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Just a few weeks after my term started in 南侨, two teams of colleagues, namely School Anniversary Committees heads and the School Publications heads came to me on the same day and both asked me: ‘校长，what is the theme for our anniversary this year? 校长，what is the direction that you will set for the publications this year?’ To be honest, really I was quite startled at that moment to give them an immediate answer. I recalled asking myself, ‘What would be our theme? What would be my direction when we have just started the year…’ so I asked them, ‘What have you observed of me doing for the past few weeks? Have I been consistently saying and reiterating specific key messages?’ I was most thankful that both teams gave me similar answer, that was, through the many questions that I asked everyone in school, many of the 南侨 family members revisited the mission that the school has always wanted to serve when we started seventy-two years ago – to reflect our current roles and work in 南侨, and to envision what 南侨 should and will achieve in the years ahead. And this bring all of us this year’s theme, “Cherishing the Past, Charting the Future”.
This year, all twenty-six Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools got together to commemorate the Plan’s 40th anniversary. The theme for the SAP40 anniversary is 心系特选、情牵岛国、眼观天下 (Bilingual, Bicultural, and Global-Minded). This is the first time that concerted time and efforts from all the twenty-six SAP schools are invested for a good cause, not just to celebrate the achievements that the schools, teachers, alumni and students have attained over the years, but also a timely moment for the SAP community to pause and reflect. We are amazed at how far we have contributed immensely to the community, and we are now more certain that we will continue to serve an important role in Singapore.
The SAP40 theme was initiated in 2017, when the principals of all SAP schools, under the leadership of former Director General of Education Ms Ho Peng, gathered to chart the way forward for SAP schools. It was concluded that SAP schools must remain relevant, and must focus on three areas. Firstly, to preserve the SAP schools’ culture and ethos; secondly, to contribute towards a multi-cultural Singapore, and lastly, to broaden the students’ horizons and prepare them for a changing world and region.
In the early years of our country’s independence, Singapore established English as the common working language in multi-cultural Singapore. English has also been the global language of commerce and trade. Hence, in the 1970’s and 80’s, parents sought to send their children to English medium schools. Enrolment for Chinese medium schools fell, and over time, the Government closed many of them.
Recognising this dismal trend and the value of preserving the ethos of Chinese medium schools, the Government established SAP schools in 1979. SAP schools were tasked to uphold the traditional Chinese school cultural environment, and to promote the learning of Chinese language and culture.
At that time, 南侨 was thriving, unfortunately we did not make it to the list of SAP schools. It was very painful for us.
For the next thirty-three years, 南侨 went through challenging times and almost faced possibility of being shut down. But the pain did not bring us down, instead, it motivated us to be stronger and to work more strategically to bring ourselves to greater heights. Today, even though we are the youngest member in the SAP Family, we joined our older siblings with much pride and confidence, and contributed our best efforts to commemorate SAP40 together.
As a SAP school, it is fundamental that we make concerted efforts to ensure Chinese a living language in school. For example, assemblies are conducted in Chinese on certain days of the week. School leaders and teachers address the students in Chinese, and students make announcements and reports in Chinese. Such a whole-of-school, immersive approach is still the best way to learn any language and culture, and the challenge is to develop an intrinsic motivation for Chinese Language learning, and at the same time that motivation is aligned with forging the national Singaporean identity. Given Singapore’s language environment today, it is an uphill task to make our students effectively bilingual and bicultural. However, the school is placed on good grounding to develop a core group of students in each cohort – to have an intuitive understanding of Chinese culture, history and thinking, and with standards of the Chinese language similar to those in China, Taiwan or Hong Kong. 南侨 will continue to forge ahead whole-heartedly, in an educationally-sound manner.
这是我们中文部张春玉老师今年为纪念特选四十，在新年时于校园广场挂了一幅好字。《忆故 ● 思新》， 特选学校四十年一路走来确实不容易，南侨中学七十二年来也走过了无数风雨，在大家齐心努力下才有今天的骄傲。但是我们的教育初心如一，并且将继续坚守办校使命，在教育业上再创高峰。
Ms Siau Fong Fui