By Santokh Singh
ON its 25th anniversary celebrations, Victoria Junior College (VJC) principal Chan Poh Meng has one wish.
That the Victorian family would run a six-year full Integrated Programme(IP) within the next five years. And he is still hoping that it would be achieved without splitting up VJC and older brother institution, Victoria School.
But if push comes to shove, he is willing to go it alone for the good of his pupils.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday,Mr Chan said that having seen the first batch of his current four-year IP graduate, and having spent two years as principal of VJC, he is convinced that the six-year programme is the best for the pupils.
VJC now has a four-year IP which is co-educational and has been in place since 2005.
Students enrol at the college in Secondary 3, bypass the O-level examinations and take the A levels.
The college receives between 400 and 600 applicants each year for just 120 places in its IP. A portion of these students come over from VS.
Over the last four years, talks have been going on between VS and VJC on how best to introduce the six-year IP into the family.
But they have yet to reach a suitable compromise. And Mr Chan fully appreciates the concerns of the stakeholders concerned.
He said: 'My first and most preferred option would be for VS and VJC to merge into one institution.
'But that would also mean introducing co-education into VS, and it is a very difficult issue to resolve. And we have engaged all the stakeholders and realised that some issues are hard to resolve.
'I fully understand the concerns of VS stakeholders, especially the alumni, who have a 133-year history.
'After all, VJC did come from VS; we have 25 years and VS has more than 130 years.'
The VS family, especially the Old Victorian Association (OVA) and parents of current pupils, have strongly objected to opening its doors to girls in the secondary school.
It is a 133-year-tradition they do not wish changed or tampered with.
Which, for Mr Chan, may mean that VJC may have to go on its own. Said Mr Chan: 'I have discussed the options with my teachers and feel that my next option is to extend my IP downwards by two years.
'The IP is still the best for both the academic and personal growth of the pupils and we cannot lose out on this.
'So we may have to consider it seriously.' Having said that, he was quick to point out that nothing has been finalised and no proposal has been submitted to anyone. But a shift in the principal's stance, which was more conciliatory in the past, is certainly taking place.
Some two years ago, he was quite sure that VJC and VS would not split, nor compete with each other.
Back then he told The New Paper: 'It is too preliminary to conclude that VJC will start its own co-ed six-year secondary school as the final proposal is yet to be submitted to MOE for approval.
'VS and VJC's affiliation remains and (we) will work together to offer the best possible education opportunities for our students.
'VS and VJC believe the distinctive Victoria brand of education that has benefited students in the last 130 years would be further enhanced with the continuation of close ties between the schools.'
But after numerous dialogue session and forums, both physical and online, it was clear that the OVA would not shift from its stance of keeping the Victoria School name and its all-boys brand of education as its top priorities.
So the time may have come for VJC to move on.
Meanwhile, the OVA is in the process of getting feedback from members on the proposals via its website.
This article was first published in The New Paper.