I personally believe that I am who I am currently because of where I came from. I was extremely fortunate to have gone to institutions that have built up my character and that has served me very well in my life thus far.
My formal education, disregarding my kindergarten years, started at St. Michael’s School. It has since been renamed to St. Joseph’s Institution (Junior). I then moved on to St. Joseph’s Institution for my secondary school years and Anderson Junior College for my Junior College education. I went to the National University of Singapore for my first degree. (The current degree that I am pursuing in SUSS will be my second).
I believe very strongly that I should be proud of where I came from. I am currently running my own corporate secretarial and accounting practice, an employment agency and some businesses. There have been countless times where my school mates, especially my secondary school mates, have referred clients to me. I sincerely believe that I could not have achieved the level of success I have were it not for these recommendations and referrals. The reason for this stems from the fact that I am proud of where I came from and I’ve remained in contact with as many people as I could.
I was never an extroverted individual in class during my teens. Especially in my secondary school years. Looking back, I think I was always trying to fit in to what some of my school mates were doing. If they were going to the arcade after school, I would go with them. We would bring a change of clothes so that we could enter the arcade. When I went to junior college (in the past there was this “first three months” concept where you entered a junior college provisionally based on your secondary school preliminary results before the A-level results were released), my friends taught me how to play pool but that meant skipping some boring history classes. That was at Serangoon Junior College before I left for Anderson Junior College after I received my A-level results. Looking back, I don’t think I really wanted to go to the arcade or to play pool. I think I just wanted to fit in and I sort of went with the flow. But mixing with people has its perks. My friends looked out for me and I learned to look out for them. Getting caught at the arcade by a teacher, standing up to bullies for each other in school, studying together, getting into fights with other kids at the basketball court, all these instilled a sense of belonging. It then translates to a sense of belonging of where I came from. Some of the things that we were up to were not model student behaviour (I genuinely apologise to my history teacher who I heard was left having to continue the class with just 3 students. Perhaps that gave him a taste of private tuition as I heard that was what he eventually pursued.) but they were things that bonded me to the people around me.
If you actually think about it, just going to class and being a model student is not going to instill a sense of belonging to the school. The word school can be portrayed as a noun or an adjective. As a noun, it refers to the physical structure as a place of education. This is not what binds people. When I was in primary school, we moved from our permanent campus in Essex Road to a temporary one in Bendemeer because the school was being rebuilt. In those two years, I did not have an affinity to the physical structure. I never missed the bricks and mortar that made up the physical structure at both the Bendemeer or Essex Road campus. However, referring to the word school as an adjective changes the complexion completely. It becomes a description and that is where the word itself takes on multiple possible interpretations. To me, school is made up of the people around me. It will not matter if you move the current St. Joseph’s Institution from it’s Whitley Road campus to any other possible location in Singapore (preferably not Tengah ok?). When people ask me about SJI, I will describe to them that it is a fantastic institution and you will make loads of friends who many will become extraordinary individuals when they emerge as working adults. The adjective is what I am referring to, not the noun. SJI did make a move previously. It shifted from the Bras Basah campus to the current reiteration at Whitley Road. When one old SJI boy who was educated at the Bras Basah campus meets one who was from the Whitley Road campus, he would not claim that he came from a different school. This is because the word school as an adjective is the more appropriate use of the word in that context.
So now I am studying in SUSS. We are renting a building from SIM. I believe that is the current arrangement. There are plans, we were told by some members of the faculty, to have a permanent campus in the future. By then I would have long graduated (hopefully!). The SUSS School of Law can be either a noun or an adjective to every law student. This is purely a matter of choice. You can just come to school for lessons, do your school work, get your degree and then be done with it. This is understandable as most of us are working adults. We have jobs, our families and our own lives outside of law school. However, a sense of belonging can help in the probably medium to long future. The school will have a sense of pride if one of its alumni does something significant. Perhaps in future one of us will become a very prominent lawyer? A judge? Argue a case in an angle that changes the law? How nice it would be to say “hey I went to school with that person!” or “I took Constitutional Law with that person!”. Well something to that effect. You get the idea. Personally, a sense of belonging is very important. Applying that to when we are currently in school, it bodes well for every member of the school if we do well in competitions. It may be a mooting competition or some sports event. I was previously in positions where I represented my school and I never for once had the mentality that I was there to make up the numbers. When my friends asked me what would be a good result, I told them to that I was there to win. For the record, that did not happen very often… This should be the mentality when we partake in an activity where we represent our school. This is called school pride and it emanates from a sense of belonging. To me personally, if I represent my school in a competition, I am in it to win it. Humans are psychologically very associative creatures. Humans tend to generalise. Just because one person from this group did this, the whole group must be like that. If we use this to apply to how everyone of us should partake in activities where we represent our school, if one of us does well, others may say that us as a whole may also have similar capabilities. I know this does not make much sense as a legal argument and I am sure my beloved criminal law tutor Prof Ferlin will have a field day with me about things like similar fact evidence, etc… but this is a matter of perception and the truth is, this is how many humans rationalise. Prof, if you are reading this, no I did not forget the principles of admissible, discretionary and exclusionary evidence… don’t panic!
School pride and a sense of belonging is something very important to me. As someone who is also running his own business, I am also instilling a sense of belonging to the people we hire. If you think about it and analyse it carefully, most people don’t work hard because of money. People work hard because of their boss, their company and a general sense of belonging. While it is important to pay decently well, I make sure to instill in my team that when we recruit new people to join us, we are looking for people to stay. The only way to do so is to have a good working environment as well as instilling a sense of belonging. If money were the main priority for a person taking a job, I would not have a hard time convincing talent to join my company!
It is important to have in mind when we represent SUSS in competitions, we are there to not only put on a good show but to try to win it. Trying is not just lip service but a decent level of commitment has to be put into it for us to constitute effort as a try. Just turning up is not trying. When we go out to practice in the future, we represent each other. When one of us does well, it rubs off on everyone who has come from the same school. In the same vein, try not to get in trouble too…
I have been asked by people who are thinking of reading law at our beloved SUSS School of Law, “how is the school like?”. My response has always been, “I love it!”. When I make that remark, I am referring not to the building that houses our lessons. I am referring to all the banter, all the discussion, all the late night supper with friends at places like HaiDiLao (you know who you are). SUSS School of Law is great! Not because of the campus. It is because of the people that make up the school. We are new and we only have one batch of students who have transitioned into practice. Perhaps in the future we will be reading judgements based on decisions from an alumni from the SUSS School of Law? How is that not possible if time is allowed to run its course?
To the rest of my cohort and to borrow a motto… semper ad meliora (always towards better things)
Ok then, back to my property law assignment!