The Chinese High School (Singapore)

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The Chinese High School
Huáqiáo Zhōngxué
Hwa Chong Institution Logo.png
The Chinese High School Clock Tower Building 1990s.jpg
661 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 269734
Coordinates 1°19′36″N 103°48′13″E / 1.32654°N 103.803491°E / 1.32654; 103.803491Coordinates: 1°19′36″N 103°48′13″E / 1.32654°N 103.803491°E / 1.32654; 103.803491
Type Independent, Boys-only
Motto 自强不息
((Self-improvement of Enduring Passion))
Established 21 March 1919
Status Current High School section of Hwa Chong Institution
Session Single
Colour(s) Red, Yellow

The Chinese High School (simplified Chinese: 华侨中学; traditional Chinese: 華僑中學; pinyin: Huáqiáo Zhōngxué; Pe̍h-ōe-jī: Hoâ-kiâu Tiong-o̍h), formerly Singapore Nanyang Overseas Chinese Middle School (simplified Chinese: 新加坡南洋华侨中学; traditional Chinese: 新加坡南洋華僑中學; pinyin: Xīnjíapō Nányáng Huaqíao Zhōngxúe) was a former independent school in Singapore offering secondary education. The school merged with Hwa Chong Junior College on 1 January 2005 to form Hwa Chong Institution, offering the Integrated Programme along with Nanyang Girls' High School. The new institution retains the Chinese name and the logo of The Chinese High School. [1]

Founded on 21 March 1919, the Chinese High School was the first high school in Southeast Asia to cater to different dialect groups among overseas Chinese in the region. After Singapore gained independence in 1965, the school came under the purview of the Ministry of Education and was accorded the Special Assistance Plan (SAP) status in 1979. It has the unique distinction of having the Independent School status in 1988, a scheme that the ministry perceived had proven successful and was extended to other top schools in Singapore. The Chinese High School remained as one of the best performing schools in Singapore, both in academic achievements and extracurricular activities.


As early as May 1913, Tan Kah Kee, a prominent businessman, proposed setting up a secondary school for Chinese boys in Singapore. Tan's proposal was supported by the Tung Teh Reading Club and a dance troupe, claiming to have raised S$20,000 as funds for building the school. On 21 March 1919, the Singapore Nanyang Overseas Chinese Middle School was formally opened at Niven Road with an enrolment of 78 students. Six years later, with an additional funding of S$600,000, the school moved to its new campus at Bukit Timah Road, covering an area of 79 acres (320,000 m2).

Entrance archway of The Chinese High School, now known as Hwa Chong Institution.
The Clock Tower Building with a statue of the school's founder, Tan Kah Kee, in the foreground.

After its founding, the school offered comprehensive secondary level Chinese education. It continued to be funded and supported by Tan Kah Kee until shortly before World War II. The school was temporarily closed in February 1933 when all the teachers resigned. Later in February 1934, the school was reopened with a new principal and staff. In the same year, Lee Kong Chian, son-in-law of Tan Kah Kee, became the chairperson of the school's management board, and he held the post until 1957. During Lee's tenure, the school almost closed several times due to financial difficulties, but managed to survive due to strong financial support from both Tan and Lee.

During the Battle of Singapore, the school's clock tower, for its height and vantage point, served as a headquarters for the Allied defenders and later for the Imperial Japanese Army during the Japanese occupation of Singapore. The school also served as a temporary concentration camp to detain people for examination during the Sook Ching massacre. After the war, the school resumed its predominant Chinese education. In the 1950s and 1960s, during periods of civil unrest in Singapore, many students, teachers and alumni participated in or led the anti-colonial riots.

In 1987, the school was granted the status of an independent school by the Ministry of Education and proceeded to implement changes to its curriculum that were unprecedented in other Singapore schools. The changes include the abolition of mid-year examinations in favour of camping trips for the school, as well as the introduction of numerous enrichment programmes in place of lessons.[citation needed]

In the early 1990s, the school underwent an extensive renovation, which saw the construction of a new hall, named after the school's founder, a gymnasium, a renovated clock tower block and new classrooms. In the late 1990s, the school embarked on a consortium scheme to improve the quality of education for students. It started with the establishment of the Quest and Aphelion consortiums, followed by ProEd and Radix. In 2000, the iSpark consortium was set up for students in the Gifted Education Programme (GEP). In 2002, Quest and Radix merged to form the Ortus consortium.

On 19 March 1999, the school's clock tower was gazetted as a national monument to mark the significance of the institution as the first Chinese medium school to be built in Southeast Asia to cater to the education of overseas Chinese. As part of the school's 80th anniversary celebration in 1999, the school's heritage centre was formally opened by Ong Teng Cheong, President of Singapore from 1993 to 1999, who was also an alumnus of the school. In addition, artist and alumnus Tan Swie Hian presented the school with a giant sculpture of a horse, which currently stands near the school field.

In recent years, the school's reputation as a premier high school in Singapore has been increasing. In 2000, Richard Riley, the then United States Secretary of Education visited the school. Edward de Bono also once called the school "Eton of the east".[citation needed]

On 1 January 2005, The Chinese High School merged with Hwa Chong Junior College to form Hwa Chong Institution under the six-year Integrated Programme from secondary one to junior college year two. The new scheme allows students to skip the GCE O Levels, typically taken by students in secondary four, and proceed to take the GCE A Levels at the end of the six years of education.

The Oei Tiong Ham Memorial Hall, situated directly below the Kong Chian Library.


The Chinese High School is one of the top high schools in Singapore, having been consistently ranked among the top four schools according to the Ministry of Education's annual official rankings.[citation needed] Each year, the school attracts the best performing 3% of the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) cohort.

The school was also the first one in Singapore to initiate the Integrated Programme. It is the current high school section in Hwa Chong Institution. The college section of the institution is the former Hwa Chong Junior College, a sister school with an equally impressive pedigree.

Among its extracurricular activities achievements, the school was famous for its performance in the annual national track and field championship competition. It had lost less than 10 times in the competition in its 86 years of history.[citation needed]

Covering an area of 79 acres (320,000 m²) made it one of the largest high schools in Singapore and Southeast Asia in terms of land area. Other educational institutions that sit on the school's grounds include the former Hwa Chong Junior College and the Singapore Institute of Management.

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  1. ^ "Not just a badge or motto: It's an identity". Retrieved 2016-12-24.