Written by: Dillon Phang (19-I4)
Designed by: Jo Yeoul (19-A2)
To blame one or the other for the segregation is to suggest that we have an unequal ownership of school culture. Moreover, the blame game never yielded friendship, has it?
One day I was on Reddit scrolling through the subreddit r/SGExams. Out of boredom, I decided to type “EJC” in the search bar. As expected, the results were filled with queries by students considering their new schools about our newly founded JC with a very unique name. One topic that popped up quite commonly was that of segregation. Specifically, between JAE and JIP students. That piqued my interest, given it is a topic that is also discussed in the College. But is it really as bad as the comments have made it out to be? Is there anything we can do about it?
Now, I’m currently a JC1 student, with only 1 year of experience in this school. I am an IP student myself, with 4 years spent wearing green shorts. I am by no means above it all, but I feel like presenting my opinions on this matter. I have also interviewed a handful of people for their opinions on this.
Whenever someone asks about EJC, the topics that pop up are: the quality of teaching, subject combinations, school culture and JAE-JIP segregation. It is quite common to see some commenters trying to dissuade O-level graduates from considering the College due to this segregation, whilst displaying strong emotions in their words. The situation has to be rather bad for them to feel so strongly towards this, right? As a JIP kid myself, I did not imagine my fellow schoolmates to feel so strongly towards this.
It is undeniable that this segregation exists, but this is as with all IP Junior Colleges. When you have a good majority of the cohort coming from the same 3 secondary schools, and only a minority coming from other secondary schools, you would expect some form of separation. When given the chance, I will stick to the friends who I have grown comfortable with over the years, and not the people I just made friends with. This segregation exists, and is largely inevitable because of this headstart that JIP kids get. I’m not saying it’s not a problem because other schools face the same problem, but it is inevitable with how things are. In fact, the inevitable calls for us to try harder to not succumb to passivity.
The programmes we have in this school also play a part in this segregation. Before JAE students even entered this school, we had one month to mix around with our fellow JIP students during Ignite and Eunite. For the same reasons we hang out less with JAE students than our secondary school friends, the segregation also exists amongst the 3 JIP schools in the beginning. While it is true that these programmes may widen the JAE-JIP divide, they serve the purpose of tackling another divide that is amongst the 3 JIP schools, which also cannot be ignored. It does not make sense to start school one month late either does it? I want that too, but it’s not happening, neither will it solve segregation issues.
Personally, it did take me a much longer to get closer to my JAE classmates as I could not find many common topics between us. But that’s not saying I haven’t opened myself up to these people. That’s not saying the school isn’t welcoming to JAE students.
Another cause for this segregation that many of these commenters brought up, is that JIP students are arrogant and are reluctant to interact with JAE kids. This opinion probably emerged because the Integrated Programme is thought to be elitist amongst our education system, and IP students are thought to be superior. There is a reason behind this, since many believe that the IP was designed for “academically strong pupils” and hence there is a notion that IP students feel superior to their JAE peers. First of all, the stereotypical perception that IP students are superior to their JAE peers is flawed, as one’s PSLE results and academic pathway is not fully representative of all of their academic capabilities. Nonetheless, I do not think that it is fair to label every JIP student here as ‘elitist’. If that was the case, I think the complaints would be more widespread, since every JAE student would be ostracised. But we know that’s not the case, since there is evidence of many strong relationships forged between JIP and JAE students.
The problem is not the fact that JAE students are from JAE or non-IP schools, but for other reasons. The fact that we are from different schools, already presents an initial hurdle. In these situations, patience and mutual understanding is more important than whether we come from the same school. Choosing to adopt the above mentioned presumptions just gives rise to higher hurdles in bridging this segregation.
There are also comments that the school draws these lines between the 2 groups. From what I see, the school has made efforts to try to remove the distinction, with the house system (which is rather successful compared to other JCs), class orientation etc. While Eunite serves to bridge the segregation between the 3 JIP schools, orientation itself serves to unite all Eunoians. I am not very well-informed about the happenings in school, so maybe there are other reasons the efforts are inadequate in others’ eyes. But based on what I have seen and heard so far, it is unfair to say the school ostracises JAE students.
The problems mentioned were not just about it being harder for JAE students to fit in, but also that they have fewer leadership opportunities open to them. This is sadly true to some extent. As we know, positions such as House Captains and Vice-Captains, and Student Councillors involve voting processes which depend on one’s popularity amongst the student cohort. So yes, it is undeniable that JIP students have an advantage as they already know many more peers. But this is not exclusive to just EJC, as other IP JCs face this issue in their own Student Council elections. A friend in RI mentioned that while segregation is less of a hot topic there, the Student Council there is still made up of mostly IP students as they are more likely to be voted in by their Y1-4 friends. As mentioned earlier, the fact that other schools face the same issue does not mean it is not a problem. It merely means it is not something that makes EJC more or less segregational relative to other schools. But it is still a problem that we need to face squarely.
Human interaction works two ways. I do not want to come across as blindly defending JIP students and claiming that we are not at fault for sticking within our cliques since that is in fact the main reason for this segregation. However, JIP students also can’t be put to total blame for not being able to help our fellow schoolmates integrate into the school community. To blame one or the other for the segregation is to suggest that we have an unequal ownership of school culture. Moreover, the blame game never yielded friendship, has it?
As mentioned earlier, it is not a rare sight to see JAE students fitting in comfortably. If there’s anything I can assure everyone of, it’s that the obnoxious and elitist attitude being spoken of does not represent the majority. It is this misconception that may hinder one in being able to connect with the ones being misunderstood. Such a misconception might become a self-fulfilling prophecy, as a Reddit user astutely pointed out. So rather than continuing to bear this prejudice and telling everyone not to come to our school, perhaps be more open to interactions. Someone on Reddit said that this might be a case of a self-fulfilling prophecy. By insisting on this problem instead of trying to resolve it, we end up reaffirming its hold on us, and may indeed make it worse for batches to come.