Penang Free School

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Penang Free School
Penang Free School.png
Type Public
Established 21 October 1816; 199 years ago (1816-10-21)
Principal Jalil Bin Saad
Students 1,800
Location Georgetown, Penang, Malaysia
Campus Suburb
Colours White , azure

Penang Free School is a secondary school located on Jalan Masjid Negeri (previously Green Lane), George Town, Penang, Malaysia. Although the medium of instruction is now Malay, Penang Free School is the first English-medium school in South East Asia and is the oldest recorded school in the country. Alumni are known as "Old Frees". There is a history of rivalry with St. Xavier's Institution, another of Penang's premier schools, which also claims the title of Malaysia's oldest school.


The school was founded by Rev. Robert Sparke Hutchings on 21 October 1816, on the island of Penang, Malaya. Its first headmaster was Mr. James Cox 1816-1821. Its premises on Farquhar Street first housed the Hutchings School, but is now the Penang State Museum. In 1928, the school moved to its current location on Jalan Masjid Negeri (also known as Green Lane). The school hosted the first communist cell ever to penetrate a Malayan school. Several of the schoolmasters were socialist in outlook and encouraged the formation of the cell which went on to produce a cadre of communist leaders who went on to make their careers in China. The communist cell was suppressed in the late 1930s.

The school received cluster school status from the Malaysian Ministry of Education in 2007.

Excerpts of the original charter: "That it will be the first object of the Institution to provide for the Education of such children as would be otherwise, brought up in idleness and consequent vice, and without any means of obtaining instruction either in useful learning or in any manual employment, and to implant in them in the early habits of industry, order and a good conduct." -—from "The Original Plan of the Establishment of Prince of Wales Island, Free School, 1816".


Between 1805 and 1816 education was available only for European children, and children of Government Officials. The increasing number of Asian children, however, resulted in an increasing interest to provide for their own education needs. For this purpose a public meeting was convened after representations to the Government by the Rev. R. S. Hutchings, Chaplain of the Presidency, on 16 January 1816. It was Rev. Hutchings who first petitioned for a "free school".

His aim was to provide a school for the orphans and poor children. They were to be educated, fed and clothed. And since they were to be so completely taken care of, he suggested that it should be a boarding school but with room for day scholars. The day scholars were to be taught their own language by "nation teachers", and English would be taught to them only if they desired it. Plan for a girls' school too was included in the petition on the same basis.

Free School Established - Infant Years

The difficulty of recruiting a suitable teacher delayed the founding of the school until 21 October 1816. The school was first accommodated in a building rented for 50 dollars a month at Love Lane. On this date (21 October 1816) the committee could only admit twenty five boys since it was unable to enlist a lady teacher to teach girls. Coincidentally it was the anniversary of Captain Light's death (21 October 1794), whose tombstone may still be seen in the Protestant cemetery in Northam Road, Penang, where he was buried. First Teachers And Board Of Directors. The first teacher was one Mr. Cox, recruited from Madras and paid a monthly salary of 80 Spanish dollars. When his wife joined him several months later she was appointed as teacher at 50 Spanish dollars a mouth, and a girl's school was founded on 1 July 1817. The committee resigned its care of the school to a Board of Directors who were elected on 18 October 1817. This change in management was to imbue in the inhabitants of Penang a desire to be actively concerned with the progress of the school. From Love Lane To Farquhar Street To Green Lane - The School Moves.

At its first meeting, the Board noted that the school was called FREE SCHOOL and that only children who could afford were requested to pay a fee of $3, $2, and $1 per year. Poor children who could not afford to pay any fees were exempted, but every child had to be nominated and accepted before admission to the school. At this meeting too, it was announced that the Government had granted the school a piece of land adjacent to St. George's Church at Farquhar Street. A plan was approved for the construction of a school, plainly designed to save costs to accommodate 100 boys and 50 girls. The successful tender for this project was given to a Chinese contractor who had bid $6,500. It was not until 31 December 1927 that the Penang Free School moved to its present site at Green Lane. On 1 January 1928, the school next to St. George's Church, vacated by FREE SCHOOL was renamed Hutchings School in honour of the late Rt. Rev. Hutchings, who was the prime mover to establish a "free school" for the education of the children in Penang. And because of his key and cardinal role, and support for his concept of a "free school " for all children, he is rightly acknowledged as the founder of the Penang Free School.


School motto[edit]

The motor of the school is Fortis atque Fidelis (Latin for Strong and Faithful).

School crest[edit]

The background colour of the crest is sky blue (azure), which is the school's colour.

Armorial bearings:

  • Middle chief: a White Tower for the qualities of strength and truthfulness,
  • Dexter chief: Numeral 18 is the first two digits of the year the school was founded (1816),
  • Sinister chief: Numeral 16 is the last two digits of the year the school was founded (1816),
  • Dexter base: a Palm Tree represents the State of Penang, and signifies the fertility of the mind,
  • Sinister base: a Gold Lion Rampant supporting a flag signifies the preservation of the tradition and high ideals of the school.

School anthem[edit]

The school anthem is played at the end of official assembly and on occasions such as Old Frees gathering. Music and lyrics written by G.S. Reutens, a former teacher, circa 1960s.[citation needed]

Cricket team[edit]

Penang Free School is known for its achievements in cricket. They have players who have played for Malaysia and internationally.[citation needed]


Headmasters since 1816 : [1] [2] [3]

  • 1816-1821: Mr. W. Cox
  • 1821-1822: Mr. Churcher
  • 1822-1826: Mr. Porter
  • 1826-1828: Mr. Anchant
  • 1828-1843: Mr. J. C. Smith
  • 1843-1846: Mr. Bruton
  • 1846-1853: Mr. Fitzgerald
  • 1853-1871: Mr. J. Clark
  • 1871-1891: Mr. George Griffin
  • 1891-1904: Mr. William Hargreaves
  • 1904-1925: Mr. Ralph H. Pinhorn
  • 1925-1926: Mr. William Hamilton
  • 1927-1928: Mr. D. R. Swaine
  • 1928-1929: Mr. L. W. Arnold
  • 1929-1931: Mr. D. W. McLeod
  • 1931-1933: Mr. M. R. Holgate
  • 1934-1941: Mr. L. W. Arnold
  • 1947-1949: Mr. D. Roper
  • 1950-1951: Mr. P. F. Howitt
  • 1951-1957: Mr. J. E. Tod
  • 1957-1963: Mr. J. M. B. Hughes[1]
  • 1963-1969: Dato' Tan Boon Lin
  • 1969-1971: Mr. Poon Poh Kong
  • 1972-1974: Mr. K. G. Yogam
  • 1974-1979: Dr. Goon Fatt Chee
  • 1979-1983: Mr. R. Visvanathan, P.J.K.
  • 1983-1988: Mr. G. Krishna Iyer
  • 1988-1993: Mr. Goh Hooi Beng
  • 1993-2000: Mr. Hj. Ismail bin Ibramsa
  • Jan 2000-Dec 2000: Mr. Abdul Rahman
  • 2001-2006: Mr. Arabi Sulaiman, P.K.T.
  • 2006-2012: Mr Hj. Ramli bin Din
  • 2012 – present: Mr Jalil Bin Saad.

Board Of Prefects[edit]

The Board of Prefects was established in 1865. Prefectship is the highest position of trust the school bestows upon a student. Prefects are selected based on their contributions to the school, personality, leadership qualities and academic consistency. This board supplements the tasks of the School Administration under the leadership of the School Captain and his deputy. Among the duties bestowed on a prefect are overseeing the smooth running of the School Assembly and disciplining those who break the school rules. The board maintains school discipline and acts as a liaison body between the School Administration and the students. By the virtue of the Constitution of the Board of Prefects, Penang Free School, the position of the Board of Prefects in the school is of a semi-autonomical status therefore granting it the privilege of freedom from the direct supervision or intervention of any teachers or the Board of Discipline in any internal or external affairs of the Board other than by the advise of Prefects Master and the Headmaster of the school himself. About 18 prefects are selected each year out of a population of 1800 students.

The School Captain accompanies the Principal to the hall during assemblies. The Deputy School Captain calls the school to attention. Complete silence ensues as the Principal enters the hall. After the assembly, prefects conduct spot-checks on students.


Every year, the School Captain, Deputy School Captain, Permanent and Temporary Prefects are installed in front of the entire school population during assembly.

All prefects attend the annual prefects' dinner. Here, the new temporary prefects get to mingle with their peers and foster relationships with the senior prefect. This is also the place for them to meet the prefect of the year.


Amongst the duties conducted by the Board of Prefects include; random and general spot-checks, disciplinary case solving, assembly generals, special tasks specified under the orders of the honorary Headmaster of the school himself and special operations (SO) which include the curbing of any pyrotechnical showcase at any point of time in the school with special regard to before the start of festive breaks and many more.

The Board of Prefects also carries out general prefectorial duties such as catching students whom are late to school, students with reasonably long hair, moustache, nails. etc.

School Captains[edit]

The School Captain is the highest position bestowed upon a student. The School Captain generally must serve the Board Of Prefects for two years, before being elected when he returns as a Form 6 Student. His election usually goes through an official meeting between the Principal, the Prefect's Master, the outgoing School Captain and his deputies under the constitution of The Board Of Prefects.

Sports Houses[edit]

In 2009, 2 new sports houses were added to the pre-existing 6 sport houses. Penang Free School is the only school in Malaysia to have 8 sport houses. The sports houses are:

  • Pinhorn
  • Hamilton
  • Hargreaves
  • Sirajuddin (new)
  • Wu Lien Teh
  • Cheesemen
  • Tunku Putra
  • P.Ramlee (new)

Notable alumni[edit]

A student pursuing his secondary education in the Free School is commonly known as a Free, once the individual leaves the Free School, he is an Old Free. Alumni are entitled membership to the Old Frees' Association (OFA).

  • Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin is the current Raja of Perlis, reigning since 2000, served as the 12th Yang di-Pertuan Agong Malaysia
  • Tunku Abdul Rahman, 1st Prime Minister of Malaysia
  • Datuk Dr. Anwar Fazal, influential figure in the worldwide social movement. Father of Malaysian NGO Movement
  • Dr. Wu Lien-teh, plague fighter and pioneer in the modernisation of China's public health system. An alumni of University of Cambridge and was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine.
  • Dato' Eddy Choong, former All-England Badminton champion.
  • Tengku Tan Sri Ahmad Rithauddeen, President of the United Nations Association of Malaysia (UNAM)
  • Chung Thye Siong, son of Kapitan Chung Keng Quee of Penang and Perak and brother of Kapitan Chung Thye Phin, last Kapitan of Perak and Malaya.
  • Tan Sri Datuk Seri Dr.Eusoffe Abdoolcader FCJ Former Federal Court Judge of Malaysia
  • Wee Chong Jin (Dr), first Chief Justice of Singapore
  • Tan Sri Azizan Zainul Abidin, former Petronas corporate figure.
  • Tan Sri G. Rama Iyer, Secretary-General of the Primary Industries Ministry and noted civil servant.
  • Danny Quah, economist and Head of Department of Economics at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Assistant Secretary General for Economic Development in the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA)
  • Tan Sri Elyas Omar, first Datuk Bandar of Kuala Lumpur
  • Datuk Dr Ismail Merican, former Director General of Health. Now Pro-Chancellor MAHSA University
  • Dennis Lee, pianist.
  • Datuk Syed Zainal Abidin Tahir, Managing Director, Proton Holdings, ms:Syed Zainal Abidin Tahir.
  • Datuk Che Khalib Mohamad Noh, former Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB) Group President & CEO, [4].
  • Tun Lim Chong Eu, 2nd Chief Minister of Penang
  • Tan Sri P Ramlee, film actor, director, singer, songwriter, composer, and producer.
  • Tan Sri Dato Seri Dr. Haji Yahaya Bin Ibrahim, Pro Chancellor, Sultan Idris University of Education
  • Ahmad Ibrahim, Former Minister of Health and Labor for Singapore
  • Dato' Ahmad Bin Ibnihajar (class of 1970), Managing Director of Penang Port Sdn. Bhd (PPSB)
  • Datuk Abu Huraira, Chairman, SOCSO
  • Tan Sri Dato' Sri Haji Mohd Khamil Jamil, Group Managing Director, DRB-HICOM
  • Dato Meer Sadik, Managing Director, Habib Jewels
  • Dato' Sri Eric Lim Ewe Chye, Chairman, GAMA Holdings
  • Datuk Seri Dr S. Subramaniam, Health Minister of Malaysia
  • Dato’ Anwarruddin Ahamad Osman, Non Executive Director, Fraser & Neave Berhad
  • Dato’ Kamil Khalid Ariff, Chairman of Uni.Asia Bhd, Non Executive Director of Bank Muamalat,President of Persatuan Anak Melayu Pulau Pinang
  • Tan Sri Saw Huat Lye, former Chairman of Guiness Anchor Bhd, 1st CEO of Malaysian Airlines (Head a team to set up MAS)
  • Dr. Lee Kum Tatt, leading scientist, creator of the RISIS orchid, founder chairman and CEO of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research
  • Darius Shaft, Board of Directors, Marshall Cavendish
  • Dato' Dr. Zainul Azizan - Managing Director of Nagasteel Group of Companies
  • Harris Beh, Director of Francorp Asia Sdn Bhd & BOH Plantations Group, former Group Executive Director/CEO of KFC Holdings Malaysia Bhd, former Group Executive Director/CEO of Ayamas Food Corporation Bhd
  • Dato Loy Teik Ngan, Group CEO, Taylors Education Group
  • Kum King-Ip, founder of Thau Yien Group, Royal Hotel
  • Teoh Hock Siew, P.K.T., Penang Assistant District Officer, Malaysian Government (PTD)
  • Dato' Dr. Eric Goh, Professor in Engineering, Delegation Head of Engineering Accreditation Council and former Chairman of The Institution of Engineers Malaysia (IEM-Penang)
  • Dato' Cheah Cheng Hye, co-founder/Chairman, of VALUE Partners Group, Hong Kong-listed asset management firm
  • Dato' Jalil Hamid, Group Managing Editor, News Straits Times Press
  • Dato' Ricque Liew Yin Chew, former MD, Paramount Property Holdings Sdn Bhd, CEO of Property, Paramount Corporation Berhad.
  • Datuk Ooi Eow Jin, Legendary Malaysian musician and composer
  • Dato' Andrew Lim, Managing Director, SOGO (KL) Sdn Bhd
  • Maj. Gen. Dato' Hj Ibrahim Hashim, Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff, Malaysian Armed Forces
  • Maj. Gen. Dato' Abu Muslim - General Officer Commanding 4th Infantry Division, Malaysian Armed Forces
  • Maj. Gen. Dato' Azizool Arif - General Officer Commanding Air Region 1 RMAF
  • Tan Sri Dato' Mohd. Sheriff Mohd. Kassim, former MD of Khazanah Nasional, Director General of the Economic Planning Unit
  • Dato' Syed Mohamad Bin Syed Murtaza, Director, DRB- HICOM
  • Azmi Bin Idris, Director of Group Quality, Proton
  • Anas Zubedy, Founder of Zubedy Sdn Bhd (a Training and Consultancy firm), Secretary General of International Movement for a Just World (JUST)
  • Dato' Dr. Mujahid Yusof Rawa, a Malaysian politician, Member of the Parliament of Malaysia for the Parit Buntar constituency in Perak


  1. ^ Hughes, J.M.B. '"The White Crocodile's Tale: My Memoirs", George Town, Penang: Areca Books. (2014). ISBN 9789675719127

External links[edit]