The Methodist schools in Singapore now are a far cry from the humble beginnings of the first one founded 133 years ago. The early schools started in borrowed buildings. In contrast, the 15 Methodist schools today enjoy comfortable, state-of-the-art facilities. Altogether, they house 21,050 students as well as 1,692 teaching and 440 non-teaching staff.
On the walls of several of our schools can be found Proverbs 22:6: “Train up a child in the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it”, a constant reminder to the teachers and students of their purpose each day. When children are started off right, they will finish well.
Relationships are part of the whole equation of nurturing children in our Methodist schools. Much effort is put into helping the students cultivate a strong sense of belonging, which contributes to the anchoring of their identity and character. With time, the students build strong bonds with one another, as well as with their teachers and non-teaching staff. They come back to serve on various boards and committees, to participate in celebrations, to support fund-raising or to teach. Some families have many generations educated in our Methodist schools.
“Schools are holding environments that create safe spaces for our students to explore, learn, fail and grow. Teachers are key in this space,” said Mr Wee Tat Chuen, principal of Geylang Methodist School (GMS) Secondary, and Mrs Jennifer Choy, principal of GMS Primary. “At GMS, we see relationships as key in connecting with the students, absorbing their feelings and emotions, and processing these with them. Doing this will allow us to meet their needs, nurture them as individuals and grow their aspirations to fulfill their potential in making a difference in their world.
“Today, as we redefine what success is as a nation, the GMS family remains steadfast in our mission to inspire our students to stand out as beacons of light in the community. The school is where values are instilled and developed.”
At the National School Games in 2018, the Methodist Girls’ School bowling team was up against strong competitors and trailing behind. Despite this, the girls displayed sportsmanship and integrity when they reported scores that had been recorded wrongly due to technical glitches at the competition venue. Had they not reported the incorrect scores, their team would have been placed in an advantageous position. Instead, the girls fought hard and remained resilient as a united team; they prevailed and eventually garnered second place.
Mr Loo Ming Yaw, Principal of Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road), affirmed that “to ‘train a child’ is the collective work of home, school, church and community. It requires not just cooperation, but unity of purpose, directing complementary efforts and actions. The purpose, as the book of Proverbs emphasises, is to teach them to fear the Lord all their lives.”
Pastors are appointed as chaplains to the schools. They are at the schools regularly to share devotions, lead prayer, and provide counsel and pastoral support wherever necessary. Christian ministry staff are also assigned to the schools and work with the chaplains in the schools’ Christian activities such as camps and holiday programmes that focus on students’ personal and spiritual development. They also provide strong support for troubled students and their families through counselling services.
It is in our schools that many will experience a spiritual awakening and learn to fear the Lord. “Spiritual education is at the heart of what we do for our charges—anchoring their spirit in the knowledge of God,” shared Mr Loo. “In order for them not to turn from away from it, we need to engage their head, hearts and hands by talking about and showing them what it means through our teaching and example. This is the sacred duty of not just teachers and school leaders but also parents, alumni, supporters and the Church. I believe that to train someone requires the full array of what constitutes teaching—encouragement, correction and chastisement.”
Kwok Wan Yee is the Education Secretary for the Council on Education, and also Conference Lay Leader for the Chinese Annual Conference of The Methodist Church in Singapore. She worships at Charis Methodist Church.
Photos courtesy of Methodist Schools’ Foundation