For many of us, we’ve never had to say goodbye to our schools. They were there when we enrolled. They were there when we graduated. And they were there every September 1, when we visited the teachers who made us the people we are today. But soon, some of them will disappear, leaving only memories.

Faced with a declining student population, the Ministry of Education (MOE) announced in 2017 that schools will be merged to keep their sizes feasible.

In the largest merger exercise yet, 14 pairs of schools will combine by 2019. For the first time, this includes junior colleges.

Join Merged, an interactive documentary detailing Tampines Junior College’s last goodbye — before it merges with Meridian Junior College to become Tampines Meridian Junior College.

These are its final days.

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Perhaps the favourite place of all students — the canteen. Where else can you find chicken rice and handmade noodles for $2?

We speak to Vince Ang, who mans the ban mian stall in Tampines JC. He dished out stories about friendships with students, fellow vendors and challenges he faced at work.

Next Order of Business

After the last batch of students graduate in December, the closure of four JCs will leave some jobless, and without clear direction for where to go next. Most canteen vendors are still looking for similar positions in other schools, or positions in F&B, preferring to remain in the industry due to familiarity and experience.

Canteens are a place for laughter and relaxation. But these days, the mood in the Tampines JC canteen is a little quieter.

Like Vince, most of the vendors do not have ‘A’ Level certificates. In Singapore where the paper chase is dire, this limits where they can go after the college closes.

And the vendors are already feeling the pinch. A reduced student population means their earnings are starved, with fewer students patronising their stalls.

While many of us have probably forgotten about Newton’s Laws, we can definitely recall the canteen food we used to eat. It will always hold a special place in our hearts, and stomachs. In this photo series, we speak to canteen vendors from Tampines JC, where we asked them about the students, their time with the school and their future plans.

What was your favourite canteen food?

Fruit Garden

Before she moved from Guangzhou to Singapore, Lin Hui Juan, 48, trained in floral arrangement. She tried giving chinese language tuition, but found dealing with parents’ expectations stressful. She now tends the fruit stall in Tampines JC where she enjoys the relaxed environment.

Quench!

Judy Teo, 56, is the resident drinks and snack aunty. While she does not drink coffee herself, after five years of making coffee at Tampines JC, she brews a consistently good cuppa without fail.

Chicken Paradise

Toh Ah Hoon, 55, started selling mixed vegetable rice in Tampines JC and switched to selling chicken rice when the former owner left. She has been with the college since 2007, and has no plans to stop working after the closure as she still has to fund her daughter’s undergraduate studies.

Noodle Hut

Lim Beng Lai, 65, has been with Tampines JC for 15 years. As the college’s longest-serving vendor, he and his wife serve up a variety of noodle dishes, including minced meat noodles, laksa, curry noodles and his most popular dish, prawn noodles.

Chinese Wok

The owner of the mixed vegetable rice stall, owner Koh Song Hwee, 60, needs only five minutes to travel from home to school. She will move to Victoria JC after the closure, and will miss the convenience of working at Tampines JC. Her new workplace is at least 20 minutes away from her home.

Vegeland

A real estate agent by training, Vince Ang is the youngest vendor in Tampines JC. He started out helping his aunt, who sold ban mian in the school. After she moved to Victoria JC, she shared her recipe with Vince. He then started selling the dish at his Yong Tau Foo stall to cater to student demands.

West Kingdom

Zaiton Binte Sirat, 58, has served halal Western food at Tampines JC for the past nine years. She is sad to leave, and hopes to continue working in a canteen near Pasir Ris, where she lives.

Lemak corner

Following in her mother’s footstep, Noliza Bte Hussein, 49, became a canteen vendor three years ago. The former childcare supervisor said she switched jobs as it gave her more time to look after her son, who is now in primary school. When Tampines JC closes, she will work with her husband at his renovation company.

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The school bells ring and you’ve been ushered back to class. First lesson? Art! Here, you’ll meet maestro Mrs Mary Choo, a retired art tutor from TPJC and find out how Junior Colleges first started!

The Beginning

“Every place, every junior college has got something to fulfill,” said Mrs Mary Choo.

Grooming future leaders was the primary function of the junior college (JC) system. In 1970, National JC became the nation’s first standardised pre-university school. Using infrastructure left behind by the British Armed Forces, National JC saw its first intake of students that year.

Back then, “brightest students based on academic merit, sound extracurricular activities (ECA) record and strong sense of social discipline and loyalty to Singapore” were selected through admission interviews, according to a 1970 article by The Straits Times.

Today, all you need to enter National Junior College is a secondary school leaving certificate, with an ‘O’ Level aggregate score of 8 points and under.

The curriculum was also designed to provide a more well-rounded education, comprising lectures, tutorials and Co-Curricular Activities. JC lessons mirrored that of universities to ease students into further studies.

Tampines JC was the 13th JC to open in Singapore. It accepted its first batch of students in April 1986, with lessons held at Tampines Primary School before moving in to its current premises in December 1986. The college occupied six hectares of land and costs approximately 18.2 million dollars. The college received the Best Designed College Building Award for 1988.

Extra-credit readings: 3 things you need to know about our education system Read more »
  1. Junior College

    After ‘O’ Levels, students can proceed to either Polytechnics or JCs. In Singapore, JCs are equivalent to sixth form colleges in the United Kingdom, or Grade 10 to 12 in the United States. Students enter using their scores from the secondary school-leaving examination, known as the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) or GCE ‘O’ Level examinations.

    After two years in JC, students will sit for yet another round of tests — the GCE ‘A’ Level examinations — where their scores help them qualify for universities. In the past, secondary schools offered both 'O' and 'A' Level subjects. Students studying for the 'A' Levels were known as the ‘pre-university’ class.

  2. Cut-off points

    For entry to JCs, an aggregate score known as the L1R5 (one language and five relevant subjects) is calculated by adding the grades of six subjects. For example, if a student scores an A1 in Biology, that subject counts for one point. The best possible L1R5 score is six, before deductions of bonus points from co-curricular activities.

    JC Cut-Off Points 2017
    InstitutionArtsScience
    Hwa Chong Institution44
    Raffles Institution44
    Victoria Junior College75
    Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) ACSI-5
    Nanyang Junior College76
    National Junior College76
    Anglo Chinese Junior College87
    St Joseph Institution-7
    Eunoia Junior College99
    Temasek Junior College99
    St. Andrew’s Junior College109
    Anderson Junior College119
    Catholic Junior College1011
    Meridian Junior College1111
    Serangoon Junior College1312
    Pioneer Junior College1312
    Tampines Junior College1314
    Jurong Junior College1515
    Yishun Junior College1716
    Innova Junior College1920
  3. Singapore’s education system is ranked one of the best in the world.

    According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), Singapore topped three categories in 2016 — reading, mathematics and science.

    The study, which is conducted by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) once every three years, is based on tests taken by 15-year-olds in over 70 countries.

Tampines JC has come a long way since the beginning, after 30 batches of students.

What you just watched was the school’s final homecoming event in March 2018, where alumni visited the school one last time.

Up next is a collection of archival photos discovered in the art room of Tampines JC. Spot any differences throughout the years?

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  • Tampines JC Field, 1995

  • Teachers’ Day Celebration, 1995

  • Teachers’ Day Celebration, 1995

  • Students painting mural, undated

  • Sports Day, 1995

  • Sports Day, 1995

  • Unknown Celebration, 1995

  • Silhouette of HDBs from TPJC, 1995

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Two schools, two traditions, two student leadership groups.
One orientation camp.

Do you remember the first time you stepped into your school hall? What was it like?

Moving On

Meridian JC, Tampines JC’s partner school, opened its doors in 2003. Meridian has worked its way up the rankings — its school-entry requirement score improved from 18 points in 2013 to 11 in 2016. The new Tampines Meridian JC will occupy Meridian JC’s original campus.

The government’s plan for the merged schools is to “encompass the identities, strengths and cherished distinctiveness” of the two student bodies. The histories and cultures of the two schools will be documented within a heritage space in the merged school’s campus.

According to MOE, they decided on the new names after considering factors such as the schools’ history and heritage, enrolments, as well as stakeholders’ interests and the sentiments of all schools involved.

In light of the merger, Tampines JC did not take in students in 2018. The two schools will come together to co-organise a brand new orientation camp for JC1 students of the new Tampines Meridian JC. New school, new faces, new culture

JC1 students and seniors gather on Meridian JC's field for a final cheer after the end of the orientation camp.

These photos were taken by JC1 Tampines Meridian students during their orientation camp in February 2018.

Close to 900 JC1 students participated in the orientation, which was held across 2 venues — Tampines JC and Meridian JC.

Merged provided the students with disposable cameras to capture memories of this unique, combined orientation.

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  • While Tampines Meridian JC will be located at Meridian JC’s original campus, the organising committee decided to hold one day of the orientation camp at Tampines JC to allow students to get to know the place.

  • JC1 students playing station games in the school hall of Tampines JC.

  • Students posing for a photo on a stage — or the “Titanic”, known for its view facing the field.

  • Bouldering wall at Tampines JC.

  • Day 3 at East Coast Park.

  • The soon-to-be Tampines Meridian JC.

  • Orientation group bonding session at Meridian JC.

  • Students at Meridian JC.

  • Finale night in the school hall of Meridian JC.

  • The finale night saw a range of performances and house cheers to mark the end of the four-day orientation programme.

  • A final cheer.

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The final school bell rings. Lessons are over, and it’s time to hit the field for CCA. The mergers left many clubs with only two choices — disband or find new members. Find out how Tampines JC’s female soccer team rose to the challenge.

Baby Drought

Singapore’s population is declining.

Birth rates are falling, and student enrolments rates are at its lowest.

MOE predicted JC enrolment will fall by about 3200 students between 2010 and 2019, and this downward trend is expected to continue. As a result, school mergers are “necessary”, said the Ministry.

The rapidly declining cohort raises a few key issues: limited subject combinations, fewer educational programs and the forced closure of certain CCAs.

Intake for Tampines JC has stopped. With no new students, there will be no new CCA members, and some clubs are finding it hard to qualify for national competitions.

But these students show no signs of giving up. They may be small in number, but they are big on passion. Talking to them, Tampines JC’s motto comes to mind: Aim and Achieve.

The following are group portraits from a few CCAs. The teams are usually double the size.

Extra-credit readings: What are CCAs? Read more »
  1. Co-curricular activities

    Co-curricular activities (CCAs) are non-academic activities that all students must participate in. MOE said they introduced this policy to enhance social interaction, leadership, healthy recreation, self-discipline and self-confidence.

    In 1995, MOE developed a system to account for ECA scores when applying to JCs and polytechnics. In 2003, the admission criteria of the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University were also revised to include CCA points earned by applicants from JCs and polytechnics, as well as from National Service.

  2. Direct School Admission

    The Direct School Admission (DSA) programme enables students to enter JCs based on their sporting, artistic talents and/or achievements outside of examinations that may not be demonstrated at the GCE ‘O’ Level Examination.

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Choir

Tampines JC’s choir holds regular performances on Open House, CCA Exhibition Day and College Day. They pride themselves in being more than a choral group, but “a family united by their passion for choral music excellence”. For the choristers, the JC2 farewell is most memorable. This last batch of graduating students may not experience the same journey as their seniors, but they share the same drive to bring glory to the school.

Basketball

After one of its players withdrew from Tampines JC to enter a polytechnic, the basketball team is down to nine players. Although the strength of the team meets the minimum criteria for 'A' division competitions, they felt the need to bring in three more teammates so they could perform at maximum capacity. They persuaded their friends from other CCAs to join them.

Hover for more

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Softball

The softball team placed fourth in the ‘A’ division games in 2017. In 2018, they almost did not compete due to insufficient number of players. They eventually managed to form a team of 11 after persuading friends to join them.

Concert Band

Tampines JC’s concert band used to have about 30 members. But with only one batch of around 20 students left in the concert band, there are limits to what they can perform. The team has to select pieces arranged for smaller bands and get students from other CCAs to play together.

Hover for more

Hover for more

Floorball

With only seven players, the original team could not even form two lines on the pitch. But the team persisted in looking for more players to qualify for 2018’s ‘A’ division games. After three months, they managed to recruit another eight members.

Guitar Ensemble

The guitar ensemble now has 24 members, down from 33 last year. Unlike the other performing arts CCAs, the team does not face any difficulties as they do not need large numbers to perform.

Hover for more

Hover for more

Rock Climbing

The boys team won the overall title for the annual ‘A’ Division Climbing Competition in 2017. Two members of the team finished 1st and 3rd. One female climber also finished 2nd in an individual event.

For some, choosing which JC to apply for is straightforward — grades are all that matter. And then there are people like Khidir, who sees Tampines JC as part of the neighbourhood’s identity that he longs for.

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Leaving already? Don’t forget to take one last look around before the school closes.

Join Rahmat and his friends, custodians of the school, as they lock up the JC one last time.

Apart from the four closing JCs, 20 other schools will be paired and merged, closing a total of 14 school compounds.

Singaporeans are no strangers to change. In early 2018, Singapore saw a slew of en bloc attempts, starting with the successful sale of Pearl Bank Apartments. More are expected to follow. In recent years, we have also seen the closure of Rochor Centre, Dakota Crescent, Sungei Road Thieves Market and other sites that have long histories.

These post-independence buildings were a reflection of the new nation’s hopes and dreams. Even if they are listed for conservation, the preservation schemes in Singapore do not restrict any government policies. As seen from Rochor Centre, the government can easily grant permission for construction works or delist properties from the registry.

Change arrives quickly in our small city-state. Renewal, gentrification and urban redevelopment are common. The building across your street may not be there in a decade’s time. When these structures are torn down, there will be nothing to remind us of them, except the memories of people who lived or worked there.

For Tampines JC, these people include the custodians of the college, like Rahmat Bin Mohd Zaini, 65, who could probably walk around the campus with his eyes closed.

They are the unsung heroes who are first to arrive and last to leave. From unlocking the school gates to cleaning up after school events, they’ve done it all.

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  • Tampines JC held its last Lunar New Year celebrations in February 2018. Students and staff gathered in the school hall to toss “yusheng”, a symbol of prosperity.

  • Students and staff only had one to two hours of lessons on the half-day event. Remaining students worked together to pack up the tables used.

  • Rahmat and his fellow custodians’ duties include setting up for and packing up after these school events.

  • The custodians also clean the school field and sports facilities.

  • Other miscellaneous tasks include packing care packages and examination packs for graduating students.

  • These packs contain scholarship and university pamphlets to help students better understand their higher education options.

To help preserve these memories, here are the nine custodians of Tampines JC - each in charge of a particular area of the school compound. See them in their element one last time.

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  • Cleaning supervisor Rahmat oversees the cleaning team in the college. He is also in charge of the cafe and canteen areas.

  • Block B, Level 3 - Saniyah Mangis

  • Field - Salehudin Ederis

  • Block E, Level 2 - Asnah Nordin

  • Block B, Level 2 - Zahrah Md Said

  • Auditorium – Hamida Saleh

  • Hall - Rohana Mustajab

  • Carpark, Basketball Court - Ithnin Abu Bakar

  • Block E, Level 1 - Tay Tjung Hwe

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Merged is an interactive documentary about Singapore’s biggest school merger so far.

When we first decided on this topic, each of us wanted to cover different aspects of it. It struck us that everyone has their own formative, personal journey in their schooling years.

We hope that the various stories in Merged will take you through that same personal journey from when you were schooling.

Our team comprises Kai Yuan, Matthew, Wenqi and Yang Yi, four undergraduates who, despite taking different paths, have gone through the Junior College system at some point.

It all started when Kai Yuan was looking through social media conversations sparked by the merger announcement back in April 2017. The sudden outpouring of resignation and sentimentality came as a surprise, as many mourned the loss of their schools on social media. While he admits that his best schooling days were not from Tampines JC, Kai Yuan still has fond memories of the college, and shared that he felt threatened by its imminent disappearance and resulting loss of identity.

As media students, we felt there was a need to document this phenomenon, and use this opportunity as a window into the bigger education landscape and some of the problems that strain our rapidly developing city-state.

This is our testament of a school in its last days, through the eyes of various stakeholders.

While you may or may not be related to this school, we hope you will follow us on this journey and look beyond the memories we leave behind.

This is a Final-Year Project from the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The project is supported by The Future of Our Pasts: History Reimagined, a programme organised by Yale-NUS College.

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Team

Content and concept:
Ng Kai Yuan, Matthew Chew, Cheah Wenqi, Tan Yang Yi

Motion Graphics:
Ian Nale

Branding and Web by:
Alfred Lau & Drusilla Ng of Sulphur Creative

Project Supervisor:
Nikki Draper

Gratitude

Our families for being understanding and supportive throughout the course of our project. Ms Pamela Yoong, Mr Tan Eng Poh, Ms Chong Keting and Mr Toh Jin Tian from Tampines Junior College and Mr Lim Yan Hock and Mrs Sze Chai Ju from Meridian Junior College.

Mary Choo, Vince Ang, Rahmat Mohd Zaini, Caleb Ong, Sheryl Lim, Siti Nur Hamsyiah, Jeanne Rachel Vidas Cruzado, Muhammad Yusuf Abu Bakar, Khidir Hafidz Mohd Ali and Jacqueline Chua who showed us warm hospitality and gave us their precious time.

Amrit Kaur Jastor, Ang Hwee Min, Chong Kaiyan, Danial Razak, Ember Xu, Fabian Lo, Samuel He, Yap Zhiwen, Weave and Our Grandfather Story for their help and patience. Mr Edgar Leow for sharing his wealth of knowledge on education in Singapore.

The Future Of Our Past mentors and peers, the CS4004 FYP seminar group for your support and feedback, the WKWSCI AV Team, and Nikki Draper for her steadfast guidance and dedication.

References

Boh, S. (2016, March 06). Boost for skills, vocational training at SGFuture session. Retrieved March 3, 2018, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/boost-for-skills-vocational-training-at-sgfuture-session

College History. (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2018, from http://tpjc.moe.edu.sg/about-tpjc/college-overview/college-history/

C. (2014, November 08). Co-curricular activities in schools. Retrieved from http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_2014-11-08_124430.html

Davie, S. (2017, April 20). Falling birth rate hits home with news of JCs merging. Retrieved March 14, 2018, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/falling-births-hits-home-with-news-of-jcs-merging

Direct School Admission-Junior Colleges (DSA-JC) Overview. (2017, August 17). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/admissions/direct-admissions/dsa-jc/overview

Goh, C. (2017, November 21). Singapore students are best team players: PISA study. Retrieved from https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/singapore-students-are-best-team-players-pisa-study-9424900

Gopinathan, S. (2014). Education and the Nation State: The selected works of S. Gopinathan. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

Impact of Demographic Changes on Our School Landscape. (2017, April 20). Retrieved January 3, 2018, from https://www.moe.gov.sg/news/press-releases/impact-of-demographic-changes-on-our-school-landscape

JC Cut-Off Points 2017 •. (2018, February 12). Retrieved from https://www.learnerslodge.com.sg/news/jc-cut-off-points-2017/

Lai, L. L. (1992). The burden of nation-building: National Junior College (1969-1992). National Unviersity of Singapore.

Leow, A., & Xu, S. (2017, April 21). Past and present students voice concern about impact. Retrieved March 6, 2018, from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/past-and-present-students-voice-concern-about-impact

Tampines JC improves the most. New Paper, 7 March 2002, Page 4. Microfilm reel NL24440.

Tampines JC makes a splash. New Paper, 19 July 1995, Page 39. Microfilm reel NL20012.

Yip, J. S., & Sim, W. K. (1990). Evolution of educational excellence: 25 years of education in the Republic of Singapore. Longman.

Zhang, L. M. (2018, January 02). New names, old history for 20 merging primary and secondary schools. Retrieved from http://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/education/names-of-10-primary-and-secondary-schools-to-be-merged-in-2019-released

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