Guiding principal

Trained as an electrical engineer, Mr Ari Manickam found his calling in teaching. He started off as an electrical engineer and worked as one for 21/2 years.

"However, I was not intrinsically motivated and decided to try teaching," he said.

In 1999, he made the switch to teaching and slowly rose up the ranks before he became Coral Secondary's principal.

"I am still enjoying my work," he said.

Located in the eastern part of Singapore, Coral Secondary prides itself on its leadership programme, which started in 2005.

"The school believes that every Coralite (a student of Coral Secondary) has the potential to lead and influence," said Mr Manickam.

At the school, all Sec 1 students undergo leadership development lessons every fortnight.

Under Mr Manickam's watch, the programme was further refined. This led to the school earning the niche status for student leadership given by the Education Ministry.

How would you describe yourself as a leader?

I see myself as a consultative leader. One example of this is the change we made to our late day (when school commences at 8.30am instead of the usual 7.30am) in Semester 2.

Students asked for the late day to be changed from Thursdays to Wednesdays.

This would give them more time to complete their schoolwork and get adequate rest after their CCA training on Tuesday afternoons.

What are some achievements the student leadership programme has reaped?

The real achievement is seeing the transformation in students as a result of the programme.

For instance, a parent recently shared with me how independent and confident her child, who was formerly from Coral Secondary School, had become as a result of the school's leadership programme. She said she would like her second child to have a similar experience.

What makes you proudest of your school?

I'm proud to say that I have many dedicated staff who are constantly thinking about how to do things better. All the teachers are in professional learning teams where they discuss issues and strategies pertaining to students' learning and engagement.

Tell us something about the school not everyone knows.

The school hall and the classrooms for graduating students are air-conditioned.

Also at Coral Secondary, we hope that every student will get to travel at least once with the school in the four or five years he or she is with us. So we keep track of those who have not been on any overseas learning journeys yet.

How would you describe your school spirit?

In Coral Secondary, we have a code of conduct which all staff and students observe. It is called the Coral Touchstone. The last statement of the Coral Touchstone reads: "This is who we are, even when no one is watching us."

Good cop or bad cop? What is your approach when it comes to disciplining students?

I believe I am both. Just like a parent, you need to be nurturing during some occasions and firm during others.

If there were one piece of advice you would want your students to take with them after they leave, what would it be?

Be the best for the world. Not everyone can be the best in the world. However, everyone can strive to do it.

Whom would you consider your role model? What qualities do you admire in this person?

I admire different leaders for different qualities. One leader I would consider as my role model is Mahatma Gandhi, the leader who championed Indian nationalism in British-ruled India.

Which school were you from? What were you like as a student?

I was from New Town Secondary School and National Junior College. I guess I was an average student.

Describe yourself in three words.

Calm, composed and collected.

Your secret indulgence is...

I like to watch old sitcoms, such as The Cosby Show and 'Allo 'Allo, on YouTube.

You unwind at the end of a long day by...

Playing with my three-year-old daughter and reading to her the books which she picks.


Name: Ari Manickam

Age: 43

Marital status: Married with one daughter, Varsha, three.

Job: Principal of Coral Secondary since Dec 15, 2010

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