To many Rafflesians, the inner workings of the Students’ Council may seem more foreign and mysterious than the A grade for Economics. After a chat with the 35th Department Heads, we at Raffles Press think we can demystify it for you.
Perhaps you’ve read our article on the 34th Presidents and want to find out more about the new Presidents and Secretaries, in which case you would have come to the right place. Or perhaps you’re curious as to what’s in store for the year ahead, in which case you would have come to the right place too. Or, if you just want a light-hearted read about the 35th Students’ Council, then this place still works! Through yet another interview with the Presidents (check out our previous one here) and Secretaries (collectively, the PresSecs) of the 35th Students’ Council, we give you the lowdown on their plans and dreams for Raffles. For the full interview’s transcript, click here!
It’s been 369 days since the 34ths were invested, and 69 days since they stepped down. It’s been a mad term for them, with a litany of deadlines for proposals, preparations for events, but at the end of it all (like their 33 batches of predecessors), they have survived. Quite ironically, despite their theme of ‘no unguarded backs’, the last thing they ever did during their term was look back. As they hand over the mantle of leadership to the newly invested 35th Students’ Council, it’s about as good a time as ever to take a step back and review the legacy of the 34th Student Councillors. Through an exclusive interview with the Presidents of the 34th Students’ Council, we bring you through the good, the bad, and the memorable moments of their term.
This speech was given by Isaac Leong, outgoing President of the Students’ Council, during the 2015 Founders’ Day Ceremony.
Photographs – they capture moments that are gone forever, impossible to reproduce. We each keep a collection of them – whether in traditional print or on Instagram. Likewise, I keep a small box of old photographs, notes, cards and other paraphernalia, opening and adding to it at every significant milestone in my life. I recently opened that box in preparation for this speech – after all, as my penultimate speech in this school, I hoped to be able to represent and do justice to the 6 years of joy and sorrow, anticipation and regret, and comedy and tragedy that we have experienced in RI.
Inside, I found images of our seniors imparting the Unite cheer during our Year 1 Orientation, of victory at the end of my Year 4 debate season, of my classmates and me horsing around in class back in the time when we didn’t share the same classroom with girls. Each of these photographs brought back a stream of memories and emotions that have crept into moments between my waking and sleep on many occasions this year. I’m sure that each of us has a set of mental photographs that will forever remain etched in our memory.
But as important as these photographs are to us, they aren’t only personal. If there’s anything, what is common amongst our individual photographs is the collective backdrop that is RI. Each photograph is like a story frozen in time and these stories have been inevitably linked with the broader RI narrative. In other words, we have went through what we have went through because things were lined a certain way for us – by our teachers, the school, traditions, circumstances or in some cases, just pure luck. Even though coming from RI may sometimes bestow on us certain self-importance, we are, fortunately or not, not as central and important as we think we may be. It is with this humble acknowledgement that I have come to more deeply appreciate how much RI has shaped us.
However, we cannot just reminisce about the past, especially on a day like Founder’s Day. It is indeed ironic how history ceases the moment we start living in the past. And it is with this paradox that we must look ahead and ask ourselves how do we keep the flag of Raffles flying high. After all, I hope that the photographs I keep and treasure never become a thing of the past, 10, 20, 50 years from now. I believe there are 3 things each of us can do.
First, we must work hard. RI has been the top school in Singapore for many years, but that does not guarantee us, individually or as a school, any success. The success we celebrate today is the culmination of hard work put in by those who have come before us. This means that for us today, we must not shy away from either excellence or hard work. There are debates raging on about “inclusive” and “equal” education, but that should not deter us from working hard and pushing the boundaries of achievement for this school.
The proudest moments I have had as a Rafflesian are of struggle and sacrifice, even when the stakes are stacked against us. The achievements on the field and on the stage that Mr Chan presented often did not come easily and was the result of long training, restrictive diets and sheer discipline in managing the different expectations of being a student and an athlete or performer at the same time. However, we know that it is not just the gold medals that we celebrate. I remember this once when a Year 1 boy rather innocently asked why we were cheering Raffles so enthusiastically even though we were losing the rugby game badly. It was some time ago, but I think my reply went something like “Ah that’s the spirit that never says die. It’s the spirit that is best when we are down and losing – and that is what makes it so unique”. That indomitable spirit is the essence of Rafflesian tradition and is articulated in our school motto – to improve, excel and always reach for the best.
Second, we must look beyond the A-levels. Let’s admit that there is immense pressure for Rafflesians to do well at the A-levels, and certainly, my batchmates and I hope that we can live up to these expectations as well. However, we must broaden our perspectives by continuing to explore and enrich ourselves. Initiatives like the Gap Semester have been effective in exposing and educating us beyond the confines of RI and Singapore. But we cannot just rely on big school programmes for enrichment; it should happen every day in the classroom as well. I remember my Year 1 geography teacher coming into class one day and started forcing us to play with biscuits, jam and milo in order to simulate tectonic movements. In hindsight, it all sounded so childish, but it was important because it piqued our interest in what we thought was a boring subject about things we could neither see nor feel. We were proven wrong. I’m also thankful to have teachers who care more than just the syllabus – exposing us to ideas & concepts that complement or even challenge what we learn in class. As my Humanities tutor Mr Reeves would put it, “life’s more complex than that”. Perhaps, this autonomy to explore outside the scope of exams is one advantage of the IP system and we must continue to leverage on that. In showing us that life is not black and white, RI has encouraged us to be curious.
Finally, we must contribute back to society what we have taken from them. I say this because RI cannot just be excellent, it must have a soul to ground itself. Community work has been a growing focus in RI, but we can still do more to benefit society as a school. Referring to history once more, Singapore has always been the core of RI. We were founded by Sir Stamford Raffles as a school for the children of native Singaporeans and never for the colonialists’ own children. Likewise, we may now be the beneficiaries of an excellent education, but we must never feel entitled to what we have and must continue to benefit society in the work that we do.
Ironically, the future seems to have an ancient heart. As we move forward with time, it is history that grounds us as an institution and memories that offer us some comfort as individuals.
The future will not be handed to us. But with the combined effort of the Rafflesian community at large, we can all ensure that RI will not simply be a school with a great past, but a school that has a great future.
Auspicium Melioris Aevi.
Raffles Press would like to thank Isaac Leong for generously offering to provide the transcript of his speech to Raffles Press.
For the past 34 years, Rafflesians have been voting almost religiously for Student Councillors of their choice into a position of power. 34 years on, however, many of us seem to have lost sight of what voting represents. To many of us, voting seems to be a necessary duty that otherwise lacks any significance. This therefore begs the question: why is voting important?
Voting serves as a system through which we indicate our preferences – it chooses the candidates we think are most suitable for the role of a Student Councillor, and also signals to the Student Council which initiatives we hold most in regard. At least, that is what voting ideally achieves. More often than not, we instead find that our votes simply signify how popular a candidate is, while failing to affirm their merit.
At Raffles Press, we believe that Student Councillors play a very crucial role in deciding what direction to take the school in, with the eventual aim of benefiting students. Therefore, it is imperative that students vote for Councillors that are the most sincere and capable, not the ones that can garner the most likes on Instagram. It is in this very spirit that we conducted an interview prior to the election with the 3 Presidential Elects this year – in the hope that this can provide the basis for a more informed choice on the students’ part.
Press (P): Tell us more about the internal elections process.
E: The internal elections process was something that we carried out last Friday to determine the 3 candidates for presidency as well as 10 candidates for the Houses (2 each). It was a strict process where everyone had to have a secret ballot, and everyone was involved in it. It was very democratic, in a way. The votes were kept very confidential and we were not allowed to discuss with anyone – it was really a very personal choice without the influence of other people, so we had to make a judgement for ourselves.
P: Why did the three of you choose to run specifically for the Presidency, and not for the House Captaincy, or a Secretariat role?
E: There are 2 main reasons that motivated me to run for this position. Firstly, I think that our batch is a very motivated bunch. All of us have our own aspirations, and we want to do something for the school, but I figured that it’s important for us to know where we are going. I kind of have an idea of what I want Council to be like and I was interested in bringing this up to the rest and hopefully leading all of us to where I see us going. On the other hand it’s also for personal development. This is a very important leadership position. It’s sort of a challenge for me. On such a scale it would be challenging, but I believe it would also help me hone my leadership skills and my inter-personal skills as well, which I believe is very important.
F: I had 2 main reasons too. I believe very strongly in the student voice and what students can do for the school. I believe that being able to give direction and show students that their voice counts in the school, was something that I really wanted to bring to Council and the school population as well. I was given the privilege last year as the Vice-Head (of Raffles Girls Prefectorial Board) to run a few initiatives that let me see how much an active student voice could bring the school to greater heights. That was one of the main reasons why I ran. Secondly, my friends. I was actually quite touched because even when I joined Council, I realised that a lot of people had trust in me and they believed that I could help contribute to Council in greater ways, rather than just being a normal Council member. Being a very people person I guess, I talk a lot to my friends about what Council does and what they feel Council can improve on. I feel being in touch with the ground and hearing all their opinions on how Council can improve is one way I hope to contribute in Council, to give more direction as to what students want to see.
M: For me one major reason is that I really believe in our batch a lot. I have a lot of faith in them because I see that this year, our Council has a very huge diversity of people. They are not the kind that you would expect Councillors to be like. They are very different, and they bring many different things into Council and I think that this kind of diversity brings a lot of opportunities into this scene. I really want to work with them on a closer basis. Secondly it’s because there are certain things I want to do in Council and I think that Council can improve on to change. I think the role of the President makes it easier to see the big picture and to direct everyone in the direction that can make Council better.
P: What makes the three of you think that you are suitable for the Presidency?
M: For me I would count myself as a people person, but not in the sense that I am extremely extroverted, but in the sense that I take a lot of value in what other people tell me. I think in the role of the President, that is something that is really important and is something that I want to contribute to Council – to be someone who actually hears more than comments and synthesizes all this information into something that can be done.
F: I think for me, I am a person with a lot of energy and drive. I take energy from talking to people and understanding what my friends and concerned about and what they want to see in the school. In one way, I guess my belief in Council being able to shape the school culture is something that I can contribute as a President. Council really determines what type of culture you want to see in the school because we are the representatives of the student body and if there’s anything our batch wants to see, this is our time to make the change, to take ownership of the change that our batch wants to see.
E: I’m not a very detail oriented person, but rather a person that pays more attention to the big picture, and I see vast potential in a lot of the Councillors in our batch and they have very divided potentials, very divided abilities. But when united, I see that we have a greater potential to do better, and to exert a greater positive influence on people around us in school. And I see that in my batchmates in Council, and I think that it is important for us to do something about it. I don’t mind taking the initiative to do so, and I think it’s very important for a President to take the initiative when he sees the time is right and be able to see things on a greater scale.
P: Do you have any past experiences leading an organization?
M: Actually, both of us we were Vice-Heads. [gestures to Freda]
F: As Vice-Heads, our role was also very different. I guess all of us have very different leadership backgrounds. Even though Ming Hui and I were both Vice-Heads, we saw to the needs of different aspects of the school I guess, and the Prefectorial Board also. Mine was not bound very much by the duties of the Vice-Head, I was given the privilege to organize initiatives that were more directed to the student body as a whole, and to garner the support of other lead boards as well to see how we could work together to bring about change and positively impact the school population as a united front.
E: Last year I served in the CEC Council. It’s basically the organization made up of all the class monitors, assistant monitors in the school. While it may seem very ground-up, it actually forms a very large body of students, over 150 across 4 batches. We undergo a lot of vision setting in our term in the CEC Council and we also planned quite a few events, like Open House, Teachers’ Day, and Parent-Teacher Meeting. It was a very valuable experience and I developed a style of interacting with people and I believe that it’s very important for us to have personal relationships with those around us because I believe that’s the only way we can understand what people are going through. To understand somebody’s life is essentially the first step to making a difference to their lives, and a positive one.
M: I think with regards to these past experiences, all 3 of us might have had past experiences but I really hope that the school does not see us by our history because while we have grown, we have learnt a lot from our past experiences but what we want to do here may not exactly be the same as what we have done before. We don’t want people to have the mindset that the Council President must have had past leadership experiences. A lot of people in Council can lead very well too but it’s not through the position.
E: While it may seem that all of us have some kind of prior experience in terms of leadership, but I think that’s just something of the past, and it contributes to our experience in serving as student leaders and it’s something that we can share with all our Councillors in this batch. More importantly, we are also here to learn and I guess all of us believe that there’s more to leadership than what we have gone through and it’s important for us to learn and realise that there’s quite a lot for us to understand in terms of leadership. We are all here to learn and share our experiences.
F: Leading Council is really very different from the Prefectorial Board. It’s really a whole new experience for all of us, and even though we have experiences as leaders in our various lead boards, but I guess leading Council is something fresh and an eye-opener as well.
P (to M): Can you tell me more about your campaign’s focus?
M: I would like to summarise it into 3 words, which were also in my campaign video. They are communication, relevance, and humility. I believe that communication and humility are linked because what Council can do and should do are focused on what we hear from the people and what they want us to do and we need to be humble Councillors. That’s the kind of spirit I want to promote in Council and that’s how I want people to open up more to us. In that sense it links to relevance because I want to make sure that everything that Council does and all the time that we spend is worth it and all the activities we plan are worth the students’ time.
P: On your point on relevance: you said in your campaign poster that service is an ongoing process and that Council always explores new areas of need. What new areas of need do you predict might arise in the term ahead?
M: Just to clarify, you want to find out what kind of needs I foresee arising in the school? Actually I hesitated just now [after a long pause] because this morning I had a conversation with my classmates about this entire campaign thing, about their needs, and I found out that some things that I perceived to be an area of need may not actually be their area of need. That was the main reason why I had to think twice as to how to answer this question. And I think this shows that what we feel may not be what the student feels either. Just to give an example, on the issue of how Council organizes events, to us it’s a major thing that Council does because each Councillor is assigned to a function to organize. These functions are usually school-wide and aim to really impact the student population, but how effective are these events in the engagement of students? I stress on the word engagement because some people may not feel that these events are as impactful as we wanted them to be, and they are not as engaged as we wanted them to be. I think these may be small areas within the events but they are very important areas to make people see what Council does as a whole. So this is also why I want to make sure that every single Councillor, not just the 3 of us [referring to the 3 President-elects], does this properly and collate the needs of the students by talking to them.
P: What does it mean to walk a ‘Tao-sand’ miles with someone?
M: This is figurative but it focuses on how we don’t want service to be an episodic thing. We want it to be a continuous thing. We don’t want them to see Council’s service through one event, and the next. We want them to see us in their daily lives, through communication with them on a constant basis. This ‘Tao-sand’ miles thing does not just refer to the student body, but also to how we impact the next few batches of Councillors. I know that we have very little time with them. But I also hope that we can do the best we can to make sure that the next batch of Councillors are well-trained, well-versed in what they are going to do for the school. So this applies to both the school and the Council.
P: I read from your campaign board that you wanted to make Councillors feel a sense of self-fulfilment and self-worth. How would you plan to ensure that all the Councillors can feel this way? I understand that there is a very heavy workload involved in Council and that some Councillors might burn out further on into their journey, thus not getting self-fulfilled.
M: Actually I see this as two different issues. I think over-commitment, self-worth and self-fulfillment can and should be addressed in two different ways, although I agree that there is a link to it. Of course, if you are burnt out, there is no self-fulfillment. For the self-worth and self-fulfillment part, I think it comes from being able to do what you initially wanted to come into Council and do, and being given the avenue to do so. That’s where the fulfillment comes in, being able to come in and fulfill your primary goal. I believe this differs for each and every Councillor. That’s the part about self-fulfillment. For the thing about over-commitment, I think we need to adjust the system in Council such that we do things more to the point and more efficiently, and I believe that there can be guidelines set to do so. This is how we can prevent them from burning out. And I think that when these two things combine, then we can have Councillors who serve with self-fulfillment and self-worth. I think this is very important because we come in with passion. But if we don’t fulfill our own goals that we set in Council, and instead fulfill goals we may not necessarily agree with, then it is a lot easier to lose that kind of passion, and it is something very scary to me because we only have this short term in Council. Losing that kind of passion halfway through would mean that Council would lose very important people. This is a very important part of my campaign.
P (to F): Can you tell me more about your campaign’s focus?
F: The general concept of my campaign was really about being a catalyst of action in the student body, getting students to know that as students they play a larger role than just studying, or being on the receiving end of Council’s events, or what the school organizes for them. I want to inspire them to see that they can do greater things and have that sense of ownership of the school culture and of the things that they want to see in school. So really empowering the student voice, and letting them be more involved in organizing school events, rather than just being passive receivers of what Council organizes for them.
P: How exactly will you ‘empower the student voice’?
F: I came up with my campaign because I had this general feel, in JC, hearing from my friends, that they have this sense that they can’t do much unless they are part of Council or they are CCALs, and I feel that it is something that is holding back a lot of students from stepping up doing things that will benefit the school as a whole. Empowering the student voice can come in many ways – one would be having more conversations with the student body and giving them an avenue to voice their opinions and suggestions for what they want to see in the school. Because as Council even though we can organize a lot of activities and events, how can we know that these events are what the students actually want to see? Getting this feedback is very important and it is the first step in showing that Council is actually listening out to the student body. Secondly, it’s really getting them involved in organizing things for their peers. For example, one of my initiatives is directed at CCAs. For Monday morning protected time, some people will have enrichments, but the majority of the student population are quite free during that time so I was hoping that this could be a time for CCAs to step up and organize mini-showcases for their friends or organize small games, mini-competitions for their friends who wish to take part in a particular sport, or performing art. This way the students will know that even though they are not part of a particular programme or CCA, they still have the opportunity to take part in what they enjoy.
P: You mentioned feedback channels, isn’t this already being done with Council?
F: I feel that feedback channels can be more active, there should be more presence of such channels. For example, it may be done online now, or through surveys and everything, but I think having a physical board, or something people can add on to physically is quite important as well. It shows that there is such a channel, as compared to just going online where people may not want to take part in that.
P: You also mentioned that you wanted different CCAs to organize showcases for the students. What’s holding them back from doing this now?
F: I think it’s just the general sense that they don’t have such a platform to do so or they are unaware that they are exactly able to step up to organize such things for their friends.
P: You said that there was already an online platform, and we know that there is an online platform for feedback on the Council website. What is done with this feedback?
F: The feedback collated is an initiative by the Communications Department and currently I admit I am not very sure how the feedback is managed after collating them but I believe that the feedback is considered by the next batch of Councillors organizing the same event. That’s one way the feedback is dealt with.
P: You mentioned in your poster that you want to listen to the ground sentiment, you want more face-to-face interaction and you want a warmer, more accepting and supportive school community. How will you achieve all these within your term?
F: I guess it’s really through the initiatives that I am hoping to start up during our term as Councillors. For example, the Monday morning initiative, I feel that by giving students this opportunity and allowing them to see that they play a bigger role in the school is one way of showing their support for their friends as well. Being able to pursue what they are interested in and engaging their friends in this sort of thing as well is one way they can create a more accepting and inclusive family in school.
P (to E): Can you tell me more about your campaign’s focus?
E: I think my campaign centres around creating a school experience that’s not just fun but more of meaningful. By meaningful, I mean that it’s both memorable in terms of the fun and the tough times because I think right now we are making an effort to make school life more enjoyable, but at the same time I think it is very important for us to instill that kind of culture where we treasure the times that are very difficult and we remember the people that helped us during this time. And to do so, I coined this term called the Rafcode. It is this sense of trust and confidence that Rafflesians feel, knowing that they will always have their backs watched by other Rafflesians. To cultivate this kind of culture in Raffles, it is very important for us to have a very personal and close and intimate relationship with the friends around us.
I see Council in this picture as a catalyst where we start off as seventy-odd people strong, and channel our passions into influencing our friends to believe in this way of interacting with our friends. And from there on we can have a greater sphere of influence and create this culture where people can trust each other and have faith in each other. I think this is very important because it is sort of part of being Rafflesian. It contributes back to the overall vision I have of Council creating this meaningful school experience for everyone.
P: You said that you wanted to create a ground-up and inclusive family for Raffles, but isn’t Council top-down by nature?
E: If you think about it, Councillors all start from the same point of being students. In fact many of us here lead a very ordinary student life, but we want to do something extraordinary out of the ordinary life that we lead, and have a purpose that transcends your individual purpose. It’s possible for the approach for Council to be more ground-up, even though we may be top-down in nature, through the execution and planning of events and the various duties that we carry out. But it’s very important for us to realize that ultimately we are students and we are given this position by our friends. So that’s how I see Council coming in, being motivated by welfare of our fellow Rafflesians and our friends.
And being more inclusive, like what Freda and Ming Hui mentioned, is to have a feedback channel. But even though this feedback channel exists, I wasn’t quite sure of how to understand the role of Council prior to joining it. I think it is more important for us to actively seek this kind of feedback, like conducting reviews after certain events or activities that we have organized or periodically collecting survey responses. We gather this feedback, reflect this to the internal system of Council and consider all the perspectives that we have gathered. I believe that’s how we can include more people as well. And I think it’s important to send out the message that we want to listen and while the online feedback channel is there, not everyone may be aware of it and not everyone may actually take the step to go online and complete the feedback form. Just having the feedback channel there isn’t enough to me because I think that it’s important that we reach out to the people as well.
P: You said you wanted to lead in serving, so what does it mean to “lead in serving and serve in leading”?
E: I think the focus of this phrase is not about leading, but it’s about serving. First we have to realize that being Councillors entails a very ‘servant leader’ kind of duty, and I see Councillors’ role as going beyond just handling managerial roles to handling leadership positions. So I believe in this interaction with Councillors and students, in a way that Councillors don’t just do things for the students — but at the same time we constantly upgrade ourselves and we share these skills with those around us so that everyone grows together. It’s like how I interpreted “Walking a Tao-sand miles with you” – instead of having one person going alone on this thousand miles to retrieve this thing for his friends who are waiting at the start, why not we walk together and during this journey all of us grow together. I believe in this sort of interaction and I think that it is very important for us to not just be mere managers who plan and execute events, but more of leaders who inspire people to grow with us as well.
P: Each of you has made unique promises as to how you can improve student welfare. But how can the student body guarantee that all three of you keep your promises?
E: I think in no way is it possible for us to achieve our destinations and completely believe that we will fulfill our promises. It’s very important for us to trust each other in this case, because some of them may not know us personally and it’s very difficult for them to judge who we are just based on the campaign materials that we have put up so far. I believe that it’s very important for us to trust each other in this case as this relationship that we share is founded and based upon trust, and I think it’s important for the student population to believe that we are genuinely interested in doing something for them. For all that they’ve given us in the years that we spent in Raffles, including the collective memories that we have shared, we sincerely believe that it’s important for us to do something in return, to thank them for their favor and express our gratitude. And I think it’s very important ultimately for them to believe that what we say is genuine and we will do what we said we would do. So this relationship that we share is ultimately based on trust; founded upon this confidence.
F: I think we really must have a clear purpose in mind when we step up to take on the helm of Council. Getting into Council and taking on a position in Council was never the end goal. You must always keep in mind why we joined Council in the first place. For me the true reason is really because I wanted to do something for my friends, and the school as well. In serving the school, you really need to keep your ears on the ground and listen out to what the students are actually saying. Having a very supportive group of friends who are not afraid to tell me when I am going off track or not fulfilling my promises is actually very helpful, because then in that way I will know whether I am truly fulfilling my original intentions of joining Council.
M: At the start of the year, one of my OG mates asked me a very interesting question. He asked me “how disillusioned are you?” I think he used a very interesting word as it symbolizes how the student body may feel, since Councillors, firstly, don’t have that much time in RJ — we only have less than a year. Secondly, that during this campaign process the school doesn’t have enough time to know us through three days, even though we try to reach out to them on many platforms. But still they feel that they cannot know us well as a person. In this case, I feel that it is very hard for us to guarantee that the student body will trust us in doing what we can, but at the same time we are here to make a promise to them freely and I think this promise also goes in our personal reflections throughout our journey in Council. So I hope that throughout this journey in Council, we constantly think about how much we have done and how much we can do better. And we repeat this process over and over again to make sure we are on the right track. We cannot guarantee that they will think like this now, but we hope that at the end of our term, they will think “yes, we have done something for the school”.
P: What do you think the Rafflesian spirit means, and what do you think the current state of the Rafflesian spirit is?
F: For me the first thought that came to mind when you said “Rafflesian spirit” was the part of Rafblood: “pride, passion, soul, and speed”. The Rafflesian spirit is an intangible thing that binds all of us, and to me it comes out more strongly when we are out there competing against other people and being bonded by this common sense that we are all Rafflesians. It truly shows when we are cheering for our friends and knowing that our friends are working hard for us, and in the same way we give back our support through cheering for them.
As for the state of our Rafflesian spirit, I feel that it is quite inconsistent. As a sportsperson, the strongest time that I feel the Rafflesian spirit is when I’m out there competing for my school. So I feel that it is something Council can really work on: to bring the Rafflesian spirit into our daily lives and to have this sense of family in our school more consistently.
E: I think the Rafflesian spirit is this common identity that all Rafflesians share. It binds us together and gives us a sense of pride in our school and our identity. I shall not repeat what I think because it’s very similar to what she said. To me, the Rafflesian spirit is currently very achievement-based. You see it exemplified most during match support and competitions when we cheer and support our batchmates who are out there fighting for Raffles. But I don’t think the Rafflesian spirit should just be confined to such achievements and competitive sporting events. I think it’s very important for the Rafflesian spirit to be cultivated in our everyday lives, like what Freda said, and this can be shown through support for our friends in anything that they do, or any efforts that they want to pursue. The Rafflesian spirit can also be built upon by common memories of harmony or sharing fun, or tough times together. It’s very important for us to realize that it doesn’t necessarily need to be competitive or sporting events, when we are competing against other schools, when we show this Rafflesian spirit off to the outside world.
The Rafflesian spirit should also exist within RI as an intrinsic feature; this thing that gives soul and life to our life in RI. So Council should focus more on what’s within the school, and at the same time build a bond up to establish the Rafflesian spirit that we demonstrate at the sporting events, as both are equally important.
M: I think once you mentioned the term “Rafflesian spirit”, plus currently it’s season time, many of us will start thinking of match support and all the rah-rah things. I hope that the state of Rafflesian spirit does not confine to just this time, but we also make sure that we have this kind of support and spirit for other communities in the school beyond sports, such as Performing arts, and those CCAs that participate in external competitions. They play a very big part in shaping how Raffles is like as a culture, and I just hope that this spirit can extend out to them also. Personally I believe that spirit comes from how you internally feel about the entire school. I remember when we first came to RJ, we were given a talk by the Principal, and he said one sentence that I really remember. It goes “how good a school is is not dependent on how other people view you, but it’s dependent on how much you feel you belong to the school” That to me is the kind of school spirit that we should be looking for in Raffles.
E: Adding on to what Ming Hui said, I think Mr Chan once said something that is very impactful: about how the school is not defined by our physical facilities, but defined by the people and the students who live and study in this place. And I think students are the greatest essence of RI because we are the ones who live life in this Institution and are the main contributors of Rafflesian spirit. Furthermore, I don’t think that the Rafflesian spirit should be confined to a temporal scale, in the sense that our identity as a Rafflesian should not be confined to this short 2 years that we spend in RI. It should transcend the school years that we have here, and the Rafflesian spirit should be something that sticks to us for a long time beyond our schooling years in RI. It should be something that we can identify with and represent us beyond graduation.
P: It is often said that every Rafflesian can be a leader. As the Presidents of the 35th Student’s Council, how will you ensure that every student can be a recognized leader in their own capacity?
M: We were discussing the Raffles Diploma in class, and people were questioning why there is a need for recognition in everything that we do. Why must it be recognized? I think that to be a leader, it depends on how you define your student leadership — whether you want to do it as something that you want to do be established in, and that is why you get recognized because you are in a position, or you want to do it in your own personal ways, when you yourself believe that you are already a leader in that specific way. I think that RI provides a lot of opportunities for people who are willing to advance and ready to stand up to that role, but I don’t think that it is the dream of every single Rafflesian to get recognized for leadership roles, as people have very different aspirations and not everyone desires to be recognized in their leadership role. It depends on how they want to define leadership in their own sense.
F: I agree a lot with what Ming Hui has said. Recognition shouldn’t be our main priority of being a leader, and I believe that there are in Raffles there are a lot of opportunities to be a leader other than being part of Student council or being a CCAL. You can be a CT Rep or your group leader in PW! All these little ways of being a leader are actually little ways of personal recognition; that you have this ability to step up. It really depends on whether you want to take on this responsibility of being a leader in your own capacity.
E: Regarding this question, I think that it is important for us to understand that leadership should not be confined to positions, and everyone can take up a leadership role in the everyday things that they do. It doesn’t have to be, say, you being a PW leader, as long as u take the initiative to do something and make a positive influence on the people around you and perhaps influence their decisions to do something great. For example, if you are walking with your friends along this road, and you see litter on the floor and you pick it up and someone picks another one up after you, then it shows that you have been successful in influencing the mindset of someone else and you can lead your peers in taking action to improve things around you.
P: Do you think all Councillors are altruistic?
F: I cannot guarantee that every Councillor is altruistic and there’s no way that we can actually determine or check whether every Councillor has pure intentions of joining Council to serve the student body. But looking at our batch and at our seniors, I believe that many of us, or rather majority of us in Council actually have that altruistic motive of serving the student body and this is really seen through the sacrifices that they make for the school. If you join Council just to get the position, it’s really going to be very tiring and it’s quite certain that you will burn out halfway. Being in Council is really a very demanding thing and I can see this even in the way that people are willing to sacrifice their own passions and second CCAs to serve Council wholeheartedly. This is something I really respect Councillors for.
P: So you are saying that if we didn’t recognize Councillors, all of you would still step up to serve?
F: I would like to believe that idea, but there’s no way that we can actually confirm that. I have faith in our batch, and that there are people in our batch who are truly genuine in their motives to join Council.
M: I know that whether all Councillors are altruistic is something that many people in the school wonder about and may be critical about in Council. Given such a large batch of 70 people, we cannot ensure that everyone has the ability to be altruistic throughout the entire Council term. But personally, I believe that throughout this journey, we will have a lot of opportunities to strengthen this kind of spirit through the interactions with other Councillors and through the seeing the potential successes that we have achieved. I know that many people in Council gain their confidence and sense of achievement through seeing the success of their work. While I really cannot guarantee that every single person in Council is altruistic in their means, what we can guarantee is that we will try to make sure that throughout our Council term, they will be given many opportunities to develop and hopefully this will stay with them throughout their Council term.
E: From what I have observed, my batch is generally genuine and really sincere about serving the school, but I can’t speak for the entire batch. I think that everyone has different needs. Some of them came into Council with a large vision in their minds to do something great or different for the school. Some of them just want to put a smile on their friends’ faces, and they gain that personal satisfaction from that. They feel that they’ve accomplished something by making the days of their friends; making them happier and enjoying school life. I’m not saying that they exist, but we also can’t deny that some of our Council batchmates come into Council with the motive of having a leadership position, and I think what’s important is for those with the extra huge reserve of energy to infect them with this same passion. Councillors’ jobs are something that is based on passion. It’s very tedious, and it requires a lot of dedication. Without this passion, it’s very easy for us to lose faith and the motivation to continue down this journey. So I think for those who may not be that strong-willed in the sense of contribution to the school, it’s very important for those who are clear of our genuine motives of improving school life for our friends, to support and influence them. This way, they can also understand that we should be genuinely interested in serving our friends and be shown the real value of doing so beyond just this leadership position.
Raffles Press wishes the Student Council’s presidential candidates the best of luck, and encourages our readers to make an informed choice and vote wisely. Should you require further information, the individual campaigns for the 3 President Elects and the 10 House Captain Elects can be found at: ristudentscouncil.com.