few months in a new (and sometimes terrifying) school environment.
Being in an unfamiliar environment with millions of questions flying through your mind can be unsettling, especially if you’re one of the select few who entered RI alone without your fellow secondary school peers.
Most JAE students agree that Orientation is the best time to get to know people, so treasure that opportunity and make full use of it. Even though Orientation is now over, take the time to hang out with your OG before the bulk of your workload catches up with you.
Remember that most RP kids are as eager to make friends as you are. While they may already have a bunch of close friends, practically everyone’s more than willing to get to know more people. However, friendship is a two-way effort! Don’t expect to make many friends if you don’t bother to start a conversation or say hello to the people around you. It can be as simple as grabbing any other student and making small talk (What CCA are you in/are planning to join? Do you like the school uniform?). Just take a deep breath and plunge into it. Once you get over that initial fear, everything else will fall into place.
2. Making Decisions
Since JAE students enter the school later than RP students, decisions have to be made fast. You might struggle to cope with it all at the start. Immediately after Orientation, the IHC seasons begin and then CCA applications/trials come along, followed by enrichment programme applications, and then student council and EXCO applications, after which you have a break in June that leads up to CT1s. And before you know it, half of JC1 is over. Sounds overwhelming, doesn’t it?
When you do feel lost here, don’t fret! There are lots of people you can approach for help. Counsellors, your OGLs, CCA seniors, or even your friends can help you out. Most of them are very willing to share their opinion on how things are run in RI. There are plenty of helpful seniors and students who would be happy to answer queries. If you have friends in RI/RGS, say your classmates, who would’ve entered the school earlier for JIP, do talk to them and ask them about the information they have received about various enrichment programs/introductory lectures/etc. It pays to do your research early, rather than walking into school on the first day completely unaware of what’s going on.
3. CCAs and Enrichment
One of the best things about RI is the wide variety of enrichment programmes and CCAs available. There are about 70 CCAs and 17 enrichment programmes, each as impressive as the others – you’ll be spoilt for choice! If you choose the ones you’re truly passionate about, you’ll probably be able to keep yourself well-occupied throughout your two years, and will be presented with many unique opportunities. You might have the chance to participate in overseas CIP trips, bicultural programmes, national competitions, or even research programmes. Despite so, here’s where the tough part about being a JAE student comes in. As would anyone looking to choose the right CCA and enrichment programme, you will have to do plenty of research. Issue is, this is trickier if you’re a JAE student with fewer seniors and friends to consult, especially at the start of the year when you’re faced with many important decisions to make. If you have any doubts, don’t hesitate to check with your peers or seniors.
While you may have been the top of your cohort in secondary school, it might not be the same here. As long as you pay attention during your lectures and tutorials, do your work on time and actively consult your teachers, you should be able to manage (take heart in the fact that countless students before you have managed it). However, to do better than the average student, arranging to meet up with your teachers and doing extra practices will help. A lot. We have some of the best teachers right here in RI, and your teachers are more than willing to help clarify any doubts!
Joining the Rafflesian Family
Every JAE student is a cross between a non-Rafflesian family and a Rafflesian one, so a JAE student will turn out as a unique hybrid who’s able to adapt to the changing environment. As a newly minted Rafflesian, don’t be too intimidated by all the rumours you hear! By the end of your two years here, you might realise that coming to RI might’ve been the best decision of your life.
I can still remember the first time I stepped into the Seminar Room for an RP3 session, with its bright white lights and neat rows of desks. I remember feeling extremely nervous. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I wasn’t even sure I was in the right room despite reading and re-reading the reminder email at least ten times. However, the past year spent in the (correct) seminar room opened my eyes to a host of local issues and made being in RP3 a truly eye-opening experience.
The Raffles Public Policy Programme (or RP3, for short) is one of the many exciting enrichment programmes offered in Year 5. Sessions involve discussions about hot-button issues in Singapore, whilst delving deeper into the rationale behind policies, as well as the contributing factors leading to such decisions. Guest speakers (I had the pleasure of listening to Dr Cherian George and Dr Teo You Yenn) will be invited to give talks, and when the year-end holidays roll round, all RP3-ers will be given the privilege of interning at a ministry of their choice.
The discussions I had the opportunity to engage in mainly revolved around inequality and meritocracy, with a side of LGBT rights, the disabled, and the necessity of tuition. We were usually treated to a brief overview of the day’s topic before gathering into groups for smaller-scale discussions. Following that, each group had to present their opinions. Everyone in RP3 is well-read, so I learnt a great deal from those I had the pleasure of interacting with. We explored the characteristics of various policies in Singapore in-depth, along with their merits and areas for improvement.
There are also quite a number of readings to do before each weekly session. Usually, these readings comprise local newspaper articles, the occasional paper and opinion pieces on similar phenomena or policies overseas (usually the US and the UK).
To me, the internship was the most memorable part of being in RP3. From my five-week experience, I gathered that policy work involves a daily barrage of emails, a substantial amount of miscellaneous work, plenty of meetings and to a certain extent, unpredictability. It was a regular desk job, but that didn’t translate to it being ‘boring’ or ‘dull’. Certain tasks involved critical thinking and evaluation skills, as well as a great deal of professionalism. Writing and IT skills were also important (I recommend familiarising yourself with Microsoft Excel). You may or may not utilise the knowledge gained during regular RP3 discussions, but the skills picked up from delving into policies do help in the work given. The discussion topics will also be brought up over lunch conversations with your colleagues.
However, at the end of the day, what I remember and appreciate most was the people that I had the fortune of working with. They entrusted me with interesting projects and went out of their way to make sure I was welcome in the office. I’m sure my fellow RP3-ers can attest to that too. Also, other perks of having a year-end internship include year-end parties and the occasional lunch treat.
(Just as a side-note, you may be left to your own devices at times, since it is the end of the year and people take leave).
Overall, I can’t say that my RP3 journey was filled with ‘ups-and-downs’, but it was a very fruitful and enriching experience for which I am truly grateful. I learnt how to navigate the office environment, and am now more aware of the public policy scene in Singapore. It is a timely programme too, given that we have to decide what paths we want to embark on in our (future) working years. If you are interested in policy-making, or simply want to find out if the public sector is for you, do consider joining RP3. It’ll be an experience you (hopefully) won’t forget!
Raffles Press recently received the sad news that the owner of the Haw’s Kitchen canteen stall passed away on the 27th of January, after a prolonged struggle against breast cancer. From the accounts of those who knew her, Mrs. Haw Geek Nai was a diligent worker and a wonderful cook who was close to many students and staff.
Mrs. Haw first joined the school around 2009, when she started up Haw’s Kitchen. She had previously been running a similar canteen stall over at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, but shifted over to RI when she heard there was an opening.
It didn’t take long for Haw’s Kitchen to become one of our canteen’s most frequented stalls – serving up piping hot Tom Yam soup and fish soup to hungry students. Among the students and staff Raffles Press spoke with, several mentioned that she would dole out extra portions or even free food to students from needy families. Raffles Press also spoke with her two sisters currently running the stall, who recalled how it was in 2012 when Mrs. Haw first began complaining of back aches and nose-bleeds. During a routine check-up with a doctor, she was unexpectedly diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.
She immediately underwent treatment, going for surgery and chemotherapy in a bid to keep the cancer from spreading. And for a while, she got better. For a brief period of time, she was even well enough to return and help out at the stall. She couldn’t be as active as she once was, but her husband, son and daughter assisted by helping to purchase food ingredients every morning. At one point, her sisters recounted, a student who was a regular at the stall even made it a point to buy an egg for her from the drinks stall every day, after seeing how skinny she had become.
Yet, even after her return, it swiftly became clear that she had not fully recovered. Following further complaints of bone aches, she returned to the hospital for a full body scan. The prognosis was poor. Despite treatment, the cancer had metastasized to her bones and her chances of recovery were slim.
She was hospitalized just last year (some of you may recall that Haw’s Kitchen closed intermittently for a period of time last year) and frequently received visitors from staff and students who knew of her condition. Although she remained positive about her condition, she grew progressively weaker and passed shortly before Chinese New Year.
We contacted Hu Weijie – a Rafflesian graduate who visited her regularly in hospital – who kindly shared his experiences with and memories of Mrs. Haw:
I was really lucky and blessed to have gotten closer to her during my JC life such that we even kept in contact after I graduated. About 2 years back when i visited her in school during my army days I received the news from her that she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. Despite the news, she remained optimistic and strong.
She went for an operation and the doctor said she was recovering well back then. The students could tell as well as she still insisted on coming back to work here and then in her headdress, although she often had to rest as chemotherapy has its toll on patients.
As I got more involved in army I had less time for her so I only managed to visit her after I ORD, which was at the start of December 2013. I couldn’t contact or find her then and I was pretty upset about it. Then a week later her daughter texted me that she was in the hospital, and her condition has worsened and it was stage 4 terminal cancer now and whenever I went to visit her she got weaker and weaker.
Though she is a very happy person with a strong will to live, her condition still got the better of her and she passed away last Monday [27th January]. Before she passed away I posted a photo of me and her on Facebook and a description of what happened to her, as I knew that many people were concerned about her well-being. Many many kind souls shared the post, private messaged me encouraging notes and several went down to visit her as well. This includes students teachers and the staff of the school as well.
You can ask anyone who has interacted with her personally and you will know how beautiful a person she is, both on the inside and the outside. She’s selfless and always cared for the people around her before herself. Even during her last days, she would apologise to people who visited her for taking time off just to see her. In school, she’d make sure her students had enough food and are well fed. She would also take the time to have a good chat with students who came by the stall.
She appreciates the support and concern the school students have given her as well and to quote her ‘to have such loving students, teachers and customers who are so concerned about my well-being, in this life I am truly blessed’. She would also often give students extra or free food. So one day, I asked her: how exactly does she make money this way?
She then replied, ‘How much money can anyone earn in their life? It’s an endless pursuit. I would rather see my students well-fed, satisfied and happy, that’s enough.’
Erratum: The article initially mentioned that Haw’s Kitchen opened in 2011. Our thanks to our sharp eyed alumni readers who noted that the stall opened in 2009. We apologize for the error.
Track and Field. An individual sport with a team spirit. In fact, it’s more like four sports- sprints, jumps, throws, and pole vault. Quite apart from the abundance of good-looking teammates you’ll have, there’s a whole catalogue of reasons for seriously considering Track and Field as your CCA of choice.
1) It’s sport at its purest. There’s something strangely alluring about running really fast, jumping really high, and throwing heavy metal objects really far. If you want the certainty of knowing that you’re becoming a better athlete without worrying about whether you’re breaking Rule 21.7.2 of Section 3 on the Permissible Substitution of Players, then Track is the place for you.
2) It’s sport at its most versatile. Being able to fire a tiny ball into a tinier goal from twenty yards with nothing more than your trusty Floorball stick is fine and dandy, but you won’t get many chances to use that skill elsewhere. Conversely, Track and Field has countless applications, be it in standing broad jump, running away from friends who want to cake you on your birthday, or even playing other sports. After all, pace, explosiveness (jumps and sprints), and sheer strength (throws) all provide a massive edge no matter what game you’re playing. And if you join pole vault, well, getting abs of solid steel won’t hurt your sporting chances either, to say nothing of your chances in other areas.
3) Training is really fun. It seems almost an obligation for a CCA preview to say this, but the common misconception that all we do is run couldn’t be more wrong. Our coaches for all the sections are both fun and very creative, since they’d get bored too if we just did the same thing every day. We’ve got drills, games, hurdles, contests, trainings at bizarre locations like Botanic Gardens and the beach, and a standing challenge of getting Mr Tan’s car if we throw a medicine ball above the roof (applicable to sprinters only, with throwers excluded by reason of Mr Tan not really wanting to lose his car). If that isn’t enough, you’ll soon fall in love with your teammates, with weekly pilgrimages to Jai Thai, periodic ice-skating, chalets, and overly long gossip sessions that carry over from training into dinner and finally onto whatsapp.
4) If you need another reason, we weren’t kidding when we said you’ll have an abundance of good-looking teammates. The best part is, what with large amounts of sunlight, intense toning of legs (track) or training of upper-body (field), and becoming more lean by the day, you’ll soon be looking good too! (Disclaimer: beauty is a subjective quality determined by both socially constructed norms as well as individual conceptions of self. We provide no guarantee that our CCA can alter these perceptions to the extent that you fulfill these norms in what is perceived to be a satisfactory manner.)
5) If you still need another reason, you might as well go join floral arrangement.
If you’re still reading, you must be pretty interested, so here’s some important information:
Consists of 100m-800m events, as well as hurdles events. Training is Monday, Wednesday, Friday/Saturday, 3 times a week with the fourth training optional. Training is at the RI Yr 5-6 track. National Schools Championships are in late March to mid-April.
Consists of Long Jump, High Jump and Triple Jump. Trainings are held on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 3 times a week at the RI Y5-6 track.
Consists of three main events: Javelin, Discus and Shotput. Trainings is Monday, Wednesday, Friday, 3 times a week at the RI Y5-6 track.
Trainings is Monday, Thursday, Saturday, 3 times a week at RI Y5-6 Track, although sometimes trainings are held at the gymnasium and swimming pool.
In all honesty and seriousness, Track and Field is a wonderful CCA. If your interests lie elsewhere, we wish you all the best. But if you do join us, congratulations – you’ll learn why the Olympic motto is Faster, Higher, Stronger. Citius, Altius, Fortius.