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Establishment of National Junior College 20th Jan 1969

The National Junior College (NJC) was the first specialised co-educational government school established in independent Singapore for top pre-university students.[1]

In May 1965, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced plans to build a “super secondary boarding school” for top students.[2] In December that same year, then Minister for Education Ong Pang Boon announced in parliament that special secondary schools called “junior colleges” would be built. The reasons for establishing such colleges were to optimise the use of teachers and laboratory facilities, as well as create more places for pre-university students. The junior colleges admitted students from all language streams to ensure integration between the ethnic groups.[3] In 1967, construction works began on the college, which was named National Junior College (NJC).[4]

On 20 January 1969, NJC conducted an inaugural assembly for its pioneer batch of students. This pioneering cohort of 572 students later called themselves the “Sixty-niners”. Unlike other pre-university schools, students in NJC were given the freedom and flexibility to choose their subjects under the college’s lecture and tutorial system. This resulted in over 40 different subject combinations. Besides General Paper, which was compulsory, other subjects offered to students included Art, Biology, Chemistry, Economics, English Literature, Geography, History and Mathematics.[5]

To ensure a high standard of education, NJC operated on a single six-day week session, unlike other secondary schools that operated double sessions on a five-day week. Formal lectures were held in the mornings while afternoons were reserved for tutorials, extra-curricular activities, and laboratory or field work. Tutorial groups, consisting of 10 students each, were deliberately kept small to foster closer student-teacher interaction. These small group interactions were modelled after the university tutorial system to prepare students for the academic environment at the tertiary level.[6] A well-rounded education was envisioned. Students in the arts and science streams had to take up at least one subject from the other stream. Besides academic studies, emphasis was also placed on extra-curricular activities and physical fitness programmes. In addition, students were required to attend courses in civics and current affairs, as well as participate in community projects, charity work and arts appreciation activities. Prominent public figures were also invited to give talks and seminars to the students about present-day realities. Classes were conducted in English and Mandarin, and the study of a second language was made compulsory to encourage bilingualism among students. Students were also given opportunities to interact with their peers from neighbouring countries as some places in the college were reserved for government-sponsored Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) scholars.[7]

In January 1985, NJC introduced the Art Elective Programme to groom artistically talented and bright students.[8] The Humanities Scheme was started in 1987 with experienced British teachers specially recruited to tutor students in various humanities subjects.[9] In 1992, NJC became the first junior college to offer German as part of its Language Elective Programme.[10] The college was also the only school awarded the inaugural Lee Kuan Yew National Education Award in 2002 for its efforts in instilling a strong national identity and social responsibility in its students.[11] In 2004, NJC was one of six institutions to offer the four-year Integrated Programme (IP) that admitted Secondary Three students, allowing them to skip their GCE ‘O’ Level examinations and proceed directly to take their ‘A’ levels at the end of their fourth year in the school.[12] In January 2009, the IP was extended to six years to facilitate the admission of students at the Secondary One level, while continuing to take in IP students at Secondary Three .[13]

1. Campbell, W. (1968, January 16). Singapore builds a new step in higher education. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Lee plans a super Eton-style boarding school. (1965, May 3). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. (1965, December 20). Yang di-Pertuan Negara’s Speech, Debate on the Address (Fifth Day) (Vol. 24, cols. 345–374). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN.
4. Wong, M. K. (Ed.). (2009). And they called us car park attendants: Singapore’s first JC (p. 8). Singapore: [National Junior College]. Call no.: RSING 378.1543095957 AND.
5. Wong, 2009, pp. 2–3, 21, 54, 58–60.
6. Chia, P. (1968, October 27). Applications open on Monday for Singapore’s new college of the elite. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Siow, I. (1968, November 10). Moulding leaders. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Art scheme’s expat teacher. (1985, January 17). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Tan, J. (1986, October 23). 3 more JCs added to list of centres. The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. NJC to have A-level German. (1991, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retreived from NewspaperSG.
11. National education with a difference at NJC. (2002, August 13). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lee, L., & Cheong, N. (2004, January 3). Life in the fast lane. The Straits Times, p. H1. Retrived from NewspaperSG.
13. Ng, J. (2008, February 19). NJC to take in students from Sec 1. The Straits Times, p. 31. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.   


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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