An ri-ej Perspective: HOUSE(how’s) life in EJC and RJC

Written by: Aaron Wong (21-I4), Jaime Rusli (EJC), Nicole Won (EJC), Yeo Rei Ya (EJC) 

Picture this; you’re standing in a large crowd with dozens of other unfamiliar faces, and you’re being instructed to learn some sort of strange cheer or dance with them. You’re tripping over your words, or maybe even yourself, as your brain struggles desperately to clutch onto directions being explained at breakneck speeds. All of you put in so much effort to learn these things together, even when you’re not in the same orientation group or class. Other than being enrolled in the same school, you have nothing in common with most of them, and barely know any of their names. The only thing you all have in common is your matching, brightly coloured T-shirts that would put the high visibility vests of construction workers to shame. You’re all in the same House. That simple fact stirs something deep in your heart, but you’re not sure why. 

In a daunting new environment where multitudes of people hail from different tribes, the Houses stick up from this landscape as tall, permanent towers for people to converge at. They give their members a sense of belonging and identity, boosting the school spirit through student engagement in closely knit communities. By dividing the student body into different Houses, the House system, quite astonishingly, unites the school. How is this achieved? Before that question is answered, let’s get acquainted with who the players of the game are!  

In Eunoia Junior College, the five Houses are Akila, Eder, Isami, Ora and Uzuri. Each House corresponds to a vowel found within the school’s name, symbolically representing the interconnectedness of the Houses and how they coherently gel together to form one Eunoian identity. A year before Eunoia was established in 2017, the pioneering staff was already working closely with the pioneering student cohort to conceptualise the House system. In 2017, the first batch of student leaders created the House mascots, taking inspiration from the constellations associated with each House’s name. A deliberate decision was made to embed classes into the House system (students in the same class are also in the same House) as opposed to following a faculty-based system (students in the same class belong to different Houses). Ultimately, the House system was crafted as an important step towards establishing a strong sense of college identity in the newly budding college. 

From left to right: Akila, Eder, Isami, Ora and Uzuri. Credits: Images by Eunoia Junior College via

Meanwhile, in Raffles Junior College, the five Houses are Moor-Tarbet, Buckle-Buckley, Morrison-Richardson, Bayley-Waddle and Hadley-Hullett. Each House is an amalgamation of its predecessors in Raffles Institution and Raffles Girls’ School. The Houses are named after former headmasters, headmistresses and key figures of the two secondary schools, reflecting their rich history. The current JC House system was established in 2005, replacing the previous faculty system whereby students were sorted into Houses by their subject combinations. The House system was established with the intention of fostering a sense of community and encouraging students to make the best of their two transient years in JC beyond academic pursuit and “grade-chasing”. Unlike in Eunoia, a class in Raffles contains students of different Houses. Indeed, while Raffles has indeed existed far longer than its youthful cousin, Eunoia, the establishment of its House culture tells a similar tale; one of fostering identity and school pride!

From left to right: Moor Tarbet, Buckle Buckley, Morrison Richardson, Bayley Waddle and Hadley Hullett. Credits: Images by Raffles Institution via

Though unique in their own ways, both the Eunoia and Raffles House systems aim to foster a sense of identity and promote bonding among students. Providing opportunities for student leadership and talent development, it tints a rainbow of colours onto the otherwise dull life of a student, allowing the student to leave the college with a newfound sense of pride for the House he was gladly able to call his. In this Op-Ed, four curious minds (i.e. us!) seek to unpack the true value of the culture the students hold dearly and how it shapes their various experiences in their respective schools.

House Leadership

In their capable hands, our House experience is practically as safe as Houses!

In Eunoia, each House is led by a House Master and House Mistress, roles that are assigned to two teaching staff, and a House committee. The House committee includes; the House captain, House vice-captains, House representatives and sports representatives. 

There is one House captain and two vice-captains who take on the helm of leadership in the House. These three positions are contested through an election process, the House captain candidates campaign concurrently with the student council candidates as one must be in the student council before they are elected as House captain, however this is not the case for vice-captains. Hence, the student council and House committee function independently in Eunoia.

The House captain and Vice-captains of Eder. Taken by: Marc Kenji Lim from EJC Media 

There are six House representatives and six sports representatives, two respectively from each class under a House. These representatives scale-down the platform of House culture and lead each class in participating in House activities, further enforcing House culture in everyday school life. The House representatives’ role is exclusively limited to House-related activities, while sports representatives are engaged in both House activities and sports activities; namely Physical Education lessons due to the overlap between the two. This is due to many of such events being sporting in nature.

House events usually involve sports as it is an activity that is enjoyable and lighthearted but at the same time contains a competitive element to it. Hence, by making House events centered around sports, it can provide both relaxation and excitement to the students who are usually fixated on academics. Involving mostly team sports in House events also helps improve cohesion amongst Housemates as they strive towards a common goal of winning in the name of their House.

On the other hand, the Houses in Raffles are part of the Student Council, which is the democratically elected body of students that oversee the running of different school-based events and initiatives. This is interesting to note as it is one of the most salient differences between the House systems in Eunoia and Raffles. According to Zin, the House captain of Morrison-Richardson, the House leadership system is a subset of Council because House is “part of a larger, more-encompassing school spirit that includes uniquely Rafflesian experiences”. Indeed, the House system plays an indispensable role in enhancing the diversity and depth of the Rafflesian school experience. 

All members of the House Directorate, fondly termed “House Dee”, have to be elected as Councillors before taking on their roles.  Upon their induction into Council, they are offered different departments to choose from, such as Welfare, Communications, CCA, and of course,  House. The five House Dees are helmed by the Vice President of Houses from the Student Council. Within each House Dee, there are approximately seven members, and they are led by a captain and two vice captains.  The Captains are entrusted with the important role of setting the direction of House together with the Vice President, while overseeing the activities and initiatives of each House. 

Throughout the school year, there are regular House events organised with the aim of cultivating a stronger sense of belonging to House in each student, as well as to provide alternative avenues beyond class and CCA for students to bond. Similar to Eunoia, House events almost always involve the element of earning House points, adding a thrilling element of friendly competition and stakes to House. These large-scale events, which all House Dee members are engaged in, are targeted at the wider school population. 

House Events

Excitement and action that never fails to bring down the House!

In Eunoia, Orientation and annual sporting events such as Road Run are a joint effort between the House committee and Student Council. During Orientation, J1s are inducted into their respective Houses through various activities such as the House Walk-In, a grand showcase of the enthusiasm and energy of each House as the House Captains, along with other J2 House members, perform spectacular live dance performances. The end of Orientation culminates in a rave where all the different Houses get together for a mass dance session of the different House dances. The annual Road Run is another highly anticipated event, a school-wide run where students from each House compete in running either four or five kilometres. 

Other events include the House armour showcase where House members work together to design and eventually create suits of cardboard armour to represent each House, Euplay which allows students to try out different sports, as well as other exclusive activities that vary across Houses.

An Isamigo participating in Road Run 2021. Taken by: Evan Choo from EJC Media

In Raffles, the House Dee, in conjunction with Council, organises Orientation and Homecoming, two of the most prominent school-wide events in RI. During Orientation, J1s are sorted into Orientation groups based on their Houses. The House is thus regarded as a platform for new students to befriend their new peers through activities such as learning House cheers and House history.  The Orientation Dance-Off between members of each House, being one of the most exciting segments of the entire Orientation week, never fails to excite the J1s and fills them with a sense of pride for their new House.  House events inject life and an element of fun into the otherwise largely academic-oriented school life of students. 

Other events include House Week, Raffles Got Talent, Homecoming Live Gameshow and Spirit Week House Day, which are some of the most anticipated events in the calendar of the Rafflesian school year.

Orientation dance-off between dance pairs from Buckle Buckley, Bayley Waddle and Hadley Hullett. Taken by: Raffles Photographic Society. 

Collegiate Opinions

To investigate the roles of House culture in both EJC and RJC, we conducted an online survey of over 80 people from both colleges. So, what are their honest thoughts?

Overall, a whopping 75% of the students feel that Houses are significantly important to JC life, suggesting that Houses are indeed an integral, tangible part of the JC experience and not just seemingly nice ideas on paper. However, a small minority of the respondents believes that Houses are unimportant. This shows how the House system, like any other initiative set up in an institution, is unable to achieve its goal for every single student. House culture may not be of such high importance to every student due to their personal perceptions of what they find valuable.

Similarly, while about 70% of the students believe themselves to personally have high House spirit, suggesting that most of the student body is enthusiastic about House culture, a minority ranked their own House spirit lowly. We postulate that this could be due to the predominantly sporty nature of House events, something that may not appeal as much to those who are less sports-inclined, or alternatively, the perception that one needs to be wildly and outwardly expressive, or “rah-rah”, in order to have high House spirit. The good news for all of our more introverted peers out there is that this notion may not be necessarily true when you think about the lower intensity, calmer House events like movie nights and study sessions out there!

Moving to the macroscale, when asked how they would rank House spirit in their schools on the whole, while some respondents do not personally feel an affinity towards House culture, they reported that the House culture amongst their fellow schoolmates and student populus as a whole as higher than their individual scores. This can be attributed to the prevalence of House culture in social media posts and in the school environment, which further strengthens the sense of belonging. Thus, despite whether one personally enjoys House culture or not, the respondents seem to mostly report House culture in their respective schools to be higher in general.

When asked to rank their agreement to the statement ‘My House gives me a sense of identity and pride’, an overwhelming majority (90%) of respondents ranked their agreement highly. This suggests that dividing the students into smaller communities helps foster a greater sense of unity within the House, which further strengthens their House pride and contributes to the overall school spirit. It may seem like a paradox; how does dividing the student populus promote school unity? The House system has achieved success in this aspect as it has been effective in providing students with a platform to interact and befriend their peers. Houses create a conducive environment for bonding and fostering relationships as batchmates form bonds in the smaller, tight-knit community of one’s House. The House system also unites students with a shared goal throughout the numerous House events. Competition between Houses is lighthearted and fun as students experience friendly rivalry instead of bitter animosity. In this way, inter-House camaraderie eventually extends naturally to the rest of the  whole school. Whoever invented the phrase, “a house divided cannot stand”, has obviously not seen what the House system in our two schools have accomplished!

Closing Words

In summary, the camaraderie and identity generated by House culture is not a mistake, but rather the result of the careful and deliberate design of the pioneering students and teachers behind them. In addition, House culture is not a final, finished product. Instead, it is an ever-evolving experience shaped by generations of students; constantly reiterated and built upon by fresh batches of students again and again. With each passing year, the roots of House culture grow ever so deeper, its branches widen and its great canopy rises as the shared experiences of its members grow.

Where Thou Art, Art : The RI-EJ Perspective

Written by: Tricia Loh (21-U1), Sanjana Rajan (21-O1), Rakshita Murugan (21-E1), Jason Nathaniel Sutio (RI) 

Designed by: Lay Kai En, Ashley (21-O1)

Because it is foolish to criticise pre-existing civil systems, no sane citizen is ready to sink their hands into the dirty work of criticising the education system, and the vocational world after it, and preaching alternatives. Here’s some delightful news: we are here to lighten your burden and take it upon ourselves (spurred by our sense of obligation to do so, as students who genuinely care for the welfare of the student population in Singapore) to educate the importance of Arts education. We feel compelled to scrunch up our sleeves and correct a misconception: STEM>ARTS

There is no denial that the Arts are somewhat regarded with contempt. The notorious survey conducted by the Sunday Times revealed statistics of a whopping 71% of locals who viewed artists as the least essential occupation. How did this conception spark? How can we ignite the appreciation for the Arts? Is the Singaporean Arts scene truly lacking? 

To answer these inquiries, we extend a hearty invitation to you to join us aboard. This train leaves promptly on time- it’s neither green nor red

Here’s a quick definition of the Arts according to the National Arts Council (NAC) website: Art comprises visual arts, traditional arts, literary arts, music, dance and theatre. 

Exploring the Singaporean Arts scene

Since recent years, the Arts scene in Singapore has been steadily improving. The NAC population survey on the Arts in 2019 unveiled that physical attendance at Arts-related events across all age demographics showed an increase of 29% from 2013 to 2019. Various workshops and events have been conducted to inspire a more vibrant Arts landscape. Notably, the Singapore Art Week 2020 attracted over 600,000 participants and featured over 100 events taking place across the island in celebration of visual arts.

 Highlights of the 2020 Singapore Art Week, taken from TheSmartLocal

The Arts has also had a profound impact on building a more inclusive community, providing a platform for intergenerational and multicultural connection. For instance, have a look at Visai, an NAC-Tamil Murasu partnered programme, which encouraged  Singaporeans to read and write Tamil Literature through a series of creative writing workshops. Furthermore, a  music immersion programme, Child at Street 11, helps children with diverse backgrounds receive quality exposure and education. People with disabilities can also showcase their talents through events like Very Special Arts – Sync Programme. These events highlight the efforts by the Singapore government to provide an environment conducive to the learning about Arts.

This spectrum of Arts exposure is not only encouraged nationally, but also in schools. Raffles and Eunoia have also had their fair share of the Arts pie — and what a large share it is! Rafflesians enjoy frequent performances by the performing arts CCAs, from the annual Raffles Jazz concerts to Raffles Rock performances at the Amphitheatre. A myriad of paintings line the walls of Raffles Institution (RI), strokes left by alumni that tell a story. Art exhibitions were also held, such as the Among Art exhibition by the then Year 5 Art students in 2020. As for Eunoia, from electrifying musicals under the Aesthetic Class Experience, to Literature symposiums and live plays, the Eunoia Arts culture blooms with vibrancy! 

EJC’s Literature Symposium 2020EJC’s Humanities Symposium, featuring guest of honour Professor Edwin Thumboo

The various artworks in Raffles Institution

Despite frequent exposure to the Arts, the fight for a paradigm shift is still very much an uphill battle. 82.1% of our Rafflesian and Eunoian respondents believe that it is safer to get a degree in the STEM field than the Arts field. For Wisnu who is in the Science stream (21S09X, RI), he finds that the STEM field has a more well defined job scope so it is more pragmatic for him to find a career in that sector. Furthermore, STEM is developing very rapidly and will still continue to develop, lending to a promising career. 

Such sentiments have led to few students that appreciate the local Arts scene in Singapore. In our survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents cannot recall the names of local artists, be it playwrights, visual artists or choreographers. This highlights how awareness is still lacking among Singaporean youths, and that the Arts scene is stagnating. 

Forms response chart. Question title: Please tick the names of Singaporean artists that you have heard before. Number of responses: 39 responses.

Do try for yourself if you can recognise the names of local artists! 

Next Stop: Manifest the Arts

So why do students still feel detached from the Arts, despite persistent efforts encouraging them to venture into it? Our two cents (still considerably valuable, so hear us out) is to manifest the Art. We are not assuming any new age spiritual-guru avatar; the reason why we feel that students do not feel connected to the Arts in Singapore is because our Arts scene is still lacking in depth. 

Mothers feed music to their younglings- and yet there is a lack of musicians in Singapore. Youngsters are brooding over the all rounded talents and capabilities of Kpop idols, and yet we seldom hear excited shrieks over local artists. There is little recognition or appreciation for the already small group of local talents. 

Passengers aboard, significance accord

You might wonder — why should we ‘manifest the art’? So what if more people are interested in STEM fields? Can’t we bear to part with something so abstract?

It is important to recognise the role of the Arts on both a personal and societal scale. On a more personal level, here’s why Arts matters to the self. The Trøndelag Health Study (The HUNT study) conducted by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology found that participants who actively engaged in the Arts were more satisfied with their lives, and more importantly, had better mental health. “Appreciating the arts can occur in any scale or form, and you don’t have to be a highbrow connoisseur to be able to respond to, engage with and even make your own art,” said Lara (22A01B), who takes HELM. “I always find myself turning to the Arts in times of emotional or mental distress. Engaging in simple activities like reading a book, writing a short poem or playing an instrument helps to relax my mind and enjoy myself, and gives me the liberty to express my emotions.”

“An engaged Arts lover will have the intellectual curiosity and nimbleness of a creative disposition: an individual who can imagine broader horizons,” mentioned Paul Tan, the deputy CEO of the NAC in a Straits Times article. During these unprecedented times, youths should be individuals who can “imagine broader horizons” and come up with innovative solutions. Critical thinking is shaped through the participation of Arts events, and as Singaporeans are exposed to various interpretations, they gradually become more perceptive in the way they observe the world. 

When we think of Singapore, we must realise that what makes a country ‘home’ lies beyond its physical infrastructure. The Arts play a crucial role in constructing our social fabric — our relationships, experiences and attitudes. Arts shape common experiences as it records a narrative that every Singaporean can identify with. Surely, we do not wish for Singapore to gain the reputation of a ‘cultural desert’. Expression is key in amplifying the voices of Singaporeans, to let them convey what makes Singapore home. 

The Arts also play a part in shaping our heritage. Various monuments and statues, like the marble statue of Sir Stamford Raffles in North Bank, where it was believed to be the spot he landed when he arrived in Singapore, mark concrete (quite remarkably: in literal sense) proof of significant events that shape our identity as Singaporeans. 

We are advocating for a society that places Arts and STEM on equal footing. This is the only way to ensure that young talents will be encouraged to pursue the Arts.

By manifesting the art, we mean that we should take active efforts to imbibe the cruciality of arts into our societal views (which predominantly sees STEM>ARTS). This is so that everyone, on a subconscious scale, realises the divine mantra for societal balance: 


    However that begs the question, where does the preconception that STEM>Arts come from? And why is it such a challenge to put Arts and STEM equally?

#1 Money, Money, Money

One of the challenges of pursuing the Arts in Singapore is sustainability as a full-time profession. Many artists struggle to sustain themselves on an artist’s salary (remember, low appreciation = low profit), and resort to taking up additional jobs to supplement the income from their artworks. 

Surveys we have conducted amongst students have indicated that this consideration plays the largest factor as to why students feel discouraged from pursuing a career in the Arts – with 89.5% indicating that they believed it to be “a risky job”, and 81.6% indicating that these jobs would give them a “low pay”. Evidently, there is a conception that pursuing Arts-related jobs will be a tumultuous career pathway. 

However, it is undeniable that in attempts to reverse this perception of the Arts, the government has set aside a relatively high level of funding for the local arts sector. In fact, the NAC provides several grants for up-and-coming artists, even offering annual NAC Young Artist Awards to encourage the youth to pursue a future in the Arts. The 2017 Cultural Statistics Report stated that an estimated S$412.8 million in funding was set aside in the previous year for the Arts and heritage. Regardless, concerns about the effectiveness of such grants and programs has long since been raised. Many artists cite concerns over the strict criteria to qualify for an NAC grant, which many feel is daunting and may even run counter to the objectives of their artwork. With only one grant cycle per year, one could question whether an artist could support himself as such. 

Furthermore, one should consider the implications of having 85% of the local Arts scene being funded by the government. Generous grants from NAC can be taken back if “the work produced is in breach with their guidelines”. Before an exhibition or performance can go public, it has to be licensed by the Infocomm Media Development Authority. This has massive ramifications on the liberty an artist has for their art, where their livelihood is at risk. Is this censorship truly to protect Singapore from the disruption of “public order, national security and/or stability”? Or does it serve to suffocate and silence the artist? Though there is no clear answer, one thing is certain: it has discouraged budding artists.

#2 Mother Knows Best

For many Rafflesians and Eunoians alike, parental support is of great concern as they are not financially independent. 73.6% of the students surveyed indicated that the “lack of parental support” was one of the reasons why they were discouraged from pursuing an Arts career. In fact, data released by the NAC noted that parents faced “pragmatic pressures” themselves, and are hence unwilling to let their children pursue the Arts for fear of their future financial instability. In addition, parents also felt that the Arts stream was meant for students who were less academically-inclined, and that “one will not have a future should [they] pursue the Arts”. 

Is this fear within parents misplaced? It has been continually hammered home from generation to generation that working in the aesthetics department is undesirable or yields little salary. Even in rare cases where one is unrestrained from focusing on arts education, the subtle discouragement not only from society but also their family, consequently pushes the student to steer their career path towards the sciences. 

To substantiate this, we refer to an excerpt from the blog, Defragmenting my World. It features theatre veteran and director of the Singapore International Festival of Arts, Ong Keng Sen, expressing his pressing concern over Singapore being an unsuitable platform for the growth of arts. Mr Ong shares that he believes that society is strongly entwined with the perception that venturing into the Arts is a risky and futile attempt to mould a successful future for oneself. 

#3 A Heart in Art

Since it has been inherently embedded in the Singaporean society that STEM education is a more favourable and stable path, taking up Arts for tertiary education (even if one is truly passionate about it) is rare. Mr Ong says that youths find economic independence more attractive than passion, hence, they are more likely to give up on  their dreams of becoming an artist. Mr Ong continues that in Singapore, the Arts have been looked down upon by the general society. 

Furthermore, he brings up his conversation with a teenager. He recalled that the teenager chose not to pursue the Arts because it was practically impossible to attain a perfect score when studying the arts, due to its subjectivity. This is much unlike the STEM fields, where it is plausible to get a 100 percent on a theory test paper. In a society that is often greatly concerned with grades, this feature of the Arts can turn students off from studying them. 

Passion in the Arts is thus stifled in such a harsh financial and societal climate, leading to people holding the Arts in contempt. 

Final Stop: Alight Here to Change Lines

To identify areas for improvement, let us first investigate platforms already available to support students in their learning of the Arts. In addition to Arts competitions in Co-Curricular Activities such as the Singapore Youth Festival, and the Arts discipline in school, students can engage in out-of-school activities. Mentorship programmes are offered by Noise Singapore for aspiring artists below the age of 35 in search of career advice. Noise Singapore is an NAC initiative which provides opportunities for youths to engage with the Arts.These platforms ignite their passion in the Arts and inspire them to pursue a career in them. Digitally, social media platforms like Youtube and TikTok, available for the masses, allow students to explore creative ways of filmmaking and choreography. Meanwhile, Instagram and Pinterest tend to cater to visual artists as a tool for them to build up an online presence and portfolio. 

Apart from these mentorship programmes, there are also reward systems that instill a spirit of healthy competition and sportsmanship to push budding artists into the limelight. The Cultural Medallion and Young Artist Award as well as the Golden Point Award are some examples. International collaborations also exist to widen a student’s horizon, like the Residency Partnership with National Centre for Writing with the UK. 

These available platforms have established themselves as part and parcel of the Singapore Arts scene. Nonetheless, there is a lack of awareness persisting in the Singaporean community, particularly amongst students, towards the existence of these channels. Perhaps a more targeted approach is needed to inculcate the Arts in Singaporeans. There needs to be more traction behind platforms  such as the Arts Resource Hub by NAC so that people know where to find ways to foster their talent. 

More collaborative efforts from community centres and Arts organisations can be established so events can have a greater outreach through integrating the Arts deep into our neighbourhoods. To educate students on the significance of art pieces, guided gallery and museum tours need to be encouraged. Students should also be encouraged to view the museum artefacts or pieces at their own pace, to understand each artwork on a more personal level. This fosters a more meaningful connection between the inexperienced mind and the artwork, as well as deeper appreciation for the emotions evoked. 

Moreover, art exhibitions can raise awareness of how art can be fun and more importantly, accessible. The misconception that “art requires technique and is thus difficult” needs to be disproven as the beauty of art lies in its meaning, not so much on the techniques behind it. (‘The Comedian’, a banana duct taped to a wall that sold for $120.000 each is a bona fide example.) Such art that clearly and deliberately mock existing standards shows how tantalising art can be if one starts to dig deeper. 

This lends to how appreciation for different genres is a prerequisite (we would talk about the modern vs traditional vs digital art divide but that’s a whole other story). We should not reject different art solely for the sake of being different, or being simple. Sentiments of ‘my child can draw that modern art’ need to be corrected. School community projects, particularly Values-In-Action initiatives, could gain from having more art-centric themes, and expose people to more art mediums and genres. In this way, art is not derided particularly as the contemporary and modern genre tends to focus on minimalism. 

To conclude, the Singapore Arts Scene is growing but not thriving due to certain economic restraints, cultural and social stigmas about the Arts that hinder the development of this creative field. It is crystal clear that more awareness needs to be raised in order to boost the local landscape, particularly among students, urgently. More avenues need to be provided to nurture these youths’ talents. Indeed, the significance of the Arts is something presently overlooked in Singapore. However, we believe that change is on the horizon — and we look forward to the day that Singapore is fully transformed into a vibrant Arts hub; And this journey begins with you, reader, to make the first step in appreciating local Arts. 

An RG-EJ Insight into Toxic Productivity

Written by: Ashley Lay (21-O1), Emily Tan (EJC), Ko Wen Ning (21-O4), Liew Yi Xuan (21-E1), Ranjana Venkatesan (RGS) 

Designed by: Elizabeth Khoo Yuk Min (21-U1)

“LOL I only got three hours of sleep last night”. As students in one of the most competitive societies around the world, we have likely heard something similar more than once. Some of us may even say these things ourselves. Though most of us do not realise it, this is a symptom of toxic productivity. 

Toxic productivity, as defined by Grazia, is “an obsession with radical self-improvement and is an unachievable goal which causes us to set high standards for ourselves. No matter how productive we might be, there is always a feeling of guilt for not having done more… For starters, there’s a constant feeling of not doing enough”. Now, with this in mind, are you part of this phenomenon? As Singapore remains ever-developing, toxic productivity only seems to grow, and this is particularly true in schools, leaving serious repercussions on students affected. 

This might cause one to wonder, what is the root cause of toxic productivity? Singapore’s ubiquitous narrative of meritocracy could be a part of the problem. One key lesson taught in Singaporean society is that success and hard work are not just inextricably linked, but that success is entirely dependent on hard work. The more work you put in, the more successful you are. Even structural barriers like socio-economic disadvantages are commonly seen as vincible as long as you put in the effort. Most Singaporeans have probably seen the advertisements depicting lower-class students getting straight As due to staying up all night to study. It has become ingrained in many of us that to guarantee success, or even to deserve success, we would have to put in the time, effort and work to attain it. As such, productivity in school is widely perceived as necessary to lead a happy adult life. 

Another reason could be the ‘Struggle Olympics’, a phenomenon in which everyone seeks to outdo each other in pain and suffering. This exists both among older generations and among classmates and friends. Adults sometimes say that school was harder back in their day in response to the stress that current students face, while students in our current generation tend to compare the amount of work or sleep they experience daily with others. Often, this creates pressure for students to meet unreasonably high expectations surrounding how much work they should be doing. But perhaps more insidiously, it normalises and glorifies a lot of unhealthy work habits and attitudes. For instance, somehow, the notion of depriving yourself of sleep to work is indicative of the strength of one’s character. 

An additional pressure that students face is that of their external environment. In the Singapore academic context, teachers can serve as stressors. Even though teachers’ remarks are meant to be well-meaning cautionary tales about the importance of studying consistently, these can inadvertently pressure students. If students are already behind on work and hear that other classes are doing far better or that the workload will continue to increase exponentially, they are likely to feel even more stressed. On a peer level, overwork tends to be normalised, with many joking about how little they have slept or the inordinate amount of practice papers they have completed. When this level is seen as the baseline rather than an achievement, it drives students to carry on overworking themselves and feel as though they are never good enough. However, students may not take issue with the current state of things as graduating with good grades is seen as the end goal of education; they therefore neglect important concerns such as their mental and physical health in favour of studying harder and achieving good results.

In order to find out more about toxic productivity in Raffles Girls’ and Eunoia Junior College, we decided to carry out focus-group discussions. From the results of our two focus-group discussions, we managed to uncover both the varying opinions of the students and their levels of understanding regarding toxic productivity. Most respondents were aware of the existence of toxic productivity, and acknowledged that working oneself to an extreme extent was toxic productivity, especially if their mental health and other aspects of life are affected. Only a few were aware that part of toxic productivity is a person putting others down for not doing as much work as the person themselves seems to be — essentially, having unrealistic expectations of the amount of work a person can complete, and imposing judgements on themselves and others because of those expectations. They also identified a key habit indicating toxic productivity as feeling excessively guilty for not completing work. When asked if they thought their own habits were toxic, the answers were mixed — some were actively aware of their detrimental habits, while others believed that they knew their own limits. However, many of the study habits they listed, such as staying up past midnight to complete work and skipping meals, did indicate toxic productivity.

When asked to differentiate between hard work and toxic productivity, some respondents stated that working hard is more about maximising time and resources to attain reasonable goals, while toxic productivity is similar to workaholism, where less of the actual goal is fulfilled due to the stress incurred in the process. Lastly, we asked our respondents if they believed habits indicating toxic productivity would detrimentally impact one in the long-term, and their answer was a resounding ‘yes’. They believed that toxic productivity could cause burnout or breakdowns, due to its physical and psychological impacts. They also believed it might blind one to their toxic habits, to the point that they do not realise they need to stop practising these habits in order to improve their health and actual rates of productivity. 

Toxic productivity is sure to leave some long-term implications as well, the most crucial being its psychological implications on students. Today’s competitive society has long observed increased stress levels amongst teenagers and students taking part in higher education. However, the new phenomenon of toxic productivity will only exacerbate the situation. In recent surveys, students have been reported to feel guilty for taking breaks in between studying, even though in multiple studies, breaks have been proven to be effective in refreshing and revitalising students while simultaneously allowing them to relieve themselves of some stress while studying. However, with toxic productivity, students instead feel disincentivised to take breaks, believing that time spent on resting is time wasted, which in the long run may result in various mental health issues such as anxiety. Increased stress levels have also been linked to insomnia, which leads to more tangible physical health issues that students will have to cope with. Such a scenario leads to a vicious cycle where students cannot focus on studying due to lack of rest, thus forcing themselves to spend more hours studying and put more pressure on themselves, leading to a toxic productivity cycle. Increased stress levels may also cause students to detach themselves from reality, often zoning out and feeling empty, which may further contribute to their need to carry on with the toxic productivity cycle and in some cases, develop depression. Furthermore, toxic productivity is only useful over a short period of time. As time progresses, students who function on toxic productivity often lose steam and motivation to work hard, giving up on their studies completely when they begin to question the meaning of their efforts. Therefore, toxic productivity in the long term will not only be stripped of its previous benefits but also slowly reveal its disastrous long term outcomes, leading to horrible consequences. 

In conclusion, the problem of toxic productivity amongst students has been aggravated by many factors in Singapore. From its widespread, institutionalised causes and the fact that it acts as a root cause to serious long term implications, the problem of toxic productivity is not only difficult to solve due to the many factors leading to its rise, but also the fact that it is entrenched in the way many students do work. In attempting to solve this issue, students themselves, teachers, and parents are required to be fully engaged, and students especially have to pay attention to their own mental wellbeing constantly. As such, though this problem is exceptionally difficult to solve, with the collaboration of various stakeholders in students’ lives, it is not entirely impossible to solve it. 

The Value of the Arts in Singapore: An RG-EJ Investigation

By Elizabeth Khoo (21-U1), Emma Lee (21-O1), Katelyn Joshy (21-U1), Saara Katyal (RGS) 

“Wait what, you’re taking the arts stream?” I remember my neighbour reeling back in surprise when I told her my plans for Junior College. “How about your future? Won’t the sciences prepare you better?” 

In Singapore, the pursuit of the humanities has often been a trivial consideration and its relevance to modern day society is continually in question. Singapore is a deeply competitive society and many Singaporeans (especially older generations) are pragmatists who view the mastery of the sciences as the key to success, causing them to neglect the arts. To them, the science stream, the ‘tried and tested route’, promises stability. Thus, this explains the high subscription to the STEM pathway. However, what does our current generation have to say about the value of arts in our current lives? We surveyed some students from EJC and RGS to find out. 

There has been a shift in our perception of the importance of the arts, as over 90% of our survey respondents from Eunoia Junior College and Raffles Girls’ School / Raffles Institution have indicated that the arts (history, literature, geography, fine art and music, economics, etc.) are of the same importance in society as the sciences. Furthermore, almost all respondents rejected the notion that the arts stream was an easier pathway than the sciences. This reveals a considerable progress from the usual view that the arts are ‘useless’ or ‘easier’ subjects.

However, there are contradictions between the progressive stance that students have chosen to adopt and the academic choices they have made. For example, 59% of students who entered science stream stated that they did so for ‘practical reasons’ in university applications and educational opportunities; whilst 46% of these students perceived taking the sciences as more rewarding career-wise in the long run. These statistics show that although students claim that their attitudes towards the arts have shifted, they still have subconscious presumptions which cause them to choose certain academic pathways. These all point toward hidden biases and prejudices that are reminiscent of traditional Asian mindsets.  

Forms response chart. Question title: Why did you choose this subject combination?. Number of responses: 39 responses.

    We have also heard of many Singaporean parents who make their children enroll in university courses such as medicine and engineering simply because they think that these paths will lead to future financial stability. Comparably, we rarely come across families who readily encourage or guide their children to pursue the arts. This corroborates the research we conducted on the point that Singaporeans, including youths, still more or less subscribe to the traditional ideas of success which reject the arts as a potential career path, hence disregarding the importance of the arts. This can be attributed to parental moulding in their perceptions of what a ‘successful’ career path consists of.

Forms response chart. Question title: Do you think that you will land a less well paying job/ have a lesser career prospects if you take the Arts?. Number of responses: 39 responses.

Most alarmingly, more than half of the respondents believe that enrolling in a humanities or arts stream will lessen your career prospects. This is one of the longest standing misconceptions of the Arts. Since the arts are broad-based and multidisciplinary in approach, they are “less closely linked to a well defined job path after graduation”, and thus this leads people to assume that taking the arts will hinder your career progression in the future. This unfortunate misconception has only been reinforced by other external forces. For instance, UK education minister Gavin Williamson introduced schemes to focus on “subjects which deliver strong graduate employment in areas of economic and societal importance, such as STEM”. In Australia, the prejudice against the arts is even more blatant, as university students enrolling in humanities courses must pay higher school fees, in order to incentivise taking other courses which are more “job relevant” choices.

Contrary to popular belief, however, the Arts provide students with invaluable soft skills and 21st century competencies that will help them excel in the workplace. These skills include critical thinking & analysis as well as good communication. For example, in an Arts education, students are exposed to disciplines like history where they learn that historical events are the result of an interplay of factors. They learn to weigh these factors in order of their importance and ascertain which factor was most influential in leading to the observed outcome. Humanities students are also taught to express themselves eloquently through debate on various issues, thereby developing them as natural presenters and communicators that exude confidence. Moreover, geography also equips students with essential data handling skills. The lack of these skills has been shown to hinder 94% of productivity at work. As a result, liberal arts graduates are highly sought after. For instance, a recent study by Singapore Graduate Employment Survey found that Yale-NUS class of 2017 graduates achieved an employment rate of over 93 percent within the first six months of graduation, as compared to the overall employment rate of 88.9 percent. Furthermore, these graduates are shown to compete well even in technological fields. Therefore, it is incorrect to say that an Arts student would be at a disadvantage when pitted against his/her STEM counterpart when vying for a job position.


An arts education exposes us to a wide range of disciplines. This encourages flexibility in thinking and allows us to approach problems from multidisciplinary lenses, thus enabling us to adapt better to the changes in the world. For example, at Yale-NUS, a college known for its liberal arts education, students are required to read classics of literature and philosophy from all over the world, such as India, China, Africa and Europe, as well as study scientific inquiry and quantitative reasoning. Thus, contrary to popular belief, the liberal arts / humanities and the sciences are not mutually exclusive. In fact, a liberal arts education actively includes the sciences, where these subjects are studied as distinct and interesting ways of thinking, rather than a set of tools to solve a specific problem on, say, engineering. Therefore, choosing to focus on the humanities equips us with the skills to learn new things fast and apply them across many disciplines.

In conclusion, it is heartening to see more students being aware of the merits of an arts education. However, due to various misconceptions and external pressures, there are many who still feel pressured into taking the sciences anyway. We have already made the first step forward, but more work needs to be done if we truly want to integrate the humanities into our everyday lives.


  1. BBC. (n.d.). Why ‘worthless’ humanities degrees may set you up for life. BBC Worklife.

2. Guardian News and Media. (2020, September 10). ‘Humanities graduates are just as employable’: do the sciences really lead to more jobs? The Guardian.

3. Myths vs Reality: Busting 5 myths about Humanities. National Skills Network. (2020, December 17).

4. Nardin, T. (2021, February 21). Commentary: A liberal arts education in Singapore and the usefulness of ‘useless’ knowledge. CNA.

5. Subhani, O. (2020, July 6). Report: Lack of data skills hinders productivity of 94% of employers. The Straits Times.

Singapore’s Secondary School Streaming System: the EJ-RGS perspective

Written by: Aiko Yeo (RGS), Ashley Koh (21-A1), Ashley Wee (21-U1), Carissa Aletha Liem (21-I1), Nicolle Yeo (RGS) 

Designed by: Leanne Soh Li En (21-E6)

“Every school is a good school.” We all want to believe this common local saying. Yet, it would be remiss to say that everyone’s experience in the education system is exactly the same, especially when it comes to how students in different schools are perceived. 

To give you some context, students are typically placed into the Express, Normal (Academic) and Normal (Technical) streams, once they enter the secondary school of their choice. Around 30% are sorted into either of the Normal streams, while the other 70% are in the Express stream. This process results in the incoming cohort divided into 3 distinct groups, with little opportunity to interact and mingle between each stream. In 2004, the distance was further widened by the creation of the Integrated Programme (IP), a 6-year plan which allows some students in the Express Stream to transition directly from secondary school to junior college, bypassing the nationwide O-Levels or N-Levels. 

At first glance, this seemed to be an effective sorting system for Singaporean students, with the justification being that students of similar academic abilities and skill-sets would be able to learn at the same pace and help each other improve. However, is this really the case?

When we examine the expectations imposed on students, as well as the resources that are readily available to them, there appears to be a great disparity between the 3 categories. Undeniably, each stream also comes with its own stereotypes and social stigma about the students within. 

As students from the O-Level/IP streams, we believe it is not our place to discuss the views and experiences of the N(A) and N(T) students. Hence, our article will focus on the effects of the current streaming system on O-Level versus IP students, and what the future of education looks like with subject-based banding. 

To provide a more balanced perspective, we first conducted a survey amongst our schoolmates, which began with the all-important question: Does the streaming system in Singapore negatively impact students? Surprisingly, the responses were split down the line, showing that the situation may not be as clear-cut as we think. 

Fig 1. Pie Chart of Results from Question: Does the streaming system affect students in Singapore negatively? 

One respondent shared, “I think streaming has allowed students to be more specialised in their learning, and education to be customised and fitted around the student’s own capabilities.” While they acknowledge that streaming is not a bed of roses as it “widens the gap between elite and neighbourhood schools”, the respondent nonetheless believes that streaming allows students to develop their interests at a suitable pace to optimise the overall learning process.

However, another respondent confesses that IP students face immense pressure to succeed. They believe that some students disproportionately focus on academics and success or lament the stresses that come with the ultra-competitive academic scene in IP schools. This respondent believes that some students may go so far as to “step on others to get what they want” under the guise of being “determined” to succeed.

Subsequently, we decided to examine the respondents’ own opinions towards those in the other stream from a scale of “I can’t stand them at all” to “They’re great!”.

The largest proportion of respondents said that they felt very happy with the students from other streams, A whopping 64% of respondents rated students from a different stream positively, echoing the sentiment that students from a different stream are “100% great”.

Fig 2. Table of results from question: “On a scale of one to ten, how do you feel about students from a different stream as you?” 

16% of students, however, professed their view of students in a different stream of them as closer to “I can’t stand them at all”. There seems to be little consensus among Eunoians and Rafflesians, ranging from disdain, ambivalence to enthusiasm. Still, the fact that there is a split in opinions among the respondents just goes to show that stigma and prejudice still exist as a result of the current streaming system.

So, what has the government done to try and dissolve the stigma and divisions that may arise from this system? Well, they have almost entirely revamped the PSLE system. A new development in the government’s education policy is the move away from streaming and towards full subject-based specialisation. From 2024, the government aims to completely do away with the antiquated Normal and Express streams . Instead, students will be assigned subjects of different difficulties at the beginning of Secondary 1 based on their PSLE results. From Secondary 1 onwards, the difficulty of the subject the student takes is no longer determined by PSLE results, rather by their abilities based on the previous year’s results.

Now, the PSLE scoring system will be more similar to the system used for O-and A-Level grading and less emphasis will be put on how well students do compared to their other peers. This new system is said/promises to allow students to progress and advance at their own pace. Instead of their options  for subjects being limited by those they were offered at the start of Secondary 1, students would be able to advance through different levels of different subjects, depending on their individual abilities. Moreover, if they are unable to cope with their subjects and prefer to take it on a less challenging level, schools would also be able to come up with an arrangement that is suitable for the student. This will hopefully help to eradicate society’s narrow focus on academics and promote a more holistic approach to education. 

However, even as Normal and Express streams cease to exist, the Integrated Programme continues on. The “elite” subsection of the Express stream, oftentimes reserved for students perceived as the “smartest” of their batch, has seemingly been saved from the restructuring and near-overhaul of our Secondary education system. How do IP students feel about this?

In general, students remain rather hesitant about this new change. One respondent believes that the revamped streaming model merely changes the face of streaming without eradicating one of the key problems many see in streaming: the prejudices. Subject-based banding is just another way to categorise those who the system sees as “smarter” and those who they see as “not as smart”, leading to the alienation of students who are taking fewer subjects, as well as taking all of them at lower difficulties. The worst-case scenario? “If students from different subject bands never mix, students in the highest band would develop a superiority complex over the person in the lowest band”, perhaps even carrying these views into adult and working life.

Another respondent was more optimistic, remarking that subject-based banding allows students to “capitalise on their strengths and work on their weaknesses.” She was still not 100% confident in this measure, however, adding that “ if competition among students remains high, this updated means of streaming may very well put more pressure on students to take courses of higher difficulties to “not lose out in any opportunities in further education”. This view echoes that of secondary students opting to the Junior College stream: to take a subject at the H1 or H2 level? To this respondent, subject-based banding may not only promote the all-too-familiar mentality of “it’s always better to take the triple Science combination”, but also add to the prejudice that students who do not take these subjects at the highest possible level are “not smart”. 

In this article, we have examined the current streaming system. From the research as well as the responses we’ve collated, it seems that there is a big problem of social stigma built into the current streaming system itself. In addition, this contributes to various problems, such as pressures and stresses on the IP students, and insecurities as well as low self-esteem for those in the O level stream. As such, change must happen. 

In fact, many sections of our society acknowledge this, including the government, which is why the new streaming system has sprung up. Perhaps the current streaming system, in your eyes, has worked for decades and we should not change what is not broken. Or perhaps you feel that the current system is broken, and that it is imperative that we implement changes to this system. Whichever camp you belong to, streaming, in whatever form it’s presented to us in, is here to stay.  While some students might feel that the solutions offered are far from perfect, the government can only do so much, because ultimately, it is up to us to change our own perceptions and opinions of those different from us. Only when we start changing our mindsets can the problems associated with streaming be minimised. Only then can we start to create the Singapore education system we want. 


Check out Part 1 of this 2-part series here!

Written by: Elizabeth Paulyn Gostelow (RI), Ray Lim (RI), Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5), Leia Ong Rui En(20-U1)

Designed by: Kothandam Anusha (20-I1)

Section II: Arts and Culture


In this section, we focus on our schools’ distinct locations of arts and culture: physical manifestations of two otherwise intangible, yet vitally important ideas, especially in our current times. We look at EJC’s BSP (Bicultural Studies Programme) and HSP (Humanities Scholarship Programme) room, representative of the culture we study, and its Performing Arts studio, along with RI’s Performing Arts Centre, which speaks for the culture we make. Without further ado, let us uncover the rich histories and vibrant student lifestyles that form the backbone of our schools!

Our Arts Studios

No school is complete without its performing arts groups. The heart and soul of any academic institution, it would simply be remiss for any article on special places of significance in school to not mention the pride and joy of its performance CCAs — as such, we now shine the spotlight on EJC’s PA studio and RI’s PAC.

One might feel safe in assuming that the much-discussed Auditorium is the focus of all performing arts culture in EJC. However, they would be only partially correct — the adjacent Performing Arts (PA) Studios are where the true blood, sweat, and tears of many performing arts CCAs are shed. 

EJ Rock Band performing outside the PA Studio. Photo credit: EJC Media (Note: Photo was taken pre-COVID)

Serving as practice rooms for Dance, Choir, Drama, and the Student-Initiated Interest Groups (SIIG) Rock Band and Street Dance, the PA Studios are a hub of artistic culture, and hold a dear place in many Eunoian performers’ hearts.

“The PA studio is a place to work, chill, and bond with your CCA mates,” shared Quek Hui Xin (20-E4, EJC), a member of EJ Dance. “Lots of great and unique memories are made there.” 

She also cited the myriad uses of the PA Studio beyond simply for CCA practice — be it learning college dances with schoolmates, practising for VIA performances, or even learning Muay Thai for Euplay, a college-wide host of sport modules.

EJ Drama’s Open House performance. Photo credit: EJC Media (Note: Photo was taken pre-COVID)

In contrast, RI’s large, 800-seater PAC hosts annual performances and showcases by its performing arts CCAs, usually lively in-person ticketed affairs. Such joyous and wondrous events include the piano and jazz concerts put up by the RI Piano Ensemble and Jazz respectively, Film Society’s yearly short film showcase by its Year 6 batch, and the annual College Showcase of the Raffles Players theatre group, where they dazzle and delight the audience with their double or triple bills.

Brandon Tay (21A13A, RI), a member of the Piano Ensemble, lamented that “the PAC is probably the best place for performances in our school, but I haven’t seen it in a really long time.”

EJ’s PA Studios serve a similar function, by doubling as mini-stages: “Performances can also be held when we open the big glass doors and everyone sits outside to watch,” shared Hui Xin. Of course, this purpose is temporarily suspended for now.

“With the [PA Studio’s] wooden floor, the acoustics of the room are also great!” chorister Lauren Ong (20-U1, EJC) chimed in — a testament to its conduciveness.

Finally, Benjamin Silver Mathew (21A13A, RI), a member of Raffles Jazz, opined, “Our CCA doesn’t use the PAC often but we used it once for Grad Night in November 2020. The venue wasn’t that great — plain and boring — but still decent. I had a good time performing in the PAC, but now it’s under renovation. I’m never going to use it again; our 2021 Jazz annual performance will be livestreamed from the MPH.” The MPH, of course, refers to the Multi Purpose Hall, which might now have to replace the PAC in terms of its main function as a performance venue, at least until the PAC’s renovation work is complete.

Indeed, with their specialised equipment and, as Hui Xin mentioned, the “hard work and dedication [of every performing arts CCA] it represents”, EJC’s PA Studio and RI’s PAC proudly stand as emblems of the rich artistic culture that we as students create. 


In EJC, there are places dedicated to the study of rich culture. The Bicultural Studies Programme (BSP) and Humanities Scholarship Programme (HSP) rooms hold a special place in the hearts of some. “The HSP room provides a sense of belonging to the school,” Michelle Leong (20-U1) remarked, as it was her homeroom for most of her academic year. 

The HSP room, bedecked with everything humanities-related, from Historical propaganda to theories of philosophy, is neatly designed to “promote students’ creative and critical thinking,” HSP Head Mr Mahmood Fahmi expressed, “especially in light of the vitality of the Arts in a STEAM education”.

Posters and pictures in the HSP Room

Additionally, the strong emphasis of Chinese culture in the BSP room allows for a conducive environment for students to “fully immerse” themselves and “appreciate the Chinese culture we study even better”, as Teo Zi Ning and Melody Foo of 20-O5 delightfully remarked.

Items emblematic of Chinese culture in the BSP Room

To most, the wonders of the BSP and HSP rooms may not resonate powerfully, but it goes to show how these individual places in the campus may be of great significance to those who will eventually see the beauty of the school in its most charming of places. 

Bringing back fond memories of an enriching immersion trip to China or fortifying one’s love for the humanities are the cornerstones of these students’ experiences, and they demonstrate that the story of every Eunoian is theirs to craft.

Section III: Recreation and Study


Of course, no school would be complete without places where students can relax or ‘mug’ for examinations. We hunted around our schools for the most common places used by teachers and students — that is, the windy benches of both our schools, EJC’s basketball courts and RI’s Wishing Well.

The Windy Benches of EJC and RI

A surprising commonality between both schools? The presence of windy study benches!

Many students share memories of these ideal, accessible and highly-frequented places for last-minute homework, watching an overdue Economics lecture, or consulting teachers on academic topics. The benches boast the perk of being an open space without pesky opening and closing time restrictions.

Besides homerooms, a typical Eunoian’s second (or third) home would have to be these wooden benches. Sitting at levels 4, 8 and 12, these iconic, lofty benches represent the similarly high grades students wish to achieve. 

Windy benches at level 4. Photo credit: EJC Media

Rafflesians too enjoy the perks of RI’s windy benches located opposite and next to the bookshop, and conveniently close to the washrooms.

The windy benches near the bookshop.

A place with no air conditioning sounds like a huge no-no for students looking to pass the time, especially in Singapore’s hot weather. But as the name suggests, the surprisingly strong breezes which drift through the benches make them a popular location for students to study with friends and relax. “[It’s] a cute, fun spot to meet people,” Sun Yi (21A01B, RI) commented. “I always see faces I recognise there.”

“[The benches are] Super open and windy!” enthused Loy Kai Xuan (20-U1, EJC), an avid proponent of using the wooden benches for completing CSC essays. “Since it’s [near to] classrooms, it’s a convenient place to complete work with a change of scenery.” 

In the same sentiment, Mathilda Lee (20-I4, EJC), self-professed mugger, elaborated: “The wind is really nice when studying, and we can enjoy the great view too when we take breaks.” 

How, though, do these benches compare to the comfort of home or other places? “The benches aren’t as cold as the library,” Mathilda quipped. “Plus, studying in school is more productive for me, and I can study with friends, which makes me want to do work, too.”

The benches are also surrounded by wonderful sights — be they the beautiful artwork adorning the walls, or the bird’s eye view of the surrounding residential flats and lush greenery, a welcome change from the monotony of printed paper and the blue light of screens. What’s not to like?

(Left and right) Paintings hanging on the walls near the RI windy benches.

Thus, it is certainly not surprising that the windy benches are a place of fond remembrance for teachers and students alike.

“Honestly, this place brings back a lot of memories. From Project Work discussions to just simply laying my head on the table there to get a quick energy nap before lessons, it is a very iconic place in school to me,” shared Jolin (21A13B, RI).

“I like holding consults at the bright and breezy study deck on level 4, a nice contrast to [those at] level 3,” Mr Marc Kenji Lim, EJC Literature teacher, commented. “Moreover, if my consults don’t go as well as I hope, I rest in the knowledge that divine intervention is nearby.”

EJ: Basketball Courts

The exultant cries of “Kobe!” The sounds of basketballs thudding against grey concrete, reverberating through the nearby canteen. These are as characteristic of EJ as the colours blue and gold: the sight of students balling enthusiastically at the open-air basketball courts.  

Students and teachers playing a match. Photo credit: EJC Media

There is seldom a day that the court is not used at least once. Free for all to use, the courts are prime places for Eunoians during breaks or after school to unwind from the day’s hectic and draining studies. 

“I go [to the courts] almost every day,” Han Xinchen (20-A6, EJC), a casual player, shared. “I just play for fun, but it’s a good place to de-stress and meet new people to play with.”

Evidently, the courts are for everybody, be they experienced players (or ‘ballers’, as they are affectionately called) or those looking to pick up a new sport or new friends. “It’s a great place for training my plays,” Jace Bong (20-E1, EJC) mentioned, as an avid ‘baller’. “I get to play and practice with my friends anytime!” 

“Some teachers enjoy going down to ball too during breaks,” Ms Karine Teo, EJC PE teacher, mentioned. With the courts beloved by both students and teachers alike, the recreation of basketball looks to be a permanent, unofficial part of EJ culture.

RI: The Wishing Well

View of the Wishing Well from its entrance near the lift.

One would easily be forgiven for their surprise at the name of this location — after all, this is no place for you to toss your coins in hopes of finding true love…

But it is a place for your academic wishes to be fulfilled! Located next to the Level 3 staffroom, the Wishing Well is the most popular place for students and teachers to have consultations for a wide multitude of subjects. “I use it to meet teachers for consultations, but otherwise I don’t really go there often,” Rachel (21A01B, RI) remarked. 

On the other hand, the Wishing Well is also a place for teachers to catch up with ex-students. “When it isn’t in huge demand and ex-students come back (when they were allowed to pre Covid-19), we sometimes sit there and reminisce as they recall earlier days sitting studying there rather than chit-chatting,” shared Mrs Nicola Perry, RI Literature teacher.

In fact, the Wishing Well gets its apt name from the large, circular balcony in the centre of the space, which overlooks the Mezzanine floor below.

The Wishing Well also has a unique feature that not everyone notices at first glance.

The quirky door in the Wishing Well — a real mystery!

“One of my favourite features of the Wishing Well [is] the door which leads to nowhere and everywhere!” commented Mrs Perry. 

“Is this symbolic of the Well helping some students to more deftly unpick the lock of the metaphorical doors that RI allows you access to through education, but, where you actually go to when you cross the threshold is for you to determine? In such a serious institution such a quirky feature just delights me! A moment of frivolity in the expanse of earnest endeavour. So necessary.”


Whether our school colours are blue and gold or green, black, and white, it is simply undeniable that all of us share common experiences as students — be they our striking experiences at some of these iconic places, or the unforgettable memories made therein   which will stick with us for years to come after graduation.

On that note, all four of us hope that we have done justice in documenting these poignant places that are so instrumental in shaping each of our unique, prismatic collegiate stories!

Homes Away from Home: Places of Special Significance in EJC and RI — Part 1

Written by: Elizabeth Paulyn Gostelow (RI), Ray Lim (RI), Lim Junheng, Jovan (20-O5), Leia Ong Rui En(20-U1)

Designed by: Kothandam Anusha (20-I1)


The rustling of pages and the occasional whirring of printers. Perpetual chatter and laughter characteristic of the canteen. Pounding music and enthusiastic voices in rehearsal, heard from a mile away. Gusts of wind whooshing over benches of students hunched over their work. 

Regardless of the school we hail from — Eunoia Junior College (EJC) or Raffles Institution (RI) — certain sights and sounds are not just incredibly distinctive, but are also genuine trademarks of our day-to-day lives as students. 

Have you ever wondered about what campus life is like in EJC and RI? In this article, writers from these adjacent schools rediscover eleven places of significance in our beloved campuses — our homes away from home. Read on to find out what makes these seemingly innocuous places so unique, vibrant, and above all, indispensable to our student lives.

Section I: School Staples 


In this first section, we rediscover two places — the library and the canteen — that are both indispensable locations in our schools, and what they mean to Eunoians and Rafflesians. From the old Buona Vista campus to the glorious new Bishan campus, the EJ segment reveals the changes post-move, while the RI segment will elucidate why and how these two places are both essential staples of the respective junior colleges.

Our Libraries

What is one of the most fundamental facilities available to any student? Of course, we’re referring to our schools’ libraries! With resplendent natural light streaming through both libraries’ floor-to-ceiling windows, they have cemented their reputation as places of peace and tranquility in the hearts of Eunoians and Rafflesians alike. Read on to find out more!

For many Eunoians, the architecture of the campus is something that they are most proud of. Students, staff and visitors alike enter the Bishan campus marvelling at the beauty of our duplex library, with its full-length windows boasting a panoramic view of the Bishan Park landscape. 

EJC campus’ library with a splendid view of Bishan Park. Photo credit: EJC Media

Most commonly referred to simply as ‘the library’, RI’s Shaw Foundation Library, or SFL, is most inviting, and undeniably, proves a popular draw for students. However, what is a library without its books — or people — to read them?  With countless shelves packed to the gills with books of innumerable genres and languages, the three-storey SFL is the ideal spot to loan literary items.

SFL in all its undeniable, resplendent glory

“SFL is comparable to HML [Hullett Memorial Library, the library at the Year 1-4 side of RI]. I would say that SFL has a better, significantly wider collection of books,” commented Foo Loon Wei (2131A, RI).

The libraries’ features are, of course, not limited to just dusty tomes. The smorgasbord of features in the EJC library are surely something to be reckoned with — courtesy of EJC’s resident Library Club, whose conscientious upkeep enlivens its otherwise grey and monotone interior. The colourful displays on the giant staircase linking its two storeys together is testament to their hard work.

Monthly-decorated staircase linking the two levels of the library.

Their monthly new decorations of book recommendations pertaining to different school subjects constantly gives the library a refreshed look. As Library Club member Chen Jiulin (20-E1, EJC) puts it, “My favourite feature is probably the activity section at the landing between the two levels of the library, [as it] makes the library feel cosier and brightens it up.”

Activity section at the staircase landing of EJC Library

The SFL, too, provides a cosy reading spot in front of a huge selection of magazines and periodicals, along with seats by the side where students can watch DVDs. Unfortunately, said magazine reading spot and e-viewing facilities in SFL have been blocked from use — a move completely essential, but no doubt regrettable — rendering this area of the library virtually useless. 

Necessary measures, in the time of a global pandemic

The cosy chairs and sofas crossed out with severe-looking tape, which would otherwise be a rather shocking and surprising sight, serve as reminders of the unfortunately on-going pandemic in their stark visual contrast.

In line with digital mediums, the little-known ICT Learning Space — tucked in an alcove under the main staircase — in EJC’s library has a host of IT facilities seeking to improve Eunoians’ digital literacy. 

ICT Learning Space under the staircase

Maintained by the IT Department, this corner features books on technology, neon lights, and even a television monitor tracking your every movement, along with other tech paraphernalia.

Television monitor with various IT concepts on the shelves

Of course, studying is without a doubt the most common activity undertaken at both the EJC and RI school libraries, with the more familiar highlights the various studying corners distributed all about both places, drenched in natural light from the large windows. Lim Yun Fang (20-E5, EJC), also from her school’s Library Club, is particularly fond of this environment. “It creates a very productive atmosphere,” she shared.

Study area on Level 10

The same can easily be said of SFL, where the rows of rectangular tables which stretch further than the eye can see, beautiful in their simplicity and symmetry, are now imposed as tables-for-one. 

The “Quiet Study Areas”, now even more conducive for studying

“Our library is very spacious, the lighting is very conducive, and of course, the librarians are very friendly,” chimed in Loon Wei, not to be outdone.

This sentiment certainly isn’t just shared by current students of both Bishan campuses — even previous EJC batches felt the same way before the move. As 2020 batch EJC alumnus Ernest Tan called to mind his experiences in the former Mount Sinai campus’ library, he felt that while it was largely similar to that of the current campus, it also had “an additional touch of cosiness”, which he greatly enjoyed. 

Panoramic view of the former Mount Sinai campus’ library. Photo credit: EJC Media

Clearly, the campus library is an integral part of our student experiences. Without it, we would never have enjoyed the abundance of facilities that bring us comfort in our second homes. 

Whether it is for endless, undisturbed studying, or just for some peaceful lounging before leaving for the next lesson, it is undeniable that even what seems like the most ordinary of places — the school library — is truly able to bring much-needed ease and repose to any Eunoian or Rafflesian.

Our Canteens

The canteen — a location of nourishment universally familiar and well-loved by all teachers and students alike. Be it to unwind with a spirited chat after a long day, or to have a quick lunch before rushing up for the next lesson, the canteen is undoubtedly a place of fond memories for all.

The view from the most commonly used entrance of the RI canteen.

The dizzying array of stalls in both canteens provides a wide variety of cuisine choices, with undoubtedly something for everyone, be it Yong Tau Foo or Mixed Rice. Long queues at multiple stalls can often be seen at busier meal times, revealing the true popularity of the canteen food.

The long queue for R5 Noodles and Porridge on 23 February 2021, at 11.19 a.m. 

When interviewed, students from both schools found the food selection to be more than satisfactory. “The Malay food is a bit pricey, but the satay chicken and mee rebus are very good,” Shen Zhen Yang (21S06E, RI) opined, in relation to Aminah’s Nasi Padang, one of RI’s Malay food stalls. His sentiment is shared by many peers, which speaks to its uncontested quality.

Mixed rice from Aminah Nasi Padang 

The appreciation is mutual: “I am always very happy to be around such nice students,” Auntie Karen of the EJ Duck Rice stall said pleasantly.

EJ canteen stalls, post-lunch hour

The canteen, good eats aside, is not just a place for meals. With the wondrous view of Bishan Park just beside, EJ’s canteen is also a spot for all to unwind and take a breather, with a plate of tasty chicken rice or refreshing fruit smoothie in hand. “I enjoy eating with my colleagues,” said Mr Kevin Martens Wong, GP teacher, often spotted sitting with fellow GP teachers at the tall teachers’ table. “Being so near to nature is good too, as it reminds us of EJ’s place in the community.” 

EJC Canteen with the scenic view of Bishan Park. Photo credit: EJC Media

“The canteen is a place filled with emotions, mostly carefree ones,” shared Kelvin Jong (20-O5, EJC). “Sometimes you can hear people singing birthday songs, or just outbursts of laughter.” 

These quotes are indeed testaments to the lively atmosphere characteristic of EJC’s canteen; likewise, the spirited energy of the student body is apparent through RI’s occasional canteen performances, including those by Raffles Rock and Raffles Jazz during Homecoming, which kicked off the school year for the Year 6 students. 

“I had a great time performing with my batchmates in the canteen during Homecoming. It was very heartening that many of my friends and classmates were there to support me,” enthused Benjamin Silver Matthew (21A13A, RI), a Jazz member.

Of course, the fond memories that all of us, teachers, and students alike have of the canteen is what makes it so singularly special. Darren Chung (21S06P, RI) remarked: “When at the canteen, my classmates and I can all sit together at one or two tables to eat meals and talk. This is, of course, not possible in the classroom, where our desks are separated in exam arrangement. Though I might prefer the Year 1-4 canteen, where the food is obviously much better, the JC canteen vendors are quite nice, too.” 

“As we can talk freely to friends and even friends of friends, the canteen is a memorable place for friendships to start,” said Kelvin, in a similar vein. 

Recounting a congenial experience he had at the start of the year, he went on, “I once saw a group of J1 students at the benches in front of Auntie Mei Lan’s drinks stall chatting, and surprisingly, I found out that they were all from different OGs (Orientation Groups)!”

Indeed, the canteen is a hub of social activity for the freshly-minted J1s, having spent much of the interim time between Orientation games waiting or even playing water games there. 

“The canteen is a place where OGs or CGs [Civics Groups] can always head to when we’re free after any activity or lesson to really sit down, chill, and have conversations to bond,” noted Jachin Khoo (21-U5, EJC).

The current extraordinary circumstances brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have left all of us going about our daily lives with much more caution. The safe-distancing markers spaced out on every Eunoian class’ individual canteen table and endless supply of table disinfectant and paper towels provided, have allowed all of us to become more accustomed to this new norm. 

Similarly, the presence of Safe Distancing Ambassadors in RI’s canteen is a point of note. Although not dressed in bright red like those in shopping malls, these watchful plainclothes monitors from the teaching staff, beyond enforcing a strict one-metre-apart rule, are also reminders of our all-important civic responsibility in keeping the novel coronavirus at bay. But like the clear dividers at every table, they have become, quite simply, facts of life. Foo Loon Wei (21A13A, RI) lamented, “Our batch did not really utilise the canteen because of the pandemic.” But on a hopeful, forward-looking note, he added: “Maybe future batches will.”

Signs of the times

Despite these special measures, necessarily undertaken to keep us safe, the simple pleasure of enjoying a meal with friends remains undiluted. “Even with SMMs in place, all the open space makes the canteen still feel very communal,” said Mr Wong.

“I don’t think the canteen’s essence will change; it has always been a staple of our school,” shared Loon Wei. Indeed, it is almost impossible to imagine school life without somewhere as iconic and as important as the canteen — a place of fond memories for us all.

Check out Part 2 of the 2-part series here!