What's in a name? Eunoia JC spells it out in a letter

In a letter to Catholic High School students, Mrs Wong Mei Heng, principal of Eunoia Junior College, acknowledged the strong public feedback that surfaced after the name of the new institution was unveiled.
In a letter to Catholic High School students, Mrs Wong Mei Heng, principal of Eunoia Junior College, acknowledged the strong public feedback that surfaced after the name of the new institution was unveiled.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

It may be hard to pronounce, but it was picked for its enduring meaning: Principal

The principal of Singapore's newest junior college (JC) has defended its unusual name, Eunoia, after many said that the word with Greek roots is not the best choice for a local school.

In a letter to Catholic High School (CHS) students on Tuesday, Mrs Wong Mei Heng acknowledged the strong public feedback that surfaced after the name was unveiled last week.

Eunoia means "beautiful thinking" and "goodwill towards others".

The junior college will take in its first batch of Integrated Programme (IP) students from CHS, CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School and Singapore Chinese Girls' School (SCGS) in 2017. IP students go on to JC without taking O levels.

Shortly after the new JC's name was revealed, jokes and criticism surfaced online, with many saying the name was hard to pronounce, lacked local heritage and was pretentious.

The Straits Times understands the Eunoia school management team is visiting the feeder schools this week to address students' concerns about their new JC.

Mr Boy Eng Seng, Eunoia's vice- principal, spoke to the CHS boys on Tuesday, when they were given Mrs Wong's letter.

The letter said the school had reviewed the naming process following the strong public reaction.

Explaining the naming process, Mrs Wong said parents had been invited to submit suggestions online in April, while students were asked for their input in May.

There were brain-storming sessions to discuss each of the 200 proposed names, all of which were meticulously documented and systematically reviewed, she said.

The Eunoia team met students again in October to share their findings after six months of discussion.

Only one name that "best captures the collective aspirations of our stakeholders" could be chosen, she said. While it could have been challenging to pronounce, "we were captivated by the enduring meaning the name presented us with".

Language experts have differing views on how the word should be pronounced, Mrs Wong said, adding that the college has decided that it should be "yoo-noh-iea".

"At Eunoia... our aim is not to be seen as high class, but to be known for delivering first-class education," she wrote in her letter, addressing claims that the name was pretentious.

Some parents and students remained unconvinced. A parent with a Secondary Two son at CHS was unaware of any consultation. "What are the other 199 names? Who were the stakeholders they consulted?" said the parent, who runs a voluntary welfare organisation.

A Secondary Four CHS student, who will enter Eunoia JC next year, said of the name: "I don't like it, but I'm not going to disrespect it either."

An operations manager in her 40s with a daughter at SCGS said: "Instead of spending so much time treading backwards to explain and get students' buy-in now, it would be more productive to get the students to take a poll out of the top 10 choices."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 07, 2016, with the headline 'What's in a name? Eunoia JC spells it out in a letter'. Print Edition | Subscribe