I thought I knew a little of what to expect in VJC, having been from a certain Programme in a certain school just down the road. I can also still remember the advice my seniors gave me during orientation, but nothing adequately prepared me for the flurries of emails and the overwhelming nature of VJC. It seems apt then, to begin by reflecting on a few of the biggest changes to life as I knew it.
From being spoon-fed in classrooms, I suddenly found myself thrust to the back of a cold lecture theatre not knowing what to do. Which page are we on? Should I be taking notes? Am I supposed to copy down whatever’s on the slides? Or can I just take a nap and read through this later? This style of teaching was something that was new to me, being unable to clarify questions as soon as I had them or even resisting the temptation to tune out and do my own work. Tutorials were a much more familiar sight but lectures were still important, as that was where majority of the content was being covered. A slip up anywhere, and you’d soon find yourself playing a never ending game of catch-up, as I found out the hard way.
Another thing that struck me was the culture of excellence that I found demanded of me. Over here, everyone strove to do the best that they could, and not just in academics. Ever so often I’d find myself seated beside a record holder or a ‘Math God’. No one settled for anything less than their best, and this is evident from the effort that goes into their CCAs and studies, in an attempt to make the most out of their two short years here. If anything, attitudes like these should have bred competition as observed in plenty of other places, however that has not been the case in VJC. I observed this in my CCA, Track and Field, where instead of attempting to outdo one another, Victorians seem committed to helping each other better themselves instead of excessively worrying over the outcome or the competition.
Instead of just comparing the inevitable differences between JC life and Secondary School life, perhaps we would be better off reflecting on why these differences exist. From these differences we see how JC seems to be preparing us for the future; for our last few steps in the nest of Singaporean education before attempting to fly in ‘the real world’. The one key trait that the JC system seeks to inculcate is that of independence, with a high amount of emphasis on self-directed learning. Whether at the back of a lecture theatre or the front of a CCA, students are required to be independent and assume full responsibility of the roles they carry or the work they do – in order to achieve anything worth achieving. Although there is still plenty of guidance from experienced seniors and nurturing teachers to ensure that we know what we’re doing even before we try to take control over our life, nevertheless, the onus is on us to learn as much as we can from these people and even to learn how to use that knowledge, before we set out to accomplish anything and make the most of ourselves.
Perhaps the biggest difference between JC and secondary school really is that I’ve been learning something new every single day.
John Thomas George
Photo Source: John Thomas George (15A12)