life, contraction is death”
In the early 1990 when the Mission was
exploring possibilities of expanding its community services, the main
focus fell on pre-school education. But very preliminary enquiries at the
time pointed to an inadequate catchment’s area for a kindergarten. Shortly
after, SINDA (Singapore Indian Development Association), deeply concerned
about the falling standards of Indian school children, strongly felt the
need for a kindergarten to improve pre-school standards.
In late 1991 SINDA approached the Mission
with a request that it start a kindergarten for which, according to its
studies, there was a demand. The then President of the Mission was
delighted. He set up a pro-tem committee in March 1992 to conduct a
feasibility study. In the next few weeks the committee came up with its
report which said there was, indeed, a pressing need for a kindergarten.
Meanwhile, the Mission headquarters in Belur Math, Kolkata, India,
approved the project.
An idea had conceptualized. Now the task
was to translate the idea into reality. A kindergarten committee was
formed in June 1992 to implement the project. It decided to run a total of
four classes – two each for K1 and K2 – in the academic year 1993. The
multi-purpose Sarada Hall was extensively renovated, class rooms and
assembly areas were partitioned off, and other facilities
At this stage, a start-up grant of $58,000
provided by SINDA came in extremely handy. SINDA also gave an annual grant
of $25,000 for the first two years to meet the annual operating costs.
Bursaries for the training of four teachers were also made
It was decided to name the kindergarten
“Ramakrishna Mission Sarada Kindergarten.” Sarada is the consort of Sri
Ramakrishna and also the name of Goddess of learning.
Sarada Kindergarten was
officially opened on 27 December 1992 by Mr J.Y. Pillay, the then
President of SINDA. The kindergarten commenced its first session on 4
January 1993 with a total enrolment of one hundred and twenty-six children
in four classes – sixty-four in K1 and sixty-two in K2. At the time Sarada
was one of the few kindergartens offering Tamil as a second language, a
facility appreciated by the Indian community. It may be recalled that till
1990, only two of the more than 350 neighbourhood kindergartens offered
Tamil as one of the mother tongues available. Subsequently, Mandarin was
also offered as a second language and taken advantage of by some
A new star was born on the
firmament of pre-school education. And the star has shone with increasing
luminosity as time passed. Innovations have been the secret of this. A
year after the opening of the kindergarten, computer-aided learning was
introduced to ensure that the children were well-equipped to meet the
demands of the new primary school curriculum.
Come January 1995 – Nursery
classes were introduced to meet the growing demand for pre-kg education.
The first year’s enrolment was twenty-one children, spread over morning
and afternoon classes.
It was now time to take a
closer look at Sarada Hall. While it came in extremely handy for a
start-up, the committee felt that more spacious premises were needed to
meet the growing demands for more places both in the Nursery and the
Kindergarten and to ensure the full development of the children’s
academic, social and cultural needs.
It was then decided to
construct a new building within the campus of the Mission. A special
ground-breaking ceremony was held on 27 September 1995 and amidst Vedic
chanting and rituals, Swami Gahananandaji, one of Vice-Presidents of the
world-wide Ramakrishna Order, laid the foundation stone for the new
almost immediately and the work was completed ahead of schedule in
November 1996. The building was consecrated on 17 November with the
worship of Sri Ramakrishna and Holy Mother Sarada Devi.
The spanking new building
was ready to welcome the 1997 intake. This comprised eight classes, three
each for Nursery and K1 and two for K2 with a total enrolment of two
hundred and fifty-six children – double the 1993 intake of one hundred and
twenty-six and the Staff strength was fifteen.
The building was formally
declared open on 5 July 1997 by the Hon’ble Dr Tony Tan Keng Yam, Deputy
Prime Minister and Minister for Defence, at a well-attended function which
also marked the Centenary of the Ramakrishna Mission. Dr Tan praised the
Mission’s “commitment and resourcefulness in helping to build a caring and
compassionate society in Singapore.”
The building, costing $1.4
million, was equipped with a state-of-the-art computer laboratory with 20
pcs, a library and a music and movement room.
January 1998 saw the student
intake increasing to three hundred and seventy-six backed by staff
strength of twenty-three. There were six Nursery and K1 classes and four
But even before the building
was to undergo a new coat of paint, it was becoming clear that the
kindergarten needed more space because of the increasing demand for places
from parents anxious to give their children a head-start in
So plans were afoot to build
an extension which would not only add more classrooms but also a gymnasium
and language laboratory to supplement existing facilities. Additionally,
the extension was also to house the Mission’s “Wings Counselling Centre”
operating from Sarada Hall.
Construction of the $1.6
million extension started on 27 May 2001 by laying foundation stone by the
President of the Ramakrishna Mission Singapore and was completed in April
2002. The consecration ceremony of the building was held on 26 May 2002
With the new building
pressed into service, the July intake saw the student population scaling
another high with a total of four hundred and forty-two in twenty classes
– eight each for Nursery and K1 and four for K2. The Staff strength
increased to twenty-eight.
The official opening of this
building was done by RADM. Teo Chee Hean, Minister of Education and Second Minister for Defence
on 19 October 2001.
From January 2002 we have
about five hundred children in 22 classes – eight each for Nursery and K1
and six for K2 with the staff strength of thirty-three.
Though only a decade old,
some educationists describe Sarada as
a “model.” Whatever that be, it has managed to keep itself in the
forefront by a conscious policy of continuous review, evaluation and
modification of its curriculum and teaching techniques. It has also been
sharing experience through mutual visits with other