City Harvest Church member Jan Boey took a giant leap of faith when she chose to obey God, and start a school in her home. Today, Victory Life Christian School is 22 years old, and has trained generations of students not only in academia but in the Word of God.
It has been called the best-kept secret in Singapore’s education landscape. Victory Life Christian School (VLCS) is a private school using the ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) curriculum which is biblically based. The ACE curriculum is used in more than 144 nations around the world. Students in this curriculum graduate with an American High School Diploma (equivalent to GCE ‘A’ levels).
VLCS was the first ACE school in Singapore, and since then three others using the ACE curriculum have opened.
The ACE curriculum offers students a different methodology of learning from what Singaporeans experience in government schools: the curriculum, printed text-and-workbooks called PACEs (Packet of Accelerated Christian Education) are the teachers, and the staff are supervisors and monitors. The staff train the students in self-directed learning skills, supervise their mastery and monitors each child’s progress. The staff also counsel, motivate and inspire the joy of learning. Each child learns at his own pace through PACEs: one PACE covers a topic at a certain level, and takes the student through a system of “check-ups” (mini-tests), self-tests and a final PACE test at the end. The student is empowered to take full responsibility over his own learning. He or she progresses through 12 PACEs per level until he or she completes the full curriculum, and graduates from VLCS with an American High School Diploma.
There is no homework if the student finishes his daily goals, no mid-year or year-end exams and no need for tuition. PACEs instruct students to revise before every test, complete projects and recite memorised Bible verses. The supervisors speak life, pray and minister God’s Word into every child.
Many VLCS graduates have progressed to universities, both locally and overseas, as well as other institutions of higher learning such as art and music colleges.
Luke 1:17 is God’s given mission to VLCS: “And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
AN UNUSUAL CALLING FROM GOD
Before the year 2000, Jan was a working stay-home mother, parenting her three daughters (then 16, 15 and 9). Simultaneously, the certified accountant ran a sole proprietorship providing part-time booking-keeping, tax and secretarial services to small and medium enterprises. Her husband San Fei, also a certified accountant, worked as a regional risk manager with General Electric.
It had never been on her mind to found a school but Jan found herself seeking God when her oldest daughter began to rebel while in polytechnic. “I was a typical tiger mum,” Jan admits, adding that she became a “private investigator” checking up on her child’s every move. One night, when her daughter had not returned home at midnight, she called a classmate of hers.
“The parent who picked up the phone ministered to me as I shared with her my concern for my girl. Speaking to her, I felt revived in the spirit and began to go with her to small church meetings,” Jan recalls. “One night, we went to a church at Tyrwhitt Road and the speaker was a prophet from the US. He spoke over me, saying, ‘You will be like Mary, the handmaiden.’ At that point, I just kept it in my heart.”
It was a whole series of “coincidences” that convinced Jan that this was a call from the Lord, beginning with the prophecy. “I had just received a sum of money, an inheritance from my father from the sale of a family property,” she shares. “Then, a missionary introduced me to the ACE curriculum. He was using the curriculum to school Korean missionaries’ kids in Thailand. I was excited that the curriculum teaches the Word of God in every subject and is Christ-centred, not secular.”
She continues, “At that time, I was meditating on Revelations 19:13 when the Lord revealed His name: ‘The Word of God’. My friend (the parent of my daughter’s classmate) called me to say that the Lord instructed her to tell me to read Luke 1 and 2. Upon reading, I sensed His direction for me to birth a school using ACE to train students to know the Word of God and be doers of His Word.
“It was with fear and trembling on that Saturday morning that I responded to the Lord as Mary did—’Be it unto me according to Your Word’.”
She studied the various homeschooling curricula available, from Abeka to Bob Jones and ATI. God confirmed that ACE would be the one to adopt. “The curriculum is all about the learning of each child: how to take responsibility, how to pursue understanding, how to set goals, how to correct mistakes, how to prepare for tests, how to be considerate, how to ask and answer questions, how to give glory to God for the skills and God-given talents at annual conventions, how progress is monitored for mastery in self-directed learning,” Jan points out. “Most of all the strength of the curriculum is the Word of God that is woven through every subject.”
Jan purchased the training materials and got hold of the training tapes from a representative for ACE in the region, which was helping schools (along with some homeschoolers) using the ACE curriculum in Malaysia, where there are more than 70 ACE schools today.
Jan’s first employee was the same friend who had told her to read Luke 1 and 2. Though they were not (yet) country representatives, God opened the door for them to be trained at the ACE Ministries headquarters in Lewisville, Dallas, in 1999. “We also attended the International Student Convention while we were there, and we met Mrs Elizabeth Elliot, whose book Through Gates Of Splendour is on the ACE Literature reading list,” she says.
Jan decided to do a test run for the school. “In December 1999, we asked our friends to send their children to us for our supervision using the ACE curriculum. There were 10 of them and we had a good time. Apart from doing PACEs, we also taught them household chores and cooking. One of the boys told his father that he wanted to join our school,” she remembers. The father teared hearing him say that, as his son had been struggling in mainstream school all this time.
Although there had been some encouraging progress, the concerns were real. “All we knew was, Singapore’s mainstream schools are considered the best in this part of the world,” Jan says. “Many families from China, Indonesia, Southeast Asia choose to send their children to be educated here, and Singapore’s mathematics has been touted to be the best in the world. Singaporeans are law-abiding, and no Singaporean would ever think of starting a private school. I too had no ambition to do so, and I wouldn’t have if the Lord had not called me to birth the school. I told him, ‘Lord, do You really want me to start a school? I am an accountant and not an educator.’ He replied that He often chooses the foolish to shame the wise.”
She was also concerned about the intake. “I asked the Lord, ‘Who will come to the school?’ and He replied that He will lead His children to us. Sure enough, our first few students were children of pastors and church leaders from various churches—Paya Lebar Methodist Chinese Church, FCBC, Every Nation Church. Each one said the Lord led them here. They withdrew their children from mainstream schools to come to our school. Our first cohort of all-Singaporean students grew from just one—our daughter.”
Jan reckoned if she was going to start this school, her youngest daughter Medaline should be in it. The process of withdrawing her daughter from a mainstream mission school proved to be a confirmation of her calling.
“While I was waiting to hand in the letter of withdrawal to the principal, I took out my Bible and my eyes fell on Matthew 2:15, ‘Out of Egypt, I call out my son.’ In that moment, I saw how the children were subject to a one-size-fits-all curriculum, how slow learners were stressed when they couldn’t understand, how teachers had to keep to the syllabus to prepare the students for exams, how students needed to go for tuition or after-school remedial to strengthen their learning, and how compulsory co-curricular activities and homework were placing even more stress on the children.”
That gave Jan the boldness to tell the principal she planned to homeschool Medaline using the ACE curriculum. The principal asked to see some of the PACES, and, after a week, was impressed with the curriculum and supported the withdrawal of Jan’s daughter.
“We asked the Lord for a school name and we received the promising words ‘Victory’ and ‘Life’—on our own, we were thinking of words that were not so promising! We met up with some Christian educators and they told us we could not call ourselves a school but a training agency. We were hesitant because it sounded like an insurance agency or maid agency. So we looked up the meaning of ‘agency’, and we felt peace because we are agents of Christ after all,” she shares.
The Boeys went to the Registrar of Business to change the name of her sole proprietorship to Victory Life Christian Training Agency. But the officer she encountered advised that the word “Christian” may not pass. “We told her that it was a name given by God and we want to obey Him. We told her to ask her superior, who turned out to be a Malay lady who wore a tudong. She came out to us, and we held our breath as she stared at the name. Within a few seconds, she said, ‘It’s okay, can pass!’ We were awed by how easy God made what seemed impossible at first!”
And so, Victory Life Christian Training Agency was launched. “My friend and I supervised my daughter from 17 January 2000, when we officially started the school. Initially, Medaline missed her Primary 3 friends but she enjoyed learning from the PACEs. She was no longer stressed nor carrying a heavy load of books to school—she actually shot up in height and was not burdened with tons of homework. In February, the boy who had come to our trial session joined our school and by March, more children of pastors enrolled. By the end of 2002, the Lord had led 17 students to our home school, just as He promised,” she recalls.
“Hence, we have never advertised. Many parents who have visited our school all these years came by word of mouth.”
WALKING THROUGH THE VALLEY
It was not easy to start a private school—a move that was practically unheard of in efficient Singapore. Jan, who turns 68 this December, took things step by step in faith. The Lord brought the increase and they kept outgrowing their space.
“We moved the school out of our home at Ellington Square when we reached maximum capacity with 17 students in 2002, to a rented three-storey bungalow in Jalan Berjaya (which we maxed out at 37 students in 2004), moved to Bethel Presbyterian Church in Jalan Lateh (we maxed out at 80 students in 2008), and then we rented a refurbished school lab at the former Upper Aljunied Secondary School, until 2012 when the land was taken over by HDB for housing the Gurkhas and the Bidadari estate. At that point, we had more than 110 students,” she says.
To “abide by the law of the land,” Jan sought to register the school with the Ministry of Education’s division of private schools in 2003. The head of the division, after going through the portfolio of testimonies and work samples Victory Life brought, advised that the school did not need to register with MOE as they employed facilitators, not teachers. They were advised to conduct Victory Life as a business facilitating a homeschool curriculum.
However, in 2007 the school was paid a visit by the new head of private schools division, at a time when Jan was hospitalised for a ruptured appendix. Her visit was to establish that the team was operating a school (criteria included students attending more than four hours of school and wearing school uniforms). So the school was registered with the ministry and changed its name to Victory Life Christian School Ltd as a social enterprise by guarantor, on 17 April 2008.
Each step of the way, God came through for them. But the journey was not free of obstacles.
By 2010, Jan and San Fei’s older daughters had married and relocated to Canada. As Medaline had also moved to Canada for university, the couple began making plans to retire in Vancouver and be near their children and grandchildren. Jan even planned to start a home school there to support her grandchildren.
When Jan sought the Lord about these plans, He instead told her to accept some new students that had been recommended to our school by their pastors. It was a difficult decision as these were delinquents who were unable to attend mainstream schools.
“These were angry boys—one of them threw a chair across the room in front of me,” Jan remembers. “My staff and the parents of the other students confronted me for taking them in and threatened to pull their children out. But the Lord reminded me that ‘a bruised reed, He will not break and a smoking flax He will not snuff out.’ He brought me back to the verse for our school, Luke 1:17, which says, ‘Turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, the disobedient to the wisdom of the wise and prepare a people ready for the Lord.’ Hence, we were to expect disobedient children.”
Jan had no choice but to tell the unhappy parents that they were free to withdraw their children if they felt they might be harmed. “I had hoped they would be a good influence for these delinquents,” she says. “I remember I was growing weary, and I turned to Teen Challenge, Youth for Christ and Scripture Union for help.”
Troubles continued in the following years. “God had told me, ‘Build my house and I will build your house’ but I leaned on my own understanding, thinking I needed to find someone to run the school so we could emigrate to Canada,” Jan admits.
At the time, a parent who was a pastor of a small church shared with Jan that that he would like to open a school in India. Jan offered him the run of Victory Life, and he gladly took the opportunity. The Boeys took two years to travel to and from Canada to make plans for their retirement.
“Some of the parents were very upset by our handing over and pulled their children out,” she says. “By 2012, the cohort had shrunk to around 90 students. After they left, the delinquents also left to sit for their ‘O’ level exams with private schools like City College. Sadly, most of them did not do well in their ‘O’ levels as they had learning gaps, but praise be to God, the parent of the boy who threw the chair called us two years ago to tell us that her son completed his national service and was now studying at the Singapore Institute of Management. She expressed her gratitude that her son turned around in his attitude after the few months he spent with us.”
2012 was also when the Housing Development Board gave notice to Victory Life to vacate their premises, and the new head of the school decided to rent the basement of Balestier Point, a move that caused even more students to pull out of the school.
Things were also not going as planned for the Boeys. “We visited Canada for periods of three months, hoping to apply for permanent residency and start a home school in Vancouver for our grandchildren. Both pursuits did not materialise as the Canadian government announced it was not receiving any more applications from ‘old folks’ as there were too many. Also, our children were not keen to homeschool their kids.”
When she was in Singapore, Jan would return to Victory Life and handle the accounts. One chapel morning in school, she asked the Lord for a word. The guest pastor who had come to preach began by going to the book of Ruth.
She remembers, “He said, ‘I am not going to be talking about Ruth but Naomi… Naomi left Bethlehem to go to Moab, lost everything and came back to Bethlehem.’ I felt that God was speaking directly to me. My husband and I agreed that we should come back and build His house.”
The school was returned to the Boeys in 2013. By 2016, God had grown the student population from 75 to 138. By then, the school was bursting at the seams in that basement, and so Jan and the cohort cried out to God for a school premise with good-sized classrooms, a badminton hall, a soccer field and more. He answered their prayers by sending Pastor Don Wong of The New Charis Mission to speak to San Fei about renting Building 8 on the grounds of HCSA (Highpoint Community Services Association) in Lorong 23 Geylang.
Through HCSA, the Singapore Land Authority asked if Victory Life was a religious school and what their prayer times were. “We gathered the cohort and prayed for wisdom before sending HCSA our answers to SLA,” Jan shares. “We said we are not a religious school and we do not belong to any church but we have a relationship with God. We do not have prayer times because we pray without ceasing. Within a few hours, the director of HCSA called to say we were approved as tenants! Glory to God! I announced to the cohort and we all let out a loud shout of thanks to God and many jumped for joy!”
The approval came in February 2017, and by 17 April 2017, Victory Life had moved into their new premises, where they remain today.
A QUALITY EDUCATION
In 2007, VLCS saw its first cohort of graduates. The students graduate when they meet the requirements of the American High School Diploma, which is accepted in local universities, and universities in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, Tasmania and the Philippines. For admission to universities, VLCS graduates may be required to sit for SATs (Scholarship Achievement Tests).
It was completely unknown territory for VLCS. Jan recalls, “I could only pray for our graduates to do well in the SATs.” The first batch of four graduating students signed up for the SATs in January the following year to test out if ACE had prepared them well enough.
“They only practised some past year tests in November and in December two worked at a pizza shop, and the other two went on holiday and to church camp. Back then, the National University of Singapore accepts students with scores of at least 2100 out of a full 2400 points. I was worried that they may not be prepared and will not score well enough to enter NUS,” she admits.
The results were released in February, and Medaline scored 1830 points. When Jan encouraged her to try again for a higher score, her daughter replied that she wished to study in Canada where her sisters resided. As it turned out, she was not only offered a place at Trinity Western University in Canada, but her letter of acceptance read, “Congratulations, we are awarding you the President’s scholarship.” Medaline graduated with greater distinction (summa cum laude).
Two others from the first batch of VLCS graduates, a pair of brothers, were granted the Bishop’s scholarship to study at Kansas Methodist University in Kansas. “Today, the older brother is a worship pastor in the US and the younger brother is a youth pastor at Paya Lebar Methodist Church,” shares Jan.
Many of the subsequent cohorts of VLCS graduates have entered local universities. “NTU accepted eight VLCS students before they required the SATs in 2014,” she says. “It was a surprise, when a parent informed me that our school’s name was in the drop-down list of schools for admission in NTU, SMU and SIM.”
“Two of our graduates chose to further their studies in NUS,” she says. “One of them received a $400,000 scholarship in the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in NUS. All glory to God!” In recent years, VLCS graduates have also been accepted into the Singapore University of Technology & Design (SUTD), the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS) and James Cook University.
More than 90 percent of VLCS’ graduates are accepted into universities in Singapore and the US, UK, Canada, Australia, Tasmania, and the Philippines – an impressive record seeing that an average of 70 percent of junior college students in Singapore progress to university.
For students that are not planning to take the university route, VLCS prescribes that they complete Grade 10 (the equivalent of ‘O’ levels) if they want to enter a polytechnic, or an art school like LaSalle, or skills-based institutions such as culinary schools.
Academic achievements aside, VLCS also has a mission to “prepare a people for the Lord”. VLCS differs from other mainstream mission schools in that biblical understanding is built into the curriculum. The staff in every class monitor each child’s academic progress, spiritual growth and build up their personal relationship with God, their knowledge of Him and the power of resurrection, and the Holy Spirit who never leaves them nor forsakes them.
“One parent of a boy from a leading mission school lamented to us that the current curriculum is not the same as it was when he attended the school in the 1970s,” Jan relates. “Bible teaching time is now relegated to outside curriculum hours to meet the education standards ‘regardless of race, language or religion’.”
Over the years, Jan has been writing to appeal to the education ministry for Christian parents to be granted the prerogative to choose Christian education for their children. Currently, children who are Singapore citizens require the ministry’s assessment and approval for a transfer to VLCS.
When VLCS started, more than 80 percent of its students were Singapore citizens. Jan explains that over the years, however, updates to Singapore’s Private Education Institutions’ admission procedures have subjected all admissions of school-age children to MOE’s approval, and have essentially restricted the admission of local students for full-time school to those who have special needs or medical issues, and those who have completed their ‘O’ levels.
“Our number of Singaporean students decreased but the Lord led many foreign students to us who were not accepted by mainstream schools,” Jan shares. VLCS currently has an intake of around 30 students per year, and 15 graduates each year. Foreign students may leave the school when their parents repatriate.
She continues, “Our school, using an individualised curriculum, is all-inclusive of children with medical issues and especially so because we believe God’s Word that by His stripes we were healed. We have seen students labelled with autism, Down’s Syndrome, Asperger, ADD, ADHD, GDD, dyslexia, depression, insomnia, and childhood trauma healed. All glory to God! We believe, at the name of Jesus, all these names must bow! We hold fast to God’s promise that students may come defeated but they will always leave victorious and have life and have it more abundantly. We declare the Word of God that the devil will have to restore to these children sevenfold what he has stolen from them. Our confidence is in Him who is always willing to heal and set free.”
Today, VLCS is seeing its largest student population in its 22 years at 165. Post-COVID , the school is resuming all activities, including the annual Regional Student Convention which gathers students from schools using the ACE curriculum in Singapore and Malaysia in a time of friendly competition to display the gifts and talents God has given them. The winners of the various categories go on to the International Student Convention, usually held in the US, where they meet other students from around the world.
For Jan, there are no plans to rest on VLCS’ laurels. Luke 1:17 constantly guides all she does in and for VLCS. “I am constantly waiting on the Lord on how to fulfil the mission of preparing a people ready for the Lord.” To that end, she and her team are equipped with Kingdom principles on discipleship, evangelism and healing.
That said, she is grateful and amazed at all that God has done through the school. “Looking back, we have seen many transformed lives because the students’ minds are renewed by the Word of God. We have seen students receive salvation and baptism of the Holy Spirit; and pre-believing parents receive salvation too. To God be the glory that we have witnessed many students graduate victoriously, many happy and grateful parents, respectful students, exemplary students who are zealous for God’s Kingdom.”