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Singapore Free School is opened 1st Aug 1834

The Singapore Free School opened on 1 August 1834.[1] Noting that there was no English school in Singapore at the time, Reverend F. J. Darrah, who was then Chaplain of the Mission Chapel, appealed to the government for a grant to establish a free school and a lending library. The ruling government in Calcutta, India, while agreeing on the benefits of setting up a school, did not have the funds to finance the endeavour. Undeterred, Darrah began Sunday afternoon classes at the Mission Chapel.[2]

Darrah also began circulating a paper where he highlighted the necessity of setting up schools to provide elementary education for the children of Singapore. The public responded by raising $335 in subscriptions, and a further $45 was pledged as monthly subscriptions. While the school building was being built, the government offered the loan of an empty house on High Street at the foot of Fort Canning Hill to serve as temporary premises. The Singapore Free School was officially opened on 1 August 1834 with an initial enrolment of 46 boys. Its first headmaster was J. H. Moor.[3]

On 27 August 1835, plans were made to revive the Raffles Institution (also called The Institution or the Singapore Institution) whose building was left disused and in a state of neglect since 1823. It was also proposed that the restored premises of the institution be used by the Singapore Free School as its temporary premises at High Street had fallen into disrepair.[4]

The restoration of the Raffles Institution building was completed around May 1837.[5] On 15 September that same year, the Singapore Free School submitted a formal application to occupy the building. The trustees of the Raffles Institution accepted the proposal and the Singapore Free School moved into the Raffles Institution building,[6] which was finally used as a school in December 1837.[7]

In the beginning, the school occupying Raffles Institution was jointly managed by the trustees of the Raffles Institution and the school committee of the Singapore Free School. In light of the inconveniences and inefficiencies arising from such an arrangement, a decision was made on 9 August 1839 to transfer the funds and property of the school committee to the trustees of the Raffles Institution. The trustees, in turn, would be responsible for appointing a school committee every year.[8]

1. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore (p. 128). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING English 959.57 BUC [HIS].
2. Buckley, 1984, p. 230.
3. Buckley, 1984, p. 128.
4. Buckley, 1984, p. 129.
5. Buckley, 1984, p. 131.
6. Makepeace, W.; Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. S. J. (Eds.). (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (Vol.1, p. 432). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE.
7. Buckley, 1984, p. 131.
8. Buckley, 1984, p. 132.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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