Sunday, April 20, 2008

10:00 PM

Reply from school authorities

I sent this questions to Mr William Yeo (SIG coordinator for NYJC) as instructed by Mdm Shasila (teacher in charge of journalism.) some weeks back. This was probably in response from my email to Mr Kwek two months back. The reply is below.

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1. What must a current student-interest-group (SIG) do to become a CCA? What is the college's expectation?

2. Are SIGs viewed as "second-class groups" when it comes to planning for school activities (such as CCA Bazaar)? Or rather, how much say do they have if they wish to hold an event in school? Eg, public performance in the atrium.

3. Piano Ensemble was a CCA last year but is now a Student Interest Group (SIG). This implies that they are no longer entitled to any funding and a teacher-in-charge. What are the possible grounds that may cause a "demotion" of a CCA?

4. For the purpose of this article, I would also like to state how students can initiate an SIG for the convenience of readers. Who should they approach? How many "supporters" must they gather in order to kick start it? Any avenue to get proposal forms? (I tried searching for them on the nanyangjc website to no avail.) Are there any specific criteria such as safety issues?

5. If one intends to start an "activity", should he propose it as an SIG or a CCA? How does the school draw the line between the two?

6. Are there any limitations (both official if any or unwritten) that SIG leaders have to adhere to that CCAs do not have?

7. There exists this perception that SIGs are "inferior" compared to CCAs. Since the level of commitment required of SIG members is comparable to that of CCAs, its unlikely they can join another CCA. How can a sole SIG membership possibly impact a student's SGC?

8. Some background clarification too. When was the idea of SIG implemented? Which was the first and latest SIG to be initiated?

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Hello Kheng Meng

Thank you for your well-crafted questions. We took a little while to work through it so that you can offer a substantial piece of report to the student population.

The general vibe we got from you is that SIGs are somewhat viewed as second-rate CCAs. Frankly, we are not surprised with this and are pretty sure ourselves that the general NY students have similar opinions just as you.

To help you understand the context more, I have attached an excerpt from a speech by then-Minister of Education Mr. Tharman Shanmugaratnam in June 2004. At that time, the Ministry was re-looking the CCA policy and found a need to expand it for greater flexibility and to recognise students’ participation in, for example, student-initiated activities.

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Student-initiated Activities (SiAs)
Students who are keen on an activity not offered in school can launch an SiA by gathering interested peers and obtaining a teacher’s endorsement for the activity. SiAs encompass all activities with a reasonably large impact that are proposed by a group of students for possible implementation. They may be ad hoc activities or one-off events (of at least eight hours of involvement), or a new CCA or activities that are structured and likely to be sustainable.

As with all CCAs, SiAs should be geared towards teaching a skill and at the same time cultivating desirable values and social attitudes in the individual, while providing for healthy recreational activity. Students can initiate and carry through their own unique activities so as to expand the range of available activities in school, as well as to give individual students the chance to pursue their specific interests or ideas. SiAs should also provide opportunities for students to build team spirit, as well as a greater appetite for risk-taking and experimentation.

Students interested in initiating an activity should submit a proposal and make a presentation on the goals/objectives of the activity, its workplan, team composition and resources to their schools. Once approved by the school, the students can earn points for involvement in the activity. By recognising students’ proposals, we are encouraging students to exercise greater initiative and a willingness to do things differently.


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So, Kheng Meng, the view the College takes on SIGs is really a reflection of this broadening of the CCA policy – it is a new direction that we hope to adopt to encourage greater student-ownership and autonomy over the activities they propose to hold without the need for a teacher to closely supervise and/or hand-hold.

In fact, because students have to be much more independent in the setting-up and running of their SIGs than their friends in the more “traditional” CCAs, a greater level of commitment, discipline, enthusiasm and certainly leadership is required to ensure the sustainability of their SIGs. Hence, the success of any SIG will speak immensely well of the students leading and managing it. Inclusion of their roles in an SIG will, in my opinion, place students in a good light when it comes to the writing of the SGC. (Our floorball team, for instance, is doing extremely well. Can I suggest that you focus a little more on them in your article?)

The main reason why certain activities are still referred to as CCAs is to ensure that the College has adequate external representation in certain fields, such as Aesthetics and Sports, as they are linked to our culture and/or identity. Resources such as funding will have to be allocated to help these groups to do well. For instance, we have invested a considerable amount in the procuring of assets in the form of musical instruments for performing groups such as the Chinese Orchestra and Symphonic Band; in the area of sports, essential equipment such as kayaks were purchased for our Kayak Racing Team.
Concomitant with such investment, these CCA groups will have to be assigned with teachers-in-charge for the accountability and sustainability of these groups. Furthermore, some activities, such as Dragon Boat and Judo, involve a high risk of student injury, thus require the supervision and involvement of teachers-in-charge to oversee the safety of our students.

That is to say, we constantly face a challenge in the allocation of resources (funding and teachers) to ensure that all these basic needs are met. And these resources are limited.

Yet, we also recognise the needs among a portion of students who are keener in other areas. Here is where SIGs can help fill the gap. The College encourages the formation of SIGs and will offer support provided that the basic needs of the College described above are not compromised. These will include provision of facilities for the regular meetings or training and the platform to put up performances for the general student population. If funding is required, the College will consider every proposal on a case-by-case basis to ensure that as large a group of students stand to benefit from its use so as to make it justifiable.

The College is no longer setting up any new CCAs because we believe that the current groups have catered to our needs with regards to external representation and would like to promote the formation of SIGs instead. Kheng Meng, you may now even choose to see that SIGs in fact allow greater flexibility in their structure and activities, and need not worry much about competitions or performance if they choose to represent the College externally. All the College expects from students in SIGs is that they are responsible and mature enough to carry out their self-check regularly without the need for supervising teachers, and students themselves ensure that their SIGs’ relevance is not lost. Certainly, the expectation that academic result should come first before non-academic activities is applied to all groups, including CCAs.

It is not difficult to set up a SIG. Just gather at least 3 committed members, think through seriously what you want, then submit a proposal. (Please note the difference between “committed members” and “supporters”.)

The proposal is really an application form which details to interested students what the College looks out for in approving the set-up of one. I have provided a copy of this form for you to consider. This form was actually up on the college website earlier, but has since been taken down because the deadline is over. We received a total of three applications. As for what they are, I will decline to tell you for now to allow these SIGs to make their presence felt, so do look out for them!

We are likely to open up the opportunity to set up more SIGs at the later part of the year. These deadlines serve to emphasise that SIGs are not seen casually by us and we want students to put in serious thoughts before applying to set up one. The completed forms will have to be submitted to the HOD for PE/CCA, Mrs. Koh Siew Leng, or me, the current SIG Co-ordinator, Mr. William Yeo.

I hope I have made it clear to you that we view the SIGs as parallel to CCAs on the same level. They are both activities beyond academic pursuits, but they cater to different needs. If you are not convinced with my explanation, please come chat with me or Mrs. Koh before publishing anything. Our intention is that when your articles is published, students are more likely to see SIGs more positively and not merely a second-rate non-academic activity.

Your CCA is a great one to be in. It is a voice that the students listen to – an example of a need that the College has, for the benefit of students. That is the reason why I requested Mdm Shasila that you feature SIGs this time round. I thank you for your help. 

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