SPORTS and leadership development stand out prominently in the holistic education provided by St Joseph’s Institution (SJI), ranked one of the oldest and outstanding academic schools in Singapore.
The opening of the SJI Heritage Gallery at Malcolm Road on Wednesday marks a special auspicious step in the education landscape where there’s a very strong emphasis on character formation and leadership evolution.
Significantly, one of the oldest La Salle Brothers, Brother Gregory Lim at 95 years, symbolically rang the big brass bell to inaugurate the gallery which will showcase the importance of history and heritage at the first missionary establishment of the Christian Brothers in the Far East.
The 1852-founded institution (originally known as St John’s Institution) has over 167 years produced luminaries from politicians to scientists, military and law enforcement officers, lawyers and doctors and exemplary stalwarts in sports and social services.
As a Josephian from the ‘Class of 1973’ (from the previous campus at Bras Basah Road), I could feel the goosebumps as I walked along the corridors of Malcolm Road as SJI has always been an education role-model, where students acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and dispositions that will prepare them well for post-secondary education and the future.
But more poignantly, to live a meaningful life driven by passion in the service for others.
Never always at the higher-end meritocratic race in consistently topping on academic excellence but in diligently shaping the character and values in an active learning environment, and celebrating the service, spirituality, diversity and inclusiveness.
I stood tall as a Josephian, feeling rooted in the traditions of the De La Salle Brothers, who believe in “Missio 1852” (in Latin, Mission 1952, the appropriate name for the newly-minted heritage gallery).
SJI principal Rev Father (Dr) Adrian Augustus Danker said it took close to 12 months to fit in the heritage element into the new-core of modern-day education. The gallery, named ‘Missio 1852’ is in commemoration of Singapore’s bicentennial year and the Tercentenary of the Founder St John Baptist de La Salle.
For Josephians, from teenagers to senior citizens, it’s like a dream-come-true: It showcases 167 years of Josephian history and Lasallian heritage, tradition and community in Singapore. This project is rightly supported by the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Bicentennial Office.
Father Danker believes that the museum will be another iconic feather-in-the-cap for the younger generation to learn and appreciate that education that is devoid of the cultures of the people in the society is empty and incomplete.
PEOPLE OF INTEGRITY
An alumnus from ‘Class of 1981’, Father Danker says: “‘Missio’ is the Latin word for ‘mission’. Being the first Catholic school founded in Singapore, we have chosen this name to remember our beginnings, to celebrate our school and to continue believing in the Catholic, Lasallian education that SJI provides for all Josephians to become people of integrity and people for others.”
In his mind, one of the fundamental objectives of the gallery is to educate, and even entertain, the capacity and the ability to impart SJI-branded cultural education effectively as it houses the tools and materials for doing so in its exemplary collections.
I agree with Father Danker as in modern society, the gallerys enrich the educational process by exposing children and indeed the public to their history in a positive way. Significantly, they assist our future generations to understand and appreciate their history and culture and take pride in the achievements of their fore-bearers.
Rev Brother Michael Broughton, from my ‘Class of 1973’ who went on to be the former Deputy Principal at SJI at Malcolm Road and now Executive Director for Lasallian Leadership Formation & Accompaniment at the De La Salle Medical & Health Sciences Institute in Cavite, Philippines, says matter-of-factly: “As Singapore turns 54, it is a privilege to belong to an institution like SJI that predates our nation by more than a century. Remembering and celebrating our history blesses our present and contributes to our confidence in facing our future.”
Josephian parents, too, gave the thumbs-up. “I’m very impressed with the SJI Heritage Museum,” says property manager Janet Leong, 43, whose son is in Secondary Two. “Gallerys possess materials and information that can and should be used in enriching and improving the school curriculum in various disciplines.
“What is important is for the educational planners to work closely with gallery experts on how the educational resources that are available in the gallery can be integrated into the curriculum and the learning process at all levels. I believe the gallery should even develop educational programmes for the various tiers of the school system, namely, primary schools, secondary schools, even teacher training colleges, among others.”
Another parent, Richard Beng, 49, a developer and former Josephian, says a “properly articulated gallery-education programme will become an essential component in the overall educational system of society”.
RISING TO NATIONAL STATUS
I recollect, after graduating in 1973, and my only son Sanjay’s continuing education in the 1990s, how SJI has made mammoth progress. From 2013, SJI offered a dual track education comprising the ‘O’-level Programme (OP) and the Integrated Programme (IP) track. The IP track which leads to the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme (IBDP) integrates the four-year secondary education with a two-year IBDP, where IP students can proceed onto the two-year IBDP without the need to complete the GCE ‘O’ level examinations at the end of their fourth year.
Rising to national status, in 2008, the school was re-validated with the Singapore Quality Class Award, obtained, for the second time, the Best Practice Award (Teaching and Learning) and attained the Best Practice Award (Student All-Round Development) in the MOE External Validation exercise. SJI also received consecutive Sustained Achievement Awards in Academic Value-Added, Sports, Uniformed Groups and Fitness.
Perhaps one of the icings on the cake came in 2009, when SJI was recognised by the government with a pinnacle award: The School of Excellence Award. The School Excellence Award (SEA) recognises schools for their excellence in both education processes and outcomes. It is the highest and most prestigious award in the Masterplan of Awards framework in Ministry of Education.
For over 167 years, SJI has nurtured thousands of men and women who have served the society locally and globally. This Heritage Gallery now perfectly celebrates the contributions and achievements of the school and of these alumni who have served the society in different ways throughout the century.
Mrs Nevina Ho, Head, SJI Heritage gallery project, says: “Missio 1852 will be an avenue for all Josephians to learn about the history, developments and milestones achieved by the school, where they can situate themselves within the SJI story and develop an appreciation of the SJI education for the present and future.”
Melbourne-based hockey striker Nantha Kumar is looking forward to visit the Heritage Gallery on his next upcoming trip. He says: “I’ve thrived by the holistic SJI principles, founded by the De La Salle Brothers, whose unending mission has been to nurture students to learn and even to learn how to live, so that they can be empowered to grow into men (and even women) of integrity and dignity.”
He was one of six Josephians who starred in the 1973 SEAP (South-east Asia Peninsular) Games hockey gold-medal winning team – the first and only time – which turned the tables on overwhelming favourites Malaysia with a 2-0 win. The others were Arul Subramaniam (Vice-captain), Gerard De Cruz, Keith Kleinman, Farleigh Clarke and Ng Hoi Kah.
Nantha, who migrated to Mooroolbark, Melbourne, in the mid-1980s, adds: “We had dedicated hockey teachers like Peter Martens and Peter Colaco who nurtured hundreds of Josephians to be hockey stalwarts from SJI to Singapore Recreation Club (SRC) and the national team. It’s a rare sporting privilege that sums up some of the holistic Josephian principles. I will forever be grateful.”
Ready for a Malcolm Road visit? In a nutshell the Heritage Gallery features:
- Profiles of distinguished Josephians: Thousands of illustrious personalities who have graduated from the gates and halls of SJI since 1852. Amongst them include the Seventh President Dr Tony Tan, Teo Chee Hean (Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security), former Cabinet Ministers George Yeo and Mah Bow Tan, Mr Philip Yeo, Prof Leo Tan Wee Hin, Prof Jeremy Monteiro, Justice Chan Seng Onn, Rudy Mosbergen and Tan Eng Yoon.
- The Brothers’ Logbook: The La Salle Brothers meticulously kept annual logbooks, detailing notable events like inter-school competitions, important visitors to the school, spiritual bouquets and civics group meetings.
- The Founder’s Banner: As part of the emphasis on rituals and symbolism, this Founder’s banner was frequently used in events like the celebration of the apparition of our Lady of Fatimah in the 1950s.
- Grandfather Clock of Japanese Occupation era: This absolutely antique clock once stood on the verandah of the Brothers’ House and called all therein to prayers and class. During World War II, shrapnel damaged the clock and the marks have been preserved in its restoration. Holes on both sides indicated where shrapnel entered the clock, hit the back of the pendulum and exited on the opposite side.
If you’re part of the holistic Josephian family, you’re welcome to visit Missio 1852 during school hours during term time. Specially to celebrate the opening of the Heritage Gallery, SJI alumni members are invited for special previews on three Saturdays: 17, 24 and 31 August 2019, from 10 am to 2 pm. (Visit www.sji.edu.sg for details) – SURESH NAIR
- Suresh Nair is a Singapore-based journalist who stands tall as a Josephian from the Bras Basah Road Campus and graduated from the ‘Class of 1973’. He passionately upholds the SJI motto: Ora et Labora (Pray and Work)