Gan Eng Seng School
|Gan Eng Seng School
|Principal||Mdm Jenny Tan|
|Colour(s)||Red and Green|
Founded by philanthropist Gan Eng Seng in 1885, Gan Eng Seng School (Abbreviation: GESS) is one of the oldest schools in Singapore. GESS was the first school to be set up by a local Chinese and the first to form a parent-teachers' association in 1950. It was an all-boys school for 102 years until it became co-educational in 1987. Before it became a government school in 1938, many prominent Chinese gentlemen such as Sir Song Ong Siang K.B.E, Dr. Lim Boon Keng OBE, Tan Keong Saik and Gan's descendants served on its Board of Trustees. By 1996, GESS was ranked 21st by the Ministry of Education (MOE) among the top 50 schools in Singapore and continued to stay within the top 50 rankings to this day. The school's founding site at Telok Ayer Street was designated as a national historical site by the National Heritage Board in 1997. The school is currently located at Henderson Road in Bukit Merah on the western district of Singapore.
- 1 History
- 2 Tradition
- 3 Academic
- 4 Co-curricular activities
- 5 Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Gan Eng Seng School was founded in some shophouses in Telok Ayer Street in 1885 by the philanthropist, Gan Eng Seng and was known as Anglo Chinese Free School. Born in 1844 into a poor family in Melaka, Gan came to Singapore at a young age to seek his fortune. Since he was unable to have much of an education in his youth, it was his ambition in life to build a school and help those who are poor as he prospered and became wealthy. Gan was far-sighted in placing emphasis on bilingualism in English and Chinese from the start. The school proved to be a success—the enrolment figure reached a record of 167 by 1890, and rose to an all-time high of 94% in 1892.
In 1888, GESS became an aided school which meant government recognition as an education institution. In 1889, the British colonial government offered a site at No. 106 Telok Ayer Street. Gan accepted the site and wholly financed the construction and furbishment of the building which could accommodate up to 300 primary students. On 4 April 1893, Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith opened the new building said:
It is a matter of marked importance that an institute of this kind should have been founded by a Chinese resident. I know of no similar institution in the colony... The school might be devoted to the study of English, but I am glad to know that a knowledge of Chinese will also be gained here, which to me appears to an essential part of the education of a Chinese boy.
Tan Keong Saik, a prominent Chinese businessman and board trustee of the school briefly gave a history of the institution to the distinguished gathering. On 9 September 1899, Gan Eng Seng died. In his will he had made provisions for the maintenance of the school and its management by a Board of Trustees.
The Board of Trustees was composed of distinguished pioneers of Singapore such as Tan Keong Saik, Ho Yang Peng, Wee Theam Tew, Lee Cheng Yan, Sir Chan Sze Jin, CMG (S.J. Chan), Wee Swee Teow, Song Ong Siang, Dr. Lim Boon Keng and Gan's descendants. They all gave of their dedication, leadership and unfailing support to the school until 1938, when GESS became a government school.
In 1923, the school was renamed as Gan Eng Seng School in its founder honour. In the same year the 8th Singapore Troop (now Gan Eng Seng Dragon Scout Group) by G.C.S. Koch with 38 pioneering Scouts were founded. Chan Chon Hoe (1909–2003) who studied in GESS from 1921 to 1927, became the Troop Leader in 1927. Under the colonial system of education (1918–1953), GESS was a feeder school to Raffles Institution (RI). The feeder school provides education up to the Standard V (equivalent to Primary 6 today) after which the student need to gain admission to Raffles Institution via an entrance examination if he wished to pursue his education to Standard IX (equivalent to Secondary 4 today). Chan attended RI from 1928 to 1929, and Scouts promoted to Raffles Institution from GESS were grouped under Gan Eng Seng Patrol which Chan led. Due to his sound training and values inculcated in Scouting, Chan led a healthy lifestyle and lived strictly by the ethics of the Scout movement. Even at his advanced years in the 1990s, Chan participated in New Nation Walk and later the New Paper Walk well into his nineties wearing his Scout uniform and badges on every occasions. Chan attended the school's centenary celebrations at Shangri-La Hotel in 1985 and was honoured by the Singapore Scouts Association in 2000 — he was the only person to have attended the very first and last Scouts' Jamboree in the 20th century. Chan died at the age of 94 in Singapore.
With the economical downturn in the early 1930s, the survival of the school was at stake when community funding dwindled and the school building had reached such a deteriorated state that major repairs were urgently needed. As the two-storey school building was made mainly of wood, it suffered badly from dry rot and termites infestation. In 1937, the Board wrote to the Education Department detailing the plight of the school and urged the government to take over its management. In 1938, GESS became a government school and in the same year, the government proposed to build a new school building at Anson Road. However, no immediate plans were drawn up.
In July 1941, the Public Works Department declared the school building unsafe for occupation and ordered its evacuation. From September 1941 onwards, classes had to be held at two separate buildings in Sepoy Lines Malay School in Park Road and nearby Pearl's Hill School due to space constraints. On 5 December 1941, the school was closed for Christmas holidays but classes would later resumed only after four and the half years later.
During the Japanese Occupation (February 1942—September 1945), the school ceased to exist as it was shut down by the Japanese military administration. After the Japanese surrender, the British Military Administration took charge of Singapore and attempts were made to revive the school again. The school had lost most of its administrative documents, records, its former students and teachers at the aftermath of the war. The school was finally re-opened on the premises of Outram School by headmaster, Percival Frank Aroozoo on 13 May 1946. Aroozoo, a Eurasian of Portuguese descent was the grandson of Simon Aroozoo, who happened to be a close friend and colleague of Gan Eng Seng when both men worked together at Guthrie and Company for fifty years. A year later, the school was moved to the former Japanese National School building (now the Stamford Arts Centre) at No. 155 Waterloo Street and remained there until 1951. During this period, GESS was still a primary school. The teething problems were soon over and on December 1949, Aroozoo launched the school's periodical, Onward to chronicalise the legacy and milestones of the school. On 29 May 1950, GESS became the first school in Singapore to form the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). Its formation was an initiative by Aroozoo: "Parents as much as the teacher has a great deal to do with the training and development of a child as a useful member of the community."
And in the same year, the construction of a new school building in Anson Road began. Aroozoo had commissioned Italian Cavaliere Rudolfo Nolli to deliver two school crests, one slated for outdoor placement at the main block overlooking the school entrance and the other, for indoor placement inside the school hall above the stage. Nolli was a renowned sculptor in Singapore's colonial days. Some of his notable works included the Supreme Court Building, City Hall, Fullerton Building and the Merdeka Lions. The two iconic crests by Nolli were lost when the school moved on to Raeburn Park in 1986.
A new chapter in the history of GESS began in 1951 with the opening of the new school premises in Anson Road, as a secondary school ever since. For the second time in the school's history, a Governor of Singapore, Sir Franklin Gimson, officiated its opening on 15 May 1951. He was confident that the school would rise to heights of academic and athletic distinction:
Not only is it the first to be opened under the Ten-Year Plan... but it's a link with the past: a bridge between the old and the new... Raffles Institution went through the same stages in its history and I am confident that Gan Eng Seng School will rise to the same heights of academic and athletic distinction as Raffles Institution has achieved.
The new building could accommodate some 800 students in 20 classrooms, had an assembly hall, a library and a science block. In the school hall, Gimson also unveiled a portrait of the late Gan Eng Seng that was presented as a gift by the PTA "to honour the late Mr Gan Eng Seng for his great services to education". As the school developed through the decades, its students affectionately called GESSIANS brought honour to the school. Many students went on to post-secondary and tertiary education, and in 1966 seven students were awarded Colombo Plan scholarships. The uniformed groups, namely Scouts, National Cadets Corps (NCC), National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC), St John Ambulance Brigade and Brass Band, achieved eminence in their respective units, often at national level to this day.
With Singapore's Independence after its separation from Malaysia in 1965, manpower consideration assumed top priority in education planning. The emphasis on technical training and post-secondary education led to GESS being singled out as a centre for Technical Training and a Pre-University centre in 1970. In 1982, GESS was chosen to participate in its first mass display item titled Singapore — Past, Present and Future inspired by the Star Wars movie, featured interesting movement danced to the theme music of the movie. GESS participated at the Singapore Youth Festival during the mid year, followed by the National Day celebrations in August and in 1983, at the Opening Ceremony when Singapore played host to the 12th Southeast Asian Games at the National Stadium.
In 1985, the school celebrated its centenary year with celebrations that included a party for the under-privileged children, a walkathon, a variety concert, an exhibition and a grand dinner, in which the Minister of Communications and Information, Dr. Yeo Ning Hong was the Guest-of-Honour. On September 1985, the MOE announced that GESS would move from Anson Road to Raeburn Park in mid-1986 and would cease to be a boys' school in 1987.
In 1986, the school was relocated to Raeburn Park after spending 35 years at the Anson Road's premises. The school became co-educational with the first intake of girls into Secondary 1 in January 1987 and the phasing out of the Pre-University classes by 1991. By 1996, GESS was ranked 21st by the MOE among the top 50 schools in Singapore and continued to stay within the top 50 rankings to this day.
In 1995, the GESS's Scouts celebrated the school's 110th anniversary by building a light two-seater aeroplane, Microlight Challenger that was supervised by five pilots who were former Scouts of GESS. The plane was paraded at the anniversary dinner in front of guests that included Guest-of-Honour, Dr. S. Vasoo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC and an old boy.
The school's library was renamed the Percival Aroozoo Library on 20 July 1996 as a tribute to one of GESS's most beloved principals. The Ceremony was officiated by 3 of Aroozoo's daughters, they were Hegwig Anuar, a former National Library director and well-known feminist, former Katong Convent principal Marie Bong, and former LaSalle-SIA College of Fine Arts librarian, Eleanor Smith. On 30 August 1997, the school celebrated its recognition by the National Heritage Board as one of the 6 oldest schools in Singapore by marking its founding site at 106 Telok Ayer Street. This marker is sited nearby at the junction of Telok Ayer and Cecil Streets.
In December 2000, GESS moved to its new site at No. 1 Henderson Road, its eighth home, where it stands to the present day. The new School building bears the hallmark of many GESSIANS both past and present, who have contributed and helped in the architectural design, the setting up of the Alumni Room and Heritage Hall in the school. The new school premises and the Heritage Hall was officially opened on 2 August 2001 by the Education Minister, Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean.
To celebrate the 120th anniversary of GESS, the Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association (GESSOSA) published a pictorial history book in 2006 to document the school's rich traditions and history as well as the contribution made by its pioneers, old students and staff. All sale proceeds of the 230-page book were channelled into a students' fund for use to help any needy students. A copy was donated to Lee Kong Chian Reference Library for public reference.
In eighteen-eighty five, our founder Gan Eng Seng
The story of our school is a history of change
The choice of red and green for the school crest had been influenced by the colours of Gan Eng Seng Scout Troup. The Scout Troup's scarves were red and green. The Chinese Dragon on the Crest is a traditional Chinese emblem of good luck, courage and determination. Red is the colour of fire and suggests the fire of courage and leadership as written in the school song. The Chinese junk is a symbol of the slow but irrevocable progress which the school has achieved over the last 100 years. Green in colour to suggest the peaceful but relentless educational spirit which has guided the progress of the school. The school's motto — "Onward" — with its sense of determination reminds one of the slow, painful but relentless advances which have been made over the last century.
- For boys: White short-sleeve shirt with white short for the lower secondary and long pants for the upper secondary.
- For girls: White short-sleeve blouse with green dress.
- Formal assembly: Additional wearing of a maroon school-tie embroidered with the school emblem.(Every Tuesday for lower secondary and every Thursday for upper secondary)
Although GESS started out as a non-missionary Chinese school, the role as a school principal, were mainly filled by Europeans (mostly British) until the long-held tradition was broken in 1939. According to its annals, the principals of GESS were:
- 1895—1904, Mr Robert Little
- 1905—1914, Mr Ernest J.Gomes
- 1914—1915, Mr Pagler (Acting)
- 1915—1922, Mr J.A. Roberts
- 1923—1938, Mr H.A.L. Orchard
- 1938, Mr G.C.S. Koch (Acting)
- 1939—1955, Mr P.F. Aroozoo (except during the war years 1942-1945)
- 1955, Mr Soon Ban Hoe
- 1955—1956, Mr Peter Lim (Acting)
- 1957—1959, Mr Wee Seong Kang
- 1959, Mr Mohd Abdul Kadir (Acting)
- 1960—1965, Mr A.G. Meyer
- 1966—1968, Mr Lee Chong Kee
- 1968—1973, Mrs Peggy Phang
- 1974—1976, Mr S. Thiagarajah
- 1977—1978, Mr Ong Kim Siong
- 1979—1980, Mr Teo Lye Huat
- 1981—1983, Tan Sui Sen, Robert
- 1984—1987, Goh Yong Hung
- 1988—1994, Mr Eric S. Retnam
- 1995—1997, Ms Ho Peng
- 1998—2002, Mr Goh Choon Leng
- 2003—2008 Mr Victor Giam Chong Guan
- 2009—2014 Mrs Carolin Tan
- 2015–present Mdm Jenny Tan
The campus was designed by eleven architects headed by project architect Jimmy Lam (Class of '83). Design inspiration was taken from the symbol of the school crest, namely the Dragon and the Ship. The colours used bear resemblance to the school colours. Its final look and feel are reminiscent of the old Anson Road campus. The building includes the Arena, where the daily flag raising ceremonies, parades and special functions are held, the Heritage Gallery, the school's tallest structure, and The Alumni Room, a gathering place for students.
Gan Eng Seng School offers both the Express (4 years) and Normal (5 Years) stream classes leading to the final GCE 'O' Level examinations. Its 2017 PSLE Cut Off Points for the Express Stream was 224-247. The school has ten departments that are closely integrated to promote both the academic and holistic aspect of a student's well being and learning development:
- English and Literature
- Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay, Tamil)
- Physical Exercise and Aesthetics
- Student Development
- Student Leadership
- Student Management
As of 2006, 97.3% of its Secondary 4 (Express) students qualify for junior college admission. 99.5% obtained passes in 3 O-level subjects and 97.8% passes in 5 O-level subjects. 4 students scored 8 distinctions and 51 students scored 5 distinctions. GESS was highlighted in MOE's press release for having students with outstanding results at the 2007 GCE O-Level Examination.
GESS sports houses
Before 1938, the boys were divided into 5 houses which had their respective logos for sporting activities and other competitions. They were named after famous names on the school's Board of Trustees:
- Gan House (after Gan Eng Seng)
- Lim House (after Dr. Lim Boon Keng)
- Chan House (after Chan Sze Jin)
- Song House (after Sir Song Ong Siang)
- Lee House (after Lee Cheng Yan)
The House system was dropped for a period of 9 years from 1972 to 1980. In 1980, it was renamed after their trustee in their full name. Gan House was replaced by Chen Su Lan House, after Dr. Chen Su Lan, another prominent trustee in the old days. The flags of the Houses no longer adopt their previous logos but simply a coloured flag with the name of the house spelled across the flag. Today, only 4 house names remain: Lim Boon Keng, Chan Sze Jin, Lee Cheng Yan and Chen Su Lan.
As part of its co-curricular activities for students, GESS has six uniformed groups, five sport teams and ten special interest groups in its offerings to date.
- GESS has been officially recognised by MOE as a niche school for uniformed groups when four of its uniformed groups namely NCC, Scouts, NPCC and SJAB received or co-won the Sustained Achievement Awards (2000–2005).
- National Youth Achievement Award: BRONZE — 45, SILVER — 2.
- GESS National Police Cadet Corps won SILVER or GOLD award consistently for Unit Overall Proficiency Award since 2000.
- GESS Dragon Scouts won the Frank Cooper Sands Award since 1997 and the Gold Award since 2003.
- GESS National Cadet Corps was the only school to stay within the top 5 position since 1985.
- GESS St John's Ambulance Brigade clinched GOLD in 2004 and 2005 CCA Award. Overall CHAMPIONS for 2004 and 2006 footdrill competition.
- GESS Girls’ Brigade 71st company won SILVER for The Girls’ Brigade Singapore Company Award in 2004 and 2005.
- Ngeow Zi Jie, Campus Superstar 2 (2007) finalist.
Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association
Headed officially by Prof Kiang Ai Kim in 1958 after some old boys had expressed a desire to form such an association to keep in touch with the school and with one another earlier. Since then, GESSOSA has continuously organise activities to strengthen the bond of old students to their alma mater. During its long history, it has managed to organise some highly successful past functions like Career Forums, Students' Mentoring Scheme, April Ball to raise funds for the association's scholarship and charity schemes.
One of the regular events is the Annual Dinner, is held annually to foster old ties not just for the alumni but also include teachers past and present, members of the Gan's Association to be updated with the latest happenings in and around the school. GESSOSA also co-organises the school's Anniversary Dinners which have been held every 5 years (except 1990). Notable alumnus were usually invited to attend as Special Guest to grace the event. GESSOSA has a dedicated room that is nestled in the school CCA Block that continue to serve as a melting pot for both past and current students to this day.
As of 2008, the Presidents of GESSOSA were:
- 1958—1959, Prof Kiang Ai Kim
- 1960, Mr Tan Wee Kian
- 1961—1964, Mr Chu Tee Seng
- 1965, Dr Lai Chan See
- 1966, Mr Anwarul Haque
- 1967, Mr Woo Kok Chew, Raymond
- 1968, Dr Khor Tong Hong
- 1969, Mr Chew Kwan Weng
- 1970—1990, Dr Chan Yew Foon
- 1991—1992, Mr Yap Eng Thong, Michael
- 1993—1996, Mr Ho Wah On
- 1997—1998, Mr Tan Teow Hock, Walter
- 1999—2001, Dr Si-Hoe Kok Soon
- 2002—2006, Mr Shee Ping Fatt, Alfred
- 2007—2011, Mr Teo Kim Ching
- 2011–present, Mr Francis Liew
- Dr Yeo Ning Hong: Cabinet Minister, 1985-1994
- Dr S. Vasoo: Former Member of Parliament, Tanjong Pagar GRC
- David Ong: Member of Parliament
- Chua Kim Yeow: Former Accountant General; Presidential Candidate
- Khoo Kay Chai: Former Principal, Singapore Polytechnic
- Emeritus Professor Kiang Ai Kim: Retired Senior Professor of Chemistry, National University of Singapore
- Chan Chon Hoe: Oldest Scout and Gessian at 94; Last surviving witness of the aftermath of the 1915 Singapore Mutiny.
- "School Information Service". Singapore Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2009-01-13.
- Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association, "Vision For The Future", p. 234.
- Dabbs, Donald Matheson, 1948- (1994). History of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs. p. 8.
- "One of the oldest boys' schools go co-ed and to move". The Straits Times. 1 September 1985.
- "Top 50 Schools in the 1995 GCE O-level Examination". Singapore Ministry of Education. Retrieved 2007-07-23.
- "Marching into its 95th year today...We're not at the very top, but we're always there". The Straits Times. 20 August 1980.
- "The pioneers of Tanjong Pagar". The Straits Times. 5 April 1989.
- GESSOSA, "1885—1899: Our Pioneering Years", pp. 23—31.
- "Gan Eng Seng Free School". The Straits Times. 5 April 1893.
- Dabbs, pp. 109—20.
- GESSOSA, "1899—1941: Board of Trustees and The Pre-War Years", pp. 33—47.
- GESSOSA, "Alumus Extraordinaire—Chan Chon Hoe", pp. 40—1.
- Dabbs, "Anglo-Chinese Free School - Board of Trustees", p. 32.
- Dabbs, "Simon Aroozoo", p. 42.
- GESSOSA, "1941—1951: Courage in Adversity", pp. 49—63.
- "Putting A Final Touch To The Gan Eng Seng School Plaque". National Archives of Singapore. Retrieved 2008-07-21.
- GESSOSA, "Sir Franklin Gimson's Opening Ceremony Speech on 15 May 1951", p. 70.
- GESSOSA, "1951—1959: The Early Anson Years".
- GESSIAN, 1982.
- "Gan Eng Seng turns 100". The Straits Times. 6 August 1985.
- "The sky's the limit". The Straits Times. 5 August 1985.
- "Gan Eng Seng School names library after ex-principal". The Straits Times. 21 July 1996.
- "Birthplace of Gan Eng Seng School marked as a historical site". The Straits Times. 31 August 1997.
- "On the move again: Gan Eng Seng will have a brand-new campus in 2001". The Straits Times. 26 July 1999.
- GESSOSA, "Gan Eng School Official Opening Ceremony", pp. 212—215.
- GESSOSA, "Preface".
- "纪念建校120周年 颜永成校友会上月出图片集 (in Chinese)" (PDF). Lianhe Wanbao. 18 June 2006. p. 16.
- Dabbs, "The Gan Eng Seng School Crest", p. 129.
- GESSOSA, "Principals of GESS", p. 236.
- GESSOSA, "Designing the Henderson Campus", pp. 198—9.
- "Academic Achievements: 2006". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Academic Achievements: 2007". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- Dabbs, "GESS House Names", p. 23.
- "Other Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "National Police Cadet Corps Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Dragon Scouts Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "National Cadet Corps Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "St. John Ambulance Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- "Girls' Brigade Achievements". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2008-10-09.
- Dabbs, "GESS Old Students' Association 1958", p. 148.
- GESSOSA, "OSA today", pp. 222—234.
- GESSOSA, "Presidents of GESSOSA", p. 236.
- GESSOSA, "120th Anniversary Dinner - Special Guest", pp. 223—237.
- "GESS Lost Another Remarkable Son". Gan Eng Seng School. Retrieved 2007-07-18.
- "Williams on song; His compilation makes it into Taiwan's top 10". Today. 5 March 2005.
- Rajagopalan, Manasi (13 April 2000). "Man, 91, scarred by sepoy execution". The Straits Times.
- Dabbs, Donald M. (1994). The History of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: Double-Six Press.
- Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association [GESSOSA] (2006). The Pictorial History of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: Stamford Press. ISBN 981-05-5351-X.
- "School gets its seventh home: Gan Eng Seng's pioneering spirit lives on". The Straits Times. 13 July 1989.