CHIJ St Joseph’s approach to a Christ-centred education
Simple in virtue; Steadfast In duty. The motto of the Infant Jesus (IJ) family of schools captures both the essence of the teachings of Fr Nicholas Barre, its founder, and the spirit of Mother St Mathilde who set up the 11 IJ schools in Singapore. CHIJ St Joseph’s Convent (SJC) is one of them.
From our humble beginnings as Paya Lebar Convent on Flower Road in 1938, to our re-naming as SJC when we moved into the Ree family’s donated bungalow after the Japanese occupation, SJC has grown from the ‘kampong’ convent of the North into a bustling secondary school with two affiliated primary schools. We moved into our present campus in Sengkang in 2000.
Centred on Christ
Our Catholic parents, teachers, priests and volunteers pray for and organise faith formation experiences for our girls who start their day with prayer and reflections centred around the school values of Love, Integrity, Freedom and E4 (Engaged and Empowered Learners; Effective Leaders and Eloquent Individuals with Strong Ethics). Friday prayer sessions are also held for our Catholic students. Mass is celebrated once a term as a school to commemorate significant days such as St Joseph’s Feast Day, Founder’s Day and Teachers’ Day.
Kandro Tan, a Secondary 3 student, shared her spiritual growth in the music ministry. “To sing, I have to overcome my fears and insecurities, but I feel God is with me every time I am in the chapel. With every school Mass, my confidence increases. Singing hymns brings me so much joy in praising God. My faith has grown and I feel a closeness with God that I never had before.”
To aid students in their spiritual growth, our Catholic teachers and parents organise retreats for the Catholic girls. The Secondary 1 ‘Mission’ retreat revolves around the wedding at Cana where students share their stories and write their burdens on stones which they offer to Jesus to turn into ‘wine’ before receiving the Eucharist at Mass in the forms of both bread and wine. The theme of the Secondary 4 ‘Mission’ is Being a Light for Others – students write to God about their hopes and dreams, and then light candles to symbolise their hope for each another and the world.
Simple in gratitude and service
Lessons in gratitude begin when Secondary 1s are brought on the trail of the Civic District and the IJ trail, pausing at key historical landmarks on each. In mapping their forebears’ journeys from Asia and beyond to Singapore and the routes taken by the IJ Sisters respectively, students realise and appreciate the sacrifices made, and the legacies left behind, by those who have gone before them.
Secondary 2s, on the other hand, identify present-day issues in society and, as a class, propose solutions or contribute acts of service to partners as diverse as PUB, NParks, neighbourhood kindergartens and rural schools in Thailand. And, Secondary 3s work with community service providers to reach out to the elderly and persons with special needs.
Such holistic education extends beyond borders too; cross-cultural exchanges have brought our girls to Malaysia, Indonesia and China, and teachers and students from Malaysia, Myanmar, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Australia to Singapore, broadening students’ world views both ways.
Steadfast in outreach
At the heart of an IJ education is the formation of a Christ-centred community to promote truth, justice, freedom and love, with special reference to the needs of persons who are disadvantaged in any way. We stay true to our IJ mission.
In 2019, our staff marked Teachers’ Day by distributing food hampers for the cleaners of a nearby food court. In 2020, during the Covid-19 pandemic, they made care packs for vulnerable senior citizens and unsung heroes both near in the Sengkang vicinity (medical staff at a community clinic, bus captains at the bus interchange, and cleaners in HDB estates) and far in the East (cleaning and front-line staff at a community hospital and elderly folk at a community service agency). Students learnt from their teachers’ subsequent sharing of their experiences and reflections. Said one, “Now that I realise the amount of work that [the HDB cleaners] are doing for the community,
I am very grateful for them.”
Singular in generosity
The SJC experience has proved so memorable for many SJC alumni that they have returned in gratitude and service to sponsor student awards in memory of teachers who contributed to their success. As we mark our 82nd anniversary in 2020, we are grateful to God for his graces, and our community partners for their faithful support through the years. May our legacy of paying it forward remain a key pillar of our girls’ holistic education.
Contributed by CHIJ St Joseph’s Convent
Established as Paya Lebar Convent, a private school in a rented house in Flower Road, with 21 pupils, one nun and two teachers
Moved to Hillside Drive
Closed the Primary school section and became solely a Secondary school
Moved to current premises at Sengkang. First Top National “N” Level student
Top 10 Value-Added School for 2013 Normal and Express stream, a Top 10 School for the Physical Fitness Tests and Fitness Index
Awarded Niche in Performing Arts.
ALP: The Art of Communication in Theatre and Debates
LLP: Critical Thinking through Community Problem Solving
Awarded three Best Practice Awards for Teaching and Learning, Character and Citizenship Education, and Staff Development
Awarded Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Course (2015 to 2020)
Validated with the People Developer Award (2017 to 2023)