MOE confirms Mt Sinai as holding site for delayed JC

MOE confirms Mt Sinai as holding site for delayed JC
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat

THE holding site for the delayed new junior college (JC) will be at Mount Sinai, the Ministry of Education (MOE) confirmed yesterday in a letter to affected parents and students.

The site was chosen as it has the space and facilities to complement JC education, the MOE said, after the initial plan to have the holding school at the old Institute of Technical Education (ITE) Bishan campus fell through. That campus is being used by St Joseph's Institution while its Malcolm Road campus is being upgraded.

The Mount Sinai site will include lecture theatres, a running track and basketball and tennis courts.

The letter comes after some parents complained at a dialogue with the MOE on May 25 that the old Raffles JC campus in Mount Sinai was too far from their children's current schools.

The JC is meant to take in Integrated Programme (IP) students from Bishan's Catholic High School, Ang Mo Kio's CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (SNGS), and Bukit Timah's Singapore Chinese Girls' School. The pioneer batch due to enter the JC in 2017 are currently in Secondary 3.

At the dialogue attended by 300 parents, some asked the MOE to consider interim sites near Bishan, such as the old ITE campus in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 5.

MOE said it re-examined the possibility of having the interim school at the ITE Ang Mo Kio campus based on parents' feedback, despite having earlier assessed it as unsuitable. It studied the Ang Mo Kio site "in greater detail" and looked at how some aspects of the JC programme would have to be scaled down.

Still, Mount Sinai was picked as the smaller Ang Mo Kio campus "will not be able to support the programmes and provide all the students with sufficient facilities", it said.

"While we understand that distance to home is an important consideration to some parents, it is even more important to ensure that all the students of the new JC have a positive learning environment to study in."

The still-unnamed JC will move to its permanent site at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymount Road when it is completed at the end of 2019.

It had originally been scheduled to be ready by mid-2018, but was delayed owing to complications with the Cross-Island Line, which will run beneath the JC.

Parents and students affected were told of the delay in April. Some were upset and wanted to transfer their children out.

MOE said in the letter that transfers to the O-level track or to other IP schools will be subject to vacancies and the student meeting the receiving school's admission criteria.

The new JC's principal, Mrs Wong Mei Heng, said transfers must be considered carefully as the IP is a six-year programme. "A parent who decides to take the child away from the programme would probably have deprived the child of the rich educational experience that he could gain."

Parents had also asked the MOE to acquire other land for the JC to avoid the delay, but there are no suitable plots available.

"Even if we were to situate the new JC in a different plot of land, the completion timeline would be even longer as we would need to restart the entire development process," the ministry said.

The permanent campus will be located near the three affiliated schools and the future Bright Hill MRT station, and adjoins the Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park.

Occupying the space now is the Nature Park Driving Range. It opened in 2000 on a 15-year lease and will move out this year end.

Bishan resident Kevin Ong, 48, whose daughter is in Secondary 1 at SNGS, said: "A lot of complex structures such as Resorts World Sentosa, designer condos and high-rise HDB blocks can be built in three years, so I don't see why the JC should take close to 10 years to be ready. We are just asking for what was promised."

But Ang Mo Kio resident Xue Lei, 42, whose Secondary 3 daughter is in the same school, said: "The location and campus are secondary issues. I'm more concerned about the teachers and programme, and whether the school can prepare the students for university."

leepearl@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on June 6, 2015.
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