Education Minister Heng Swee Keat explains delay in new junior college to parents at dialogue

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at a dialogue session at the Bishan Community Club. He explains the considerations behind his ministry's recent announcement of a delay to a new but yet-to-be-named junior college at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue a
Education Minister Heng Swee Keat at a dialogue session at the Bishan Community Club. He explains the considerations behind his ministry's recent announcement of a delay to a new but yet-to-be-named junior college at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymount Road. -- ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

SINGAPORE - Education Minister Heng Swee Keat on Sunday explained the considerations behind his ministry's recent announcement of a delay to a new but yet-to-be-named junior college at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymount Road.

Addressing queries from some parents about the fact that the campus will be completed only by the end of 2019, more than a year later than intended, he said at a dialogue at the Bishan Community Club:

"Are we better off starting the programme and running into certain delays in the infrastructure, or are we better off not starting in the first place?"

Mr Heng, who was on a community visit to the Bishan East ward of Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, said there were two options to consider with regard to the matter.

One was to get every facility ready and "start only when we're ready in 2020 because we must not take any risk that the building may not be completed in time. Therefore we don't want to disappoint students, parents ..." he said.The other was to say, "let's get going, as long as students benefit, and let's focus on the essence of the programme," he said.

Last week, the Ministry of Education said in a letter to parents that more time was needed more time to incorporate a new traffic infrastructure project in the area into the JC's design and construction. The new institution will take in Integrated Programme (IP) students from Catholic High, St Nicholas Girls', and Singapore Chinese Girls schools.

The ministry had also announced that the old Raffles Junior College campus at Mount Sinai off Holland Road will be refurbished for IP students from the three schools, who will use it as an interim junior college.

Said Mr Heng on Sunday: "I'm not saying that it is ideal when you have a delay, but the truth of the matter is there will be, in life, unforeseen circumstances and we'll get the ministry to explain in greater detail what are the unforeseen circumstances." "The MOE will communicate further with the parents," he told reporters afterwards.

The issue arose during a 90-minute dialogue with some 400 parents, students and residents.

Two fathers with sons in Catholic High School expressed their disappointment over the delay. One feared that his son's studies might be disrupted if he had to move to an interim campus halfway through his time in the new JC.

During the visit, Mr Heng launched elderly fitness stations and a book exchange point, as well as greeted residents and stallholders in wet markets and coffee shops.

He was accompanied during he visit by Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC MP and former deputy prime minister Wong Kan Seng, and community and grassroots leaders, including OUE Hospitality Trust chief executive Chong Kee Hiong, who has been previously identified as a potential People's Action Party candidate for the next general election, which must be held by January 2017.