New JC name is all Greek to netizens, students

The new JC will take in Integrated Programme students from Catholic High School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (pictured) and Singapore Chinese Girls' School.
The new JC will take in Integrated Programme students from Catholic High School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School (pictured) and Singapore Chinese Girls' School.PHOTO: ST FILE

It has Greek roots and means "beautiful thinking" and "goodwill towards others". But the name Eunoia - chosen for a new junior college to open in 2017 - has so far lived up to neither of these attributes.

Since the moniker, pronounced "yoo-noh-iea", was announced on Tuesday, it has been criticised for being difficult to say and relate to, derided online and left students destined for the college feeling like they are "the butt of everyone's jokes".

An online petition to change the name of the school, which will take in Integrated Programme students from Catholic High School, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS), had more than 160 signatures before it was taken down yesterday.

Students from the three schools were asked for suggestions earlier this year, but were not polled about the final decision on the name.

On Tuesday night, the Ministry of Education (MOE) acknowledged the controversy and posted an explanation of how to pronounce the name on Facebook.

The school also wrote on Instagram yesterday: "Once past the you-know-yah quips, we hope you'll see that our name, our students and our college life is truly full of beautiful thinking and goodwill!"

The Straits Times understands that the name of the junior college will not be changed.

MOE said the college's motto is: "Every Eunoian a Youth with Purpose, Thinker with Heart, Leader with Courage". "Eunoia was chosen after consultations with stakeholders, including students, parents and staff of the three partner secondary schools, as well as chairmen and representatives from the three secondary school boards and Eunoia JC Advisory Committee. The name was chosen as it resonated best with the college's vision, mission and values."

A Secondary 3 student from Catholic High School, who wanted to be known only as Ryan, said most of his schoolmates "either didn't know how to comprehend" or "made jokes" about the name.

"Some think it's just a terrible choice," said the 15-year-old, who added that a popular suggestion from students was "Trinity" because it represents the three schools coming together.

"We should have been given some options to choose from. It doesn't feel very good for us that we're the butt of everyone's jokes."

The school's name has gone viral online - the post about it on ST's Facebook page had more than 1,000 likes and 900 shares. And on local humour site SGAG, a comic spoof of Eunoia JC garnered more than 4,100 likes and over 1,600 shares since it was uploaded on Facebook on Tuesday.

Madam Lee Hui Ling, a part-time operations manager in her 40s, said her daughter's first response to the name was "eww".

"None of her friends also really like the name, and even the acronym sounds quite bad," said Madam Lee, whose Secondary 3 daughter is in SCGS.

"Hopefully, we will have a better name in two years' time as not everything is cast in stone."

The school will be located at an interim campus in Mount Sinai until its own home, at the junction of Sin Ming Avenue and Marymount Road, is ready at the end of 2019.

Its principal Cheang Mei Heng had said that "Eunoia" was the "accumulation of students' aspirations" as it was picked from some 200 suggestions from students and staff at the three schools, and their management committees.

Chairman of the SCGS board of directors Euleen Goh said: "We have to look beyond how the name is pronounced to what it means and how it links to the mission of the college.

"I'm not surprised people are questioning but let's be open-minded and focus on what the school is doing for students."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 31, 2015, with the headline 'New JC name is all Greek to netizens, students'. Print Edition | Subscribe