The Genesis of Raffles Junior College, and the Exodus to Mt Sinai

When Raffles Junior College (RJC) was formed in 1982, it was not exactly an idea of RI’s making. Following the inception of Singapore’s first junior college, National Junior College (NJC), in 1969, the Ministry of Education (MOE) began negotiations in 1974 with RI headmaster Mr Philip Liau for RI to move its pre-university classes to a new junior college. His successor, Mr A K Sigamoney, tried his best to stave off any impending split. In an article published in the 1981 edition of the Rafflesian, he wrote, ‘RI has been able to provide a good, all-rounded education to its students from Secondary 1 to Pre-U 2, mainly because of its system of a six-year continuous education, under the same roof, for a great majority of boys.’

What were the strengths of a junior college system? First, the pioneer junior college NJC had adopted a lecture-tutorial system that was perceived to be more effective for the teaching of the A-Level syllabus than the classroom teaching method employed in pre-university programmes. As a result, the popularity of the junior college system soared, and many new junior colleges were created over the next few years.

Furthermore, in 1982 Hwa Chong Junior College pioneered the Humanities programme, an MOE initiative that was run exclusively in junior colleges. This made the pre-university route less attractive, as RI students would miss out on this and other similar opportunities.

MOE was also concerned that other illustrious schools such as Anglo- Chinese School and St Joseph’s Institution had already relinquished their pre-university sections; RI should not be an exception. But from the perspective of RI students and old boys, things in RI had been going well, so why change? Many pre-university RI students also felt that the shift would be disruptive to their studies. Most importantly, many Rafflesians – past and present – feared the loss or dilution of the Rafflesian spirit.

RI’s concerns notwithstanding, the school was given an ultimatum: if RI did not agree to a separation, it would have to run its pre-university programme over three years, as opposed to the two-year junior college programme. Moreover, MOE would go ahead and start a new Raffles Junior College; RI did not hold a monopoly over the Raffles name, after all.

With the Raffles reputation at stake, RI acquiesced. MOE appointed Mr Rudy Mosbergen to be RJC’s first principal, who had a mere three months to set up the junior college. At first, a site in the Marina area was proposed, as there was enough land there to accommodate both RI and RJC, and potentially RGS as well. But other projects were slated to begin on that site and RJC instead began its life in the former Institute of Education buildings on Paterson Road, not far from RI’s Grange Road campus.


Unfortunately, the Paterson Road buildings were ill-equipped to house a full-fledged junior college, and science stream students had to trek back to RI to use the science labs. Many of RJC’s extra-curricular activities (now known as CCAs) also needed funds to purchase new equipment. But these were minor issues compared to thechallenges faced by RJC’s 1st Students’ Council, which was charged with the task of maintaining the Rafflesian identity and transplanting the Rafflesian spirit to the new college.

Fortunately, they were not alone in this endeavour. In 1982, 450 students who had completed RI’s Pre-U 1 course began the new school year as JC2 students at RJC. Joining them at Paterson Road were 40 of their teachers from RI and 750 new JC1 students from RI and other schools. RJC thus became the first junior college to be set up with two levels. It adopted RI’s badge, anthem, motto and uniform, and the two schools converged on occasions such as Founder’s Day.

In 1983, the students and staff of RJC embarked on another exodus, this time to their new campus at Mt Sinai. It was equipped with five lecture theatres and a large library, but it was also a good five kilometres from RI’s Grange Road campus. Nevertheless, despite the physical distance that separated the two schools until RJC was co-located at Bishan in 2005, many RI boys viewed moving on to RJC as a natural progression. Through the years the spirit has been strong in both schools – Rafflesians unite, indeed.

If you would like to share your memories of your days in RJC when it was first situated in Paterson Road and then Mt Sinai, do write in to us at [email protected]. We would love to hear from you. 


© This article was originally published in the 06 issue of Eagle Eye, the RI Student Magazine.

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