The proportion of Catholic students at Catholic Junior College has doubled to more than 30 percent of its enrolment since 2002. And the cut-off point for admission has dropped sharply from 17 to 10 points – the largest improvement by any junior college over that period

THIS YEAR THE number of students who put CJC as their first choice shot up to more than 700 applicants. Another 800 had it as their second choice.

In the past, the college was top choice for students who scored 16 or 17 points for English Language and five other O-level subjects. Not any more. “We have spent the last seven years building this college as a school of choice,” said principal Brother Paul Rogers. “My teachers have worked hard to reposition the college as a reputable Catholic institution, worthy of its name.”

First-year students who joined the school this month found they needed to score 10 points or better to get in. When Brother Paul became head of the college in 2002, the cut-off was 17 points. “No other junior college boasts a seven-point drop in cut off in this period,” he said.

Some 500 students are now studying in the college Catholic programme. The number of students whose siblings are alumni too is up and this year, 55 percent of the JC One cohort is from an affiliated Catholic school.

Among them is top Eurasian student Rebekah Broughton from Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (CHIJ, Toa Payoh). “I attended the open houses of several JCs but I didn’t feel I would be happy there,” she said. “After 10 years in a Catholic school, I preferred to be somewhere with a more pronounced Catholic culture.” She scored seven A1s and an A2 at the ‘O’ levels. Her parents, Raymond Broughton and Celeste Png, are former CJC students.

After the January admissions exercise, more than 500 students not posted to CJC appealed to get in. Brother Paul said: “As the cut-off gets lower, the number of Catholic students joining us increases. Unfortunately now, a number of Catholic students also fail to qualify.

“Of course it is disappointing to see Catholic students with excellent scores who did not apply to CJC – for reasons best known to them. If all Catholic students made CJC their top choice, it would be among the top junior colleges.”

In 2008, CJC posted its best A-level results in 11 years, resulting in a significantly larger number of students gaining entry into top university faculties, like medicine and law.

More CJC students were also awarded scholarships by the Education, Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs ministries as well as the Singapore Armed Forces, Defence Science and Technology Agency and the inaugural Public Service Commission (Masters) programme.

Education beyond the classroom

This success is a result of educating students beyond the classroom, Brother Paul said.

 “We believe in nurturing young people – their confidence, their values and beliefs. We want them to develop a good self-awareness, social awareness and moral awareness. And we want them to move on to influence others as well.”

Junior college students face a period of significant change in their lives, he noted. Keeping family, faith, fellowship and study in correct focus is not always an easy challenge for many at this age. 

“There is also a growing religious awareness among them and we believe that developing spiritual values are an important component of their educational development,” said Brother Paul.

The character-development programme includes religious education and ethics as well as leadership development.

Strong Catholic environment

All Catholic students attend a special programme organised by Religious Education Coordinator Eugene Yeow, and Religious Education Facilitator Edwina Yeow. The school counsellor, Daphne Choo, is also Catholic.

Mr Yeow said a personal-centred foundation is laid down in the first year with Catholic values such as love, mission and kindness. In the second year, the programme opens up to include bioethical issues students will face in the real world.

“The approach to the whole programme centres on God’s love and the welfare of the student. They are in a Catholic environment here, observing the Church calendar and all this helps the student realise that he or she does not walk alone,” he said. 

A former student of CJC himself, Mr Yeow said the programme has changed a great deal from the days when he was in school. “We’ve come a long way from a Bible-centred programme to include more real issues so that students can see how religion impacts their everyday life.”

In addition, college chaplain Jesuit Father Leslie Raj celebrates Mass three times a week and on significant feast days. “I value my involvement with the staff and students of CJC; the priest adds an important element to the community,” he said. 

Students of the two Catholic societies – the St. Vincent De Paul Society and the Legion of Mary – meet weekly, with regular guest speakers on Catholic issues.

The Students’ Council has a Catholic wing and members provide support for morning prayer at assembly, at celebrations and during college Masses. Archbishop Nicholas Chia presides at the investiture of the new Students’ Council every year.

The College Board has also recently approved the building of a chapel that will be completed later this year, Brother Paul said.

In leadership development, more than 650 students and 55 teachers took part in 33 community projects here and in 10 overseas destinations last year. In 2002, there was just one overseas mission.

On average more than 100 CJC students also met the requirements for the gold award for the National Youth Achievement Award scheme each year. Brother Paul said: “Our students are now organising – on their own – local and overseas community service activities. Many return to join us for such activities as alumni.

“And that says a lot about what they have learnt at CJC.” 

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