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Disengaged and unmotivated – that was the reputation of the group of 20 Secondary Three students who was first batch to join the Holy Innocents’ High School (HIHS) Coop Club.

It was difficult to sustain their interest in class, recalled Mr Shahrom Asmani, Subject Head, Normal Technical, Holy Innocents’ High School.

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Then the students had their first brush with the co-operative. As the teacher who oversees the coop club, Mr Shahrom was right in the thick of action to witness the transformation.

“The activities such as social awareness campaign projects and doing business fanned an interest in them. Soon, getting the students involved in the coop club was never an issue. We noticed that the students willingly stayed back after school to work together to create nice packaging ideas for items they were going to sell.

Hihs Coop Club Sale Activity 1They found meaning and value in the activities they participated. Although this batch of students had a past reputation of being disengaged in class, they turned around and became more interested in their studies. They worked hard and did well in their examinations. It was so encouraging to see the transformation.”

At HIHS, when the coop club was first introduced in 2016, it seemed like a progressive idea to grow the enterprising potential among the students.

When the coop club first started, the first year focused more on raising awareness on various social issues. Students were involved in campaigns to raise awareness on issues such as prevention of cruelty to animals and stress relief. In 2017 and 2018, students engaged in the business of selling snacks in the school canteen from a pushcart stall.

Through the coop club, students were empowered to apply their values and knowledge through creative and enterprising ways. They acquired first-hand experience of running a business with a social focus on economic and co-operative values i.e. to run the coop club profitably with the aim of doing good.

“The programme trained our students well in areas related to entrepreneurship, creativity, teamwork and leadership. These are skills relevant for the students beyond the classroom,” Mr Shahrom pointed out.

At the coop club, the teachers work together with the students to spearhead initiatives. The role of the teacher is to help the students through ideation stage, come up with prototypes and review the feasibility of their business ideas.

“We want to infuse into our students’ educational journey and to create an environment, where trying is encouraged, and failing is accepted as steps towards success and as part of the overall learning. Even if their business ideas can’t make it to the open market, the coop club is a safe place to test new ideas, learn from failures, and try again. Students’ ideas are often displayed in exhibitions.”

Hihs Coop Club Sale Activity BoothWhat makes the coop club different from other co-curricular activities (CCAs) is that through the coop club, students get the exposure and experience to develop entrepreneurial skills; they get the opportunity to apply what they learn from their subjects such as Business English and Mathematics; and they get training support from SNCF on how to ideate, prepare business plans, good ethical business practices etc.

The co-operative values bug must have rubbed off on the students. Eight of these students from HIHS were so impacted by the exposure to running a business with social focus, that they have now gone into the Business School in the Institute of Technical Education (ITE).

Because of the transformation he has seen in his students, Mr Shahrom is all for the coop club in schools – “it has proven to benefit students, to cultivate entrepreneurial dare, so that they will go beyond the classroom, apply their learning to real world contexts, and pursue their passions.”

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