Features, Highlights

On gratitude to God and giving back to society

Official opening of new Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) campus

“TO WHOM MUCH IS GIVEN, much is expected,” acknowledged Mrs Kathryn Koh, Principal of Anglo-Chinese School (Junior) or ACS(J), as she welcomed guests and well-wishers to the consecration and official opening of the school’s new campus at Winstedt Road.

The combined themes of deep gratitude to God and weighty sense of responsibility to others, as reflected in her statement, were echoed by various other speakers throughout the event. The festive atmosphere began early with railings festooned with ribbons, boys in sports attire lining the walkways to welcome guests and performance groups readying their props and instruments. As parent volunteers formed a large section of the attendees, a cheerful buzz of conversation filled the air and the excitement from both pupils and parents was palpable.

A rousing blast of trumpets declared the arrival of the Guest-of-Honour, Dr Ng Eng Hen, the Minister for Defence, followed by the singing of the National Anthem by the whole assembly. Mrs Koh then stepped forward to offer her words of welcome to those assembled and thanksgiving to God for His abundant blessings to ACS(J).

The spirit of joyful gratitude was indeed appropriate as the splendid three-and-a-half hectare (35,000 sq m) site was more than thrice the size the school had been used to, and accompanied several “firsts” in academic, sports and artistic achievements, as shared by Mrs Koh. For example, in the 2009 Primary School Leaving Examinations (PSLE), ACS(J) students achieved a pass rate in Chinese that was higher than the national average, for the first time in the school’s history. Mrs Koh also highlighted that the boys studying in ACS(J) were taught to share their blessings, for example, through the soccer carnival organised by parents of the soccer team boys that raised $40,000 in aid of Japanese disaster relief efforts. is emphasis on the concept of “giving back” to community was also touched on by other speakers such as the President of the ACS Old Boys’ Association, Mr Benson Phua, and the Chairman of the ACS Board of Governors, Mr Richard Seow.

Bishop Dr Robert Solomon shared a meditation based on Psalm 127:1-128:2, reminding all assembled to thank God as the source of all blessings. With these, He has also given us a “huge responsibility over which we must exercise stewardship” – that of building young lives.

Memorably, the Bishop stated that “the ACS is more than buildings; it is a mind-set, a lifestyle”. He exhorted all stakeholders to look to God for help and guidance as they continued nurturing an environment of character-building, moral emphasis and Christian values, enabling “outstanding careers as well as outstanding men of character”. He shared his hope for ACS(J) students to “travel far, make their mark, [and] make an impact” on the world around them, noting that an estimated 25 per cent of the Cabinet ministers in the Singapore Government were ACS boys.

He said: “Today, ACS has a long and distinguished record as a family of educational institutions of excellence, having produced many generations of students who had gone on to live useful and honourable lives.

“The Church, along with the rest of the ACS family, including staff, students, alumni and parents, is committed to help the school sustain and further develop this great heritage and tradition.”

After the Bishop had led the assembly in a short prayer of consecration for the campus and the school, Dr Ng followed up with a thoroughly engaging address in which he frequently referred to his past experiences as a schoolboy in ACS(J). e lively reminiscences by Dr Ng of his “visual memories” drew much laughter from the audience. These experiences had left such a strong impression on him that he had cut short a visit to Brunei in order to be back in time to attend this event, as he said: “ This is one of the things I wanted to do.”

Dr Ng, who was previously the Education Minister, highlighted values that he hoped ACS(J) would continue to nurture in students, encouraging them to emphasise “Christian service and strength of character”, and to inculcate the “spirit of giving”. He commended the efforts of the ACS family of schools in assisting students from lower-income families, and reiterated the Education Ministry’s determination to ensure that “no child should be left behind”.

He also gave credit to the “strong support” that ACS(J) has from its various stakeholders, such as the 600 parent volunteers who donated time to the school and encouraged their sons in extracurricular activities, and the dedicated teachers, some of whom had gone beyond the call of duty to develop an online game titled e Rise of Li’TtleDot to interest students in learning.

Dr Ng was then invited to unveil a plaque onstage declaring the campus officially open, after which the assembly sang the ACS anthem in closing.

After the benediction, the audience was treated to the witty skit which earned an ACS(J) team the title of “World Champions” in their category in the 2011 World Finals of the Odyssey of the Mind championships. It was a fine example of the many student talents on display at the event that Dr Ng had praised in his address, declaring them a sterling example of “what schools can achieve when we trust our children”.

Indeed, the boys displayed remarkable talent during the event, as evidenced by the superb musical performances of students that interspersed the guests’ speeches and the dedication of student prefects to their “job” of escorting guests to the reception areas and on school tours. Many guests commented favourably on the young boys’ demonstrated ability to handle opportunities for character-building and learning of life skills.

For many of these young boys, their new campus with its added facilities and the strong network of parents, teachers and church leaders, may give them renewed confidence to look to the future, knowing that “the best is yet to be!”

Story and pictures by Grace Toh
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.