Address by PRI Mr Chan Poh Meng for 194th Founder's Day

News | 24 July 2017 Views: 1169

Address by PRI Mr Chan Poh Meng

Delivered by Mr Chan Poh Meng
Principal, Raffles Institution

22 July 2017

A very good morning to

Mr Wong Siew Hoong, Director-General, Education
Mr Choo Chiau Beng, Chairman of the Board of Governors
and Members of the Board,
Mrs Poh Mun See, Principal of Raffles Girls School,
Mr Fabian Yeo, Chairman of the Raffles Parents Association,
Deputy Principals,
Distinguished guests, teachers, parents, and fellow Rafflesians.


We celebrate and take pride in the many achievements of students and staff as reflected in the copy of the School Report in your possession. Permit me to highlight some of these achievements, as it traditionally falls to the principal to do so.

Holistic development, as embodied in the all-round academic, co-curricular and community outreach achievements of our students, continues to define our graduating Rafflesians as they take the next step into society. The Class of 2016 continues to uphold the Rafflesian tradition of academic excellence, with stellar results in the A-level Examinations.

Beyond academic achievements, we are particularly proud of Deanna See and Kelsie Tan, who exemplify the Rafflesian ideal of daring to try, and of putting our gifts in the service of a larger cause. Deanna, who’s in Year 6 this year, won a scholarship worth US$250,000 from a foundation funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. The Breakthrough Junior Challenge required participants to explain a difficult concept in Mathematics, Life Sciences or Physics with an original video. In her video, Deanna tackled the complex topic of antibiotic resistance using stop motion animation and her brother’s Lego figurines.

To make her video, Deanna had to research the complex topic of antibiotic resistance, which she had only briefly studied in class. Then she had to break the subject down into bite-sized pieces without sacrificing too much detail. The quirky 5-minute which she produced is truly a testament to her creativity and gift for storytelling.

Deanna’s prize also included a US$50,000 prize to a teacher of her choice, and a US$100,000 laboratory prize. Ms Wong Seok Hui, who teaches Deanna biology, has very kindly directed the amount to our school’s scholarship programme. Deanna has also nominated Raffles Girls’ School, her alma mater, to receive the US$100,000 lab prize.

In much the same vein, Kelsie, from the Class of 2016, was one of three winners of the 2017 HSBC/National Youth Achievement Award (NYAA) Youth Environmental Award. As part of her Eco-Lit programme, Kelsie wrote a book, A Tale of Two Cats, which aims to dispel public misconceptions about civet cats. For her efforts, Kelsie will be joining a seven-day research expedition to Costa Rica.

And we’re delighted that it’s not just our students who have been pushing boundaries. Nicole Kang, a Year 1-4 Literature teacher, has been in the news this year, with card games that she invented as a way of getting her students to go more deeply into character motivation in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. More recently, she’s collaborated with an alumnus, Ow Yeong Wai Kit, who’s teaching at Bukit Batok Secondary School, to extend the concept to Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club.

In CCAs, Rafflesians continue to keep the school flag flying in the face of tougher challenges and stiff competition.

In the area of sports, we attained 73 gold, silver and bronze medals across all 3 divisions in 2016, while the tally for 2017 as of July stands at 61. 987 Rafflesians were awarded the Singapore Sports Council’s Colours Awards, while 7 were honoured by the Singapore Schools Sports Council (SSSC) as Best Sportsboy/Girl in their respective sports.

Rugby has always had a strong following across many generations of Rafflesians who take a keen interest in how we do in the sport. This year, we broke an 11-year drought by winning the U-19 game of the Kiwi Cup with a score of 24-10. Both A and B Div teams also did us proud by qualifying for the finals this year, with the B Div team edging out St Andrews in the semis, and both teams playing excellent games that were all about determination, grace and sportsmanship in their finals.

In Fencing, Esther Lai from Year 5 won Singapore's first gold in the Asian Junior and Cadet Fencing Championships. She pulled off a 15-4 win over defending champion Miho Yoshimura, Japan’s top fencer and 16th in the World Junior Rankings, in the girls’ epee individual event.

We also heard many stories of grit and grace under pressure. Esther’s fellow athlete, Kiria Tikanah Abdul Rahman had suffered defeat in the same fencing competition, but bounced back three weeks later to win the Schools National A Division girls' individual Epee title.

Similarly, long jumper Toh Wei Yu had sprained his ankle a week before the A Division competition, but defied expectations to beat his competitors, winning Gold in the process.

It is not just individuals who have demonstrated this grit and grace, but whole groups of Rafflesians as well. As one example, Raffles Canoeing transformed itself into Raffles Dragon Boating, with the current Year 5s making up the first batch of the new Dragon Boating CCA. Despite being newbies, our boys team placed 5th, and our girls team came in 2nd. That process of transformation and trying is where the victory really lies. We celebrate their efforts and also the culture of support - despite this event taking place during the June holidays, many Rafflesians made the effort to turn up to support their friends.

Our uniformed groups deserve special mention too. The esprit de corps and self-discipline of our groups saw every UG attain the highest standard possible –a perfect score where our UGs are concerned. Both the 01 and 02 Scouts achieved the Frank Cooper Sands Award. The Boys Brigade picked up Gold for the JM Fraser Award for Excellence, as did the Red Cross, NPCC and National Cadet Corps. We congratulate these groups on the long hours they put in to maintain and improve their standards.

2017 has also been a banner year for us in the arts and aesthetics. Our Y1-4 Military Band, Guitar Ensemble, String Ensemble and Raffles Voices, as well as the Year 5-6 Indian Dance, Chinese Orchestra, Chorale, Modern Dance and Guitar Ensemble have all achieved Distinction at the Singapore Youth Festival, while the Raffles Players notched a Distinction with their play, ‘National Language Class’.

And, in September last year, the two Kum brothers, Chee Kiong and Chee Kin, from the Class of ’78, held a wonderful restaging of Art Rafflesian, an art exhibition featuring works from a whole spectrum of Rafflesian artists, here at our Raffles Archives and Museum.

I am also encouraged by the commitment with which Rafflesians serve the community. In 2016 alone, our students undertook 364 Values-In-Action projects. These numbers by themselves, however, do no justice to the conviction and care that our students put into their various efforts. Neither do they reflect the breadth and range of the community work that our students undertake.

In fact, there are many service efforts undertaken by our students that go unnoticed and unmentioned. Just to cite one example – some of our Year 5-6 Scouts have been quietly going to Crest Secondary since 2012, at the request of their principal, Mr Frederick Yeo, who asked for help in setting up a Scout unit there. Our senior Scouts liaise directly with their teacher-in-charge, and head to Crest Secondary every Monday, where they conduct lessons in basic scouting activities such as compass reading and the building of pioneering structures.

And earlier this year, I was delighted to find out about the Senior Tutoring and Mentoring Programme (STAMP), a project that was quietly begun by Justin Tan and a group of his friends. While interacting with his juniors during Malaysian Montage in 2014, Justin realised that while teachers had been giving more attention to students who were academically weak through remedial classes, there was a group of students who were not in the remediation class. He felt that these students would benefit greatly if some seniors could make the time to sit down with them for 1-to-1 guidance.

Eventually, Justin and his friends formed a group of about 30 students to help with these sessions.

Here’s what one of the founding members, Sean Ong, said about what drew him to help with STAMP: 'We don't get CIP/VIA points, and to be honest that has never been something we've used to sell the programme to potential tutors. In a way, that keeps the intentions of the programme pure in a sense, and in a real way, the fabric of the school is strengthened. Younger Rafflesians have respect for their seniors, and when they see their seniors coming to help them, it adds that extra layer of comfort. At times, the students we tutor don’t need extra academic help. Rather, they just need someone to sit down with them and show some tangible commitment to them.'



In many of the stories that I’ve shared with you in this School Report – Kelsie, Deanna, Nicole, Wei Yu, the Kum brothers, Justin and Sean - we see how Rafflesians are animated and impelled by a strong sense of purpose, by something bigger than themselves.

The need for this sense of purpose is something which I have mentioned on various occasions over the last two years. I want to continue to exhort all Rafflesians to seek out purpose and meaning in their various endeavours. When we find what the British writer and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, calls our ‘why’, our sense of purpose, then things like VIA hours and setbacks and rejections – these things fade into insignificance, and we become much clearer about what truly matters to us and what we want to be driven by.

This year, my challenge for Rafflesians is not just for you to find your ‘why’, because I am sure that even if you haven’t already found it, you will do so in the years ahead. My challenge for you is not to stop when you find your reason for being, but to go on and to help others who may not have the same set of life chances that you have had, find their why and discover their sense of calling and purpose in life.

This Founder’s Day, let us renew our commitment as a school, to becoming the hope of a better age, a hope that lies in creating and discovering a sense of purpose for ourselves and for others. Auspicium Melioris Aevi.

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