Clarification: Raffles Junior College has clarified with TOC that the dialogue was initiated by the school’s administration, and not by the students. TOC will be publishing an interview with the principal, Mrs Lim Lai Cheng, at a later date.
Displeased with the planned merger of Raffles Institution (RI) and Raffles Junior College (RJC) next year, students are raising their objections on the Internet.
Also, a dialogue session with current RJC principal Mrs Lim Lai Cheng - scheduled to be held on 15 November - will be arranged by students to allow both sides to air their views. Late last month, the same student organisers from RJC met Mrs Lim to table the student body's concerns and displeasure over the merger.
This unease has led to the setting up of three groups on social networking site, Facebook. They express strong resentment for the merger and wish that students "will be given more say in the running of the school”. (See here, here and here.)
The largest of the three groups has attracted more than 2,000 students so far.
It was announced on 13 October that RI and RJC will merge into a single entity and be called Raffles Institution. RI will be known as Raffles Institution (Secondary) while RJC will become Raffles Institution (Junior College).
Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) will not be subsumed under the same institution but will continue to work closely with the merged schools.
Speaking to students and alumni of both institutions, some of the unhappiness stemmed from both the possible impact of the merger and the lack of consultation with the student body. As parties who will be directly affected, they felt that their opinions should have been sought first.
Mr Andrew Foo, a 20-year-old RI alumnus, is not optimistic. He felt that even if the school had sought the students ' opinions first, “it would not have changed anything”. Furthermore, the only effect of an earlier announcement would be lesser backlash from students and concerned parents, he said.
Another alumnus, 21-year-old Melvin Lam - who is neutral about the merger, thought that if the school had first consulted with the students, many things could have been done to stop it.
Though he does not object to the merger, he does not see the reason behind it if the schools are only going to merge on the administrative level. He is, however, vehemently opposed to the change in name. He suggests a compromise - a merge but retention of the original names of each school.
“It doesn’t make sense. What is Raffles Secondary? It just spoils the heritage of our school, and there’s no more identity,” he said.
Mr Daniel Lim, Corporate Communications Manager for RJC, explained that the name 'Raffles Institution' will be reflective of the future long-term collaboration between the two schools.
Aside from its historical and cultural significance, the name was also retained because it is recognised internationally, and this is in keeping with the Raffles vision of taking the school beyond Singapore.
The ‘Secondary’ and “Junior College’ tags are to distinguish the schools for administrative purposes, said Mr Lim.
He added that the school will have no qualms about RI boys calling themselves their namesake and that the RJC students are equally free to address themselves as RJC students.
However, ex-RGS and RJC student Venetia Lee, who is 19, said she does not understand why the schools have to merge. “As it is, RI and RJC are already sharing a lot of facilities," she said.
The greatest concern amongst student, - past and present - is the clash of culture between both schools. Both Venetia and Andrew agreed that the culture in a boy's school is distinctly different from that of a junior college.
Mr Foo explained that an all boys' school has a distinctly different atmosphere from a co-ed junior college. Not only are the age groups different, the boys from RI will also have to learn how to react to their female seniors in RJC.
Miss Lee said the worst part is the plan to change the school song. She feels that changing the lyrics from 'sons of Singapore' to 'youths of Singapore' would erode their strong culture.
A current RI student, who declined to be named, noted that the merger has its merits.
He explained that the merger would translate into a smoother curriculum plan for the Raffles Programme.
He also said that the combined funds of both institutions will mean that more money is available to procure newer and better facilities that will benefit students of both schools.
Despite all the concerns about a possible merger, he said that he has no plans to leave the Raffles Programme.
“My friends will all be here anyway, and that's the most important thing,” he said.
Cassandra Eng is a first-year student at Wee Kim Wee School of Communication & Information (WKWSCI).