the persistence of stereotypes

Was clearing some of my old newspaper clippings recently when I found this long-forgotten article (which really amused me):

Which schools do you think these students come from?

Some schools have a certain image, but students argue that it’s not fair

By Lynn Lee and Benjamin Ho

CHINESE High students are bespectacled, geeky and have hairy legs.

Singapore Chinese Girls’ School students speak good English and want to be tai-tais (Cantonese for a well-to-do lady of leisure), but can be boring.

True or false?

It depends on the labels.

When Straits Times columnist Chua Mui Hoong wrote that she would not send her daughter to her alma mater, Raffles Girls’ School (RGS), furious old girls wrote in to rebut what she said.

Schools play a big role in shaping you, she wrote, and while RGS turns out confident, competent and competitive women, it does not encourage femininity and probably marriageability.

Tough, said the writers. They’ve had no problems being warm and loving. They also listed successful, feminine alumni who are married with children.

But do children now pick their secondary school swayed by such thinking and a school’s image and culture? Students say what a school is known for determines the kind of youngster who wants in.

Thirteen-year-old Amanda Ho, who goes to church regularly, chose Anglican High for its Christian values and strong sports teams.

Geraldine Kong, 15, plumped for RGS for its variety of co-curricular activities because she loves cycling and hiking.

And 15-year-old Mumtazah Mustaffa opted for Methodist Girls’ School (MGS) as she wanted a holistic education, and at the school ‘we make time for drama and sports as well as studies’.

Still, it’s a fact of life that the better known a school is, the more likely its students will have a certain image, attitude and outlook attached to them.

After all, birds of a feather, they say, flock together.

Or maybe Primary 6 pupils who enter a secondary school with a reputation unconsciously behave the way they hear their schoolmates do and perpetuate the stories.

What is certain is that 180-year-old Raffles Institution produces politicians. Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong and Southeast Community Development Council mayor Othman Haron Eusofe being two.

Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), which turned 117 in March, is where many businessmen studied – for instance, senior advisor to media company Singapore Press Holdings Lim Kim San and Hotel Properties managing director Ong Beng Seng.

The uniform makes some schools distinctive.

For Estelle Chan, 17, who spent 10 years at Singapore Chinese Girls’, the school’s pale blue, sleeveless pinafore identified it.

‘There’s this tale of how a student wore it to junior college and was scolded for being slutty and not wearing her blouse,’ said the Hwa Chong Junior College student.

And while ex-Chinese High student Andrew Zhang, 22, was often teased about his hairy legs by friends from other schools whose uniform had long trousers, the shorts he had to wear in school did not affect his social life.

‘If we were meeting girls, we’d change out of our shorts before doing so,’ he recalls.

Then there are schools known for their attitude.

‘I can always spot the ACS boys because they’re obnoxious, though in a cute way,’ said marketing executive Dawn Chan, 23, adding that MGS girls are often rich, well-dressed and stuck-up.

No way, said MGS alumnus Charmian Kok, 17.

‘We’re all fun-loving and approachable.’

Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus (Toa Payoh) student Sabine Wisnioski, 17, said that, contrary to the belief that her schoolmates are ‘havoc’, they are actually ‘just mischievous’.

‘We don’t break the rules,’ she said.

You want havoc teens, look at the guys at St Patrick’s Secondary and St Gabriel’s Secondary, said the girls.

The fellows have a reputation for chatting girls up, which is why they are labelled buaya (local slang for ‘skirt-chaser’).

As for those from other mission schools, like St Joseph’s Institution (SJI) – well-mannered and sociable, pronounced Preeta Menon, 17, from CHIJ (Toa Payoh).

‘But,’ dismissed Sabine, ‘they’re not really my type.’

Why not, asked Moses Goh, 17, ex-SJI boy, now studying at Catholic Junior College. ‘We’re nice guys and hardworking too.’

Rafflesians get the most flak. This includes being called ‘stuck-up’, ‘anti-social’, ‘nerdy’ and ‘full of themselves’.

But this is all talk to Primary 6 pupil Li Jiawei, 12.

‘Students at Raffles Institution have strong characters. They’re always striving to be the best and I want to be like them,’ said the head prefect of Fuhua Primary.

He will put RI as his top choice, followed by Chinese High and River Valley High.

The Straits Times, Monday, 23 November 2003, Page H3

And the reason why stereotypes persist is, of course, because they are often true.

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4 Responses to “the persistence of stereotypes”


  1. 1 Agagooga Tuesday, 14 December, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    Hurr hurr how come got this sort of article one

  2. 3 Yunnnnnn8D Monday, 23 July, 2012 at 1:08 pm

    Reblogged this on FML-Fear My Life ;D and commented:
    How true. People keep stereotyping RGS girls as stuck-up, nerdy and no-lifers. Pfft. Just want them to know that stereotyping is just stupid.

  3. 4 Karynny Wednesday, 25 July, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Not really :P
    I knlw SC is known to be really bitchy and all that. I won’t say all of us are some angels or perfect beings but obviously not all of us are that arrogant and stuff even though there may be some slightly wealtheir students among us :)


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