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The relationships that bind at Boon Lay Secondary

11 Nov 2020

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With no form classes in the school, students are organised by their CCAs. This arrangement has created an environment conducive for students to learn from one another and grow in confidence.

Imagine a school where you meet your CCA mates every day. Every morning, the first people you meet at the parade square are your CCA friends; in class, CCA teachers facilitate discussions on racial harmony; after school, you meet your CCA seniors to plan for an upcoming community service activity…

At Boon Lay Secondary, this is every day school life.

With no form classes in the school, students are organised by their CCAs. As a result, seniors feel that they have a role to play in influencing juniors positively.

“The seniors want to be good role models and challenge ourselves in terms of punctuality and responsibility,” says 17-year-old former student Nur Mastura d/o Mohd Rafik from Concert Band. “It also makes me want to help out juniors academically.”

With this arrangement, known as “CCA-centricity”, students also learn from peers during lessons on topics such as Total Defence.

“In their CCAs, students get to hear a wide range of perspectives,” says Mr Hoon Yeng Wei, Head of Department for Character and Citizenship Education. “Regardless of their streams, students have a platform to lead discussions and grow in confidence.”

Mentors bringing out the best in each child

CCA Mentors (CCAMs) are akin to Form Teachers. They journey with students throughout their time in secondary school. When it comes to nurturing students, CCAMs know best.   

“I used to be a timid boy,” recalls alumnus Hafiz Muhammad Hafiz B Immran. “Speaking to people, making new friends… these were all very scary to me.”

His CCAM saw his reservations and reached out to him. “Ms Nadia believed in me and motivated me to be a better person.” During his time in the National Cadet Corps (NCC), he was given many opportunities to serve and lead. As he grew in confidence, his CCAM saw his potential, and decided to stretch him further.

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“I’ll always remember the day I was appointed as Assistant Sergeant Major (ASM). It was a huge moment for me,” says Hafiz.

As ASM, Hafiz led his peers to organise the National Day Parade in school. “My time in NCC really changed me. My teachers helped me step out of my comfort zone to interact with people from different classes and streams, with confidence and pride.”

The “Why” of Innovation

In the past few years, the school has received recognition for several of their strategies. Boon Lay Secondary’s innovative spirit comes from a keen understanding of student needs.

“Our constant urge to innovate and evolve comes from the changing education landscape,” explains school Principal Mr Inderjit Singh. “Student voice and student choice will continue to play a pivotal role in our school as we provide our students the opportunity to lead and be part of decision making, to co-create school experiences with our teachers.”

With the school embarking on the Personalised Digital Learning Programme (PDLP) in 2021, Boon Lay Secondary has set its sight on better preparing students for the future.

Mr Singh adds, “Apart from designing experiences to nurture leaders, we are also further leveraging technology to enable self-initiated learning and technology-enabled learning both in and outside the classroom. This will ensure that our students will be future-ready, leaders within the community, who lead with purpose, and care for others.”

An Eye for Creativity

How does a personal learning device help students in their learning? To answer this, Boon Lay Secondary teachers conducted a 2-week trial using tablets to teach.

The end result? They found that tablets got students hooked on taking notes!

Students enjoyed using tablets to capture their learning, making notetaking more exciting. Tan Yin Chi, a Secondary Three student, finds taking notes using a tablet makes learning easier. “I am able to add in lots of images and animation,” she explains.

Her classmate, Navean Nair Kumaran, cheekily remarked, “I created more notes on the tablet than I ever had on paper!”

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Leading this pilot was Ms Rita Thia, Head of Department for Humanities, one of the 10 educators who were conferred the MOE Outstanding Innovator Award (Schools) this year.

“To see the sparkle in their eyes in their everyday lessons brings me great joy,” says Ms Thia.

Ms Thia constantly looks for creative ways to engage her students. To teach the power of storytelling, she got them to create stop-motion videos during Social Studies lessons.

“Witnessing their immense pride as they present me their final products, or hearing their chuckles as they learn through games, propels me to continue innovating and creating fun lessons for my students.”

Learning for Life

Finally, here’s a challenge many may face: explain “lifelong learning” to a teenager.

For Boon Lay Secondary’s teachers, they answered this with an idea to whet their students’ appetite for learning!

Twice a year, students are offered a “buffet spread” of enrichment courses, such as coding, hip-hop dance, and social media marketing. Known as Student Development modules, these courses expose students to real-world skills, and get them excited about learning beyond the classroom.

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For Boon Lay Secondary alumnus Muhammad Zinedine Arrifin Z, these modules ignited his passion in science and led him to discover his career aspiration. He says, “After attending the modules, I took part in the Science and Technology Challenge, which led me to pursue a course in Pharmaceutical Science at Singapore Polytechnic.”

Likewise, Eason Jong, a Secondary Four student, was introduced to the craft of news reporting when he took part in the Young Journalist in Chinese module. “I got to experience what it is like creating news articles the way journalists do.”

Eason and his peers went on to represent the school in the National Create-Your-Own-Newspaper Competition. Being from different CCAs, they leveraged each other’s strengths and talents. Under the guidance of their teachers, Eason’s team obtained Distinction and was conferred the In-depth Reporting Award.

Eason says, “I improved my public speaking and interview skills. I also realised that it is important to communicate well and with confidence in life.