By Izyan Nadzirah
Raffles Institution has never detracted from being a school that welcomes bright minds who can make the grade regardless of their financial status or race. This is despite the recent furore about RI being elitist and less representative of Singapore, which has roused the Rafflesian community to defend, agree or inquire more about the RI of today. RI has been actively engaging primary school students from all over the island, offering the Junior RI Scholarship to deserving Primary 6 Singaporean male students from families in financial need to motivate them to strive for their dream school. Once they make it to RI, these students who need help can also look forward to sustainable assistance through the RI Scholarship, which is given over and above the Ministry of Education’s Financial Assistance Scheme (MOE FAS).
Providing More Opportunities to Students in Need
The funding for both scholarships is fully supported by the Rafflesian community which strongly believes that RI is a school for all and has come forward to support those in financial need by donating to the 1823 Fund. One key mandate of the 1823 Fund, established in 2009, is to manage these donations from alumni, parents and friends for the disbursement of scholarships to financially-needy students.
Since it was set up in 2010, about 600 RI Scholarships have been awarded to our students. The table below shows that the numbers have been rising steadily except in 2014, when RI revised its criteria in response to MOE’s revised subsidies to increase financial aid to students.
|YEAR||TOTAL NO OF SCHOLARSHIPS AWARDED|
Paying it Forward
Tan Teng Wei (RI, 2013) had been receiving the RI Scholarship since 2011. He was a recipient of 100% MOE FAS which included a waiver of school and miscellaneous fees, and free textbooks and attire. Together with the RI Scholarship, he was able to meet his financial needs at school, explore new opportunities and concentrate on his studies.
One of the most significant memories that Teng Wei had was how the scholarship enabled him to pursue his interest in sports science and its application in sports and athlete performance under the E W Barker Institute of Sports Research Enrichment Programme in November 2012.
‘The RI-Chee Ah Khum Scholarship provided me with the means to pay for the trip to Auckland to learn about sports science from the professionals and experts at the Auckland University of Technology’s New Zealand Sports High Performance Centre,’ shared Teng Wei. ‘In fact, that was the first trip I took out of the region in a very long time!’
He said the trip enabled him to gain ample research experience and the opportunity to present his research at the 3rd Joint Symposium on Exercise and Sports Science held in RI in August 2013. With the RI-Chee Ah Khum Scholarship, he was also able to take up a new co-curricular activity in Year 5 and purchase a Judo uniform.
Teng Wei trained hard to represent the school in the National Inter-Schools Judo Championships, despite his lack of experience, and made it to the semi-finals. Teng Wei, who plans to help other Rafflesians like himself in the future, will be pursuing a double degree in Accountancy and Business Management at the Singapore Management University. He has also been offered the Singapore Industry Full Term Scholarship under Singapore Airlines.
‘I’m thankful that an alum out there thought that it was important to give back and that I am the fortunate recipient. It’s easy to be cynical about FAS when you’re comfortably well-off, but there are families like mine for whom financial aid is a big help. That alum’s gift enabled me to take up as many opportunities as possible during my time in RI without being overly-burdened by financial constraints. It is important to remember that there will always be peers and juniors in need of help and as a past recipient of a scholarship I aim to pass the help on in the future,’ Teng Wei reflected.
Reaching Out Beyond the Rafflesian Community
In 2010, the Junior RI Scholarship (JRIS) was founded to motivate potential students who may think that studying in RI is too expensive and beyond their reach. Each year, the school gives out about 20 scholarships. In 2014, this number increased to 34. Not all the recipients came to RI, but it is heartening to know that RI was able to inspire the students to work harder to surpass themselves.
For the six JRIS students who did come to RI, they wear their pride on their sleeves. They volunteer at the Junior RI Scholarship Award Ceremony to inspire the new recipients each year. Clarence Lee, now in Year 4, recalled that the first time he got to know about RI was when his teacher introduced the class to the different independent schools in Singapore. She encouraged him to apply for the Junior RI Scholarship. He said the call from RI informing him that he was being awarded the scholarship sealed his determination and dedication to try his best to enter the school of his dreams.
‘Being a JRIS recipient signified that I was one step closer to being part of the Rafflesian family. When I went on stage to receive the JRIS Award, I was grateful to my parents and teachers. They had taken me this far, and I knew I had it in me to strive harder to achieve my dream school,’ recalled Clarence, of his experience as a recipient of the award in 2011.
For Wei Yao, who received the award in 2012, the best part about receiving the scholarship was being introduced to the idea of giving back. ‘I may have been only twelve years old at that time, but I admired the strong social cohesion between alumni and RI, and the idea that alumni continue to influence the Rafflesian identity no matter how long ago they had graduated.’
A Meaningful Gift
In the aftermath of Professor Winston Koh’s sudden death in 2013, some of his friends mooted the idea of a scholarship named after him, to his dear wife, Assistant Professor (AP) Caroline Koh. She fully agreed with the idea as it was in line with her late husband’s belief in giving back to society.
After a discussion with the school’s Alumni Relations & Advancement Office, AP Koh and her family decided to set up a scholarship for financially needy students in the same way that assistance was given to Professor Koh when he had come to RI decades ago. AP Koh felt that RI was a turning point in her husband’s life. It provided him with the environment that he needed to blossom intellectually and paved the way for his success in life.
The late Professor Winston Koh came from a humble background. His parents were not educated and his father who was the sole breadwinner was an odd-job labourer. At a young age, Professor Koh understood that education was a privilege and a key to a better future. Through sheer hard work and determination, he overcame all odds to obtain a place in RI.
Later, he was awarded a Public Service Commission (PSC) Scholarship to read Economics at Cambridge and graduated with Double First Class Honours. He in continued to persevere and obtained a PhD in Economics at the age of 25. At the time of his demise, Professor Koh was teaching Economics at the Singapore Management University after a fruitful career in academia and investment banking.
Despite all his achievements, Professor Winston Koh remained self-effacing about his success. In 2010, when delivering a speech to the Social Science graduates of Singapore Management University’s Commencement Ceremony in his capacity as Interim Dean of the School, he told the young graduates to give back to society.
‘As the saying goes, to whom much is given, much is expected. All of you represent the very best of your cohort. I hope you will, in your own way, contribute back to society as you become successful in life.’ Of the RI-Prof Winston Koh Scholarship, AP Caroline Koh hopes that it will make a difference to the lives of the recipients and will inspire them to follow in Professor Winston Koh’s footsteps to live a fulfilling life.
While society must change for the better and we continue to progress, RI will always remain as a school open to all.
If you would like to donate to support the above scholarships, kindly contact us at email@example.com.
1. In 2014, MOE liberalised the criteria to qualify for the FAS and increased the amount of help given. Many of the students receiving 75% to 90% FAS in the past were pushed up to 90% and 100% this year, therefore increasing the number of 100% FAS students in RI. In order to concentrate on students who need help most and due to limited resources, RI took the initiative to focus on the increasing number of students receiving 100% FAS from this year onwards