Monday, January 14, 2008

8:15 pm

CCA Marginalisation

Edit 1 (26/1 5.45pm): Posted link of edited article.
Edit 2 (9/2 3.45pm): Added teacher's comments
Edit 3 (23/2 4.30pm): Article abandoned

Comments: I was spurred to write this article after noticing these effects happening to many of my classmates and even myself too.

23/2 comments. Due to the ignorance of my CCA email by Mr Kwek, I have decided to abandon this article as I find it very hard to go on. Here are some related posts.

CCA Marginalisation 2 (26/1/)
CCA article revived (9/2)
Email to Mr Kwek (23/2)

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Its has come to my attention some weeks back that some CCAs in NYJC will not be recruiting any more J1s this year. Reasons cited being the issue of risk and funding problems. I would not delve much into the details except to state some of my comments on opinions on this issue.

I have not seen the systems applied in other institutions but I have seen the same thing happening in my secondary school so I have reason to believe things are more widespread than thought. With the closing down of these two CCAs, a quick check on the NY website shows that we are left with 36 CCAs (including SC). As to complaints that we have few CCAs, I find it a highly subjective opinion though. AJC for example has roughly a comparable number at 39.

What I am most perturbed is the abrupt way the decision was made. Though reasons for their closure were spelt out clearly, there was no room for any compromise. A final decision was set out without much consultation of the students.

It seems to me that the purpose of CCAs has been neglected in pursuit for greater successes in the academic arena. Though, I have no statistics to prove and students to quote, word on the ground seems that the budgets of many CCAs have been gradually squeezed over the years. One may argue that the JC system requires a student to be academically capable so he may have the best chance of entering the (local) university. But is this straight-forward pragmatism the best way ahead in the cultivating of the young? What about other beneficial development areas (such as “real” teamwork) that is usually only available during active CCA participation?

I have also noticed the gradual gravitation of resources to a school's niche CCAs. If a CCA shows little signs of winning any competition or publicising the image of the school, resources will be slowly drained from it to be given to others who do. For those who are already successful , I do not see the point to give them ever-rising increments.

To cite a personal example, I was in my secondary school's Robotics department in IT Club. In 2003, the school gave us additional bonus funds to purchase Lego robots and hire coaches in preparation for the annual National Junior Robotics Competition (NJRC). The catch was, we had to at least get into the finals within two years so we could continue this programme. We did not and the funds were withdrawn in 2005.

I am very sure this phenomenon has been repeated many times over in other CCAs at other schools. Although the CCA will continue to exist, the tightening of funds will ensure its demise in years to come. Well, I'm not saying we should divert all our funds away from our niches to them, I'm suggesting that we should give them a chance to succeed. A CCA should not be too handicapped by funding problems that they lose their focus.

The problem here is a chicken-and-egg one. Without much funding, coaching time and equipment bought has to be reduced. Without them, the chances of winning are generally lowered. And with lesser achievements, funds will be further cut leading to a downward spiral. The only solution to break this cycle is obvious.

A good CCA takes time to build yet all it takes is a signature to seal its fate. We should not fall into the trap of letting a CCA justify its next year's funding on this year's achievements. Success will come naturally if effort is made to bring up the CCA(s). A highly pragmatic short-term outlook should never cloud the eyesight of the management.

Then the issue of risk. I find this argument amusing and highly flawed. Spreading the risk to the general student population??? The reason people join such a “risky” CCA is for the strong camaraderie that it provides. And usually, these people are aware of the “risks” before they sign up for one. Nobody forced them in. The fact that this CCA is so prevalent in other JCs shows that the risks assumed are within acceptable limits.

One suggestion, if there is a need to, is for members to sign an indemnity form for a particular activity to insulate the school from any responsibility. After all, members can always choose not to go for a particular activity if they deem it to be dangerous. Don't we want our young to be adventurous and calculated risk-takers? By closing down this CCA, we are taking away the already few avenues students can use to step out of their comfort zones.

Overall,as I see it, this issue is unlikely to be solved anytime soon. After all, the allocation of funds and a CCA's survival is under the full jurisdiction of the school. Maybe, just maybe, things will change in the future. In the meantime, I the-lone-entity or even a significant collective number is unlikely to effect any change in this results-driven environment.

By: Yeo Kheng Meng (0713)
yeokm1@hotmail.com

The writer is the Vice President of NY Debate Society. The views here expressed are his own. NYConneXions bears no responsibility for the writer's stand and viewpoints.

Teacher's comments:

Hi Clara. The article is very meaningful but the issue of budget for CCAs is a complex one. Reasons for CCA closure are best known to the key people. Since it has already been explained to pupils let's not dig the issue further and leave it to rest. If Kheng Meng wants, he can tweak the article to talk about CCA benefits outside curriculum or sports and money based on SEA games.
Shasila

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