Year 1 junior college (JC) students across Singapore started school on Monday, and dived straight into orientation activities.
But for several JCs, these activities were different this year.
Over at Innova JC (IJC) and Yishun JC (YJC), the Year 2 presidents of the schools’ student leader bodies – Ang Ying Xuan and So Ee Cheng respectively – helped to run a joint orientation programme.
The two JCs are merging next year due to a falling number of students getting enrolled – a result of Singapore’s declining birth rate.
The merged JC, called Yishun Innova JC, will be at YJC’s current location.
To facilitate the transition to a merged school, IJC, which is moving out of its premises, will not have a Year 1 intake this year.
So the Year 2 students from both JCs came together to organise a combined orientation programme for YJC’s Year 1 students, to give the Year 2 IJC students a chance to plan and facilitate activities for a junior batch.
Said Ying Xuan about planning for the joint orientation: “We had some disagreements as both sides wanted things to be done in a certain way.
“Everyone wanted to have their school’s identity represented, especially in a merged JC.
“In the end, we learnt to compromise and talk things out.”
The orientation activities at YJC will last till next Wednesday.
The other JC pairs that will be merged are Anderson JC and Serangoon JC, Pioneer JC and Jurong JC, and Meridian JC and Tampines JC.
They also had joint orientation activities for similar reasons.
There was much discussion on what the merged schools would be called.
Last month, the names of the merged schools were announced.
At the time, the Ministry of Education said JC principals had discussed this in the past year with alumni associations, students, past and present staff and school advisory committees.
A total of 180 Year 2 students from IJC and YJC are involved in this year’s joint orientation programme.
They first touched base in August last year, meeting twice to get to know one another better and get used to working together.
The students began planning for the programme in November.
At that time, 57 of the student leaders went to Hong Kong for a study trip, to learn about its housing and political system. It also gave them a chance to bond.
Said Ee Cheng: “The theme (of the joint orientation) was decided during the seven-day Hong Kong trip, in which the student leaders came together and voted. We eventually settled on ‘Evolution’.”
Ms Magdalene Tan, IJC’s head of department for character and citizenship education, said each student shared a room with a peer from the other school to break the ice.
“Initially, some of them preferred to room with someone they were familiar with.
“But we convinced them to be open-minded and by the end of the trip, some of them were actually thankful for the arrangement,” said Ms Tan.
The traditional orientation houses of both schools, which students are sorted into, have also been merged based on their colours.
For example, the red house in YJC is Admiralty and in IJC, it is Taurus. They were merged to form Admiralty-Taurus.
“We had to decide if we wanted to create totally new names, or to combine the existing ones.
“We chose to combine them, so as to retain the culture of both schools,” said Ee Cheng.
She added that coming up with completely new names would have involved “a lot more creativity and compromise”, and might attract criticism.
The logo for the orientation is also made up of totems, that come together to form “Y” and “I” to represent the initials of both schools.
Said YJC art teacher Abdul Hadi Abdul Wahab, 28: “All these small things matter.
“From the new house names to the creation of new house cheers together, they make a difference in helping the students bond.”
The joint orientation programme includes playing games, learning a mass dance, taking part in a treasure hunt styled after reality show The Amazing Race and a day-long adventure camp with activities such as kayaking.
“The Amazing Race will be longer this year, as it will cover an expanded area stretching between IJC and YJC,” explained Mr Karthikesan Kumar, 31, the subject head of physical education and co-curricular activities at YJC.
There will also be a session for the students to learn coding as part of a digital literacy programme, a niche programme under IJC which will be carried on in the new merged school, he added.