By Amelia Tan
A ROW is brewing between the Victorian alumni association and Victoria Junior College (VJC) over a decision to expand the college's integrated programme.
VJC submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Education (MOE) last month, seeking to admit students at the Secondary 1 level instead of Secondary 3, which it has been doing for the last four years.
The Old Victorians' Association (OVA) - the alumni group of Victoria School (VS) and VJC - is against the move, which it feels pits VJC against VS.
OVA president Vernon Teo said in an interview yesterday that he has written to Education Minister Ng Eng Hen to explain why the association is against the expansion of the integrated programme.
An MOE spokesman confirmed it has received the letter but did not say when the results of the evaluation process will be known.
Mr Teo said the association had been talking with VJC on the possibility of expanding the integrated programme for the past three years. But VJC decided to submit the proposal to MOE despite objections from the OVA. 'We said no but they went ahead. We are very disappointed,' Mr Teo added.
When contacted, VJC principal Chan Poh Meng said: 'We believe that there are significant educational advantages in having an uninterrupted six-year programme for the students to engage in a wider range of learning experiences for holistic development.'
Mr Teo said in the letter that the move will cause a split in the Victorian family, as VS and VJC will be forced to fight for the same target audience: Secondary 1 students.
He also said that expanding the integrated programme to Secondary 1 students will attract top Primary 6 pupils and breed a culture of elitism which Victorian schools do not stand for.
Mr Teo said the association's view is shared by the majority of Victorian alumni, students and their parents. A Facebook group set up to protest against the expansion of the integrated programme has drawn about 2,200 members. All 60 comments posted on a website that OVA launched, to gather views on VJC's proposal, were also against it.
Mr Teo said that while the OVA is against VJC's proposal to admit Secondary 1 students, it is open to working with the school on alternative ideas that can achieve the same objectives as a six-year programme, and which also ensures VS stays an all-boys school. He added that the VS track record of excellence has proven that an all-boys formula during a student's teenage years works.
One idea the association has is to have a management team run both VJC and VS and continue with the four-year integrated programme. This means the boys will study with female students only when they progress to Secondary 3.
The second idea is to adopt a girls feeder school so VJC can attract top female students. The girls will study for the first two years at their girls school before joining VJC in Secondary 3.
The last idea is to admit Secondary 1 girls to VJC but have them study at a separate campus from the boys for the first two years.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.