Sir Stamford Raffles conceptualised the idea of establishing a premier educational institution in Singapore in September 1819. One of the objectives of the institution, as envisaged by Raffles, was to provide the children of the Malay nobility and Chinese entrepreneurs with an education. He had earlier proposed that Sultan Hussein Shah and Temenggong Abdul Rahman send their sons to Calcutta, India, to receive their education, but they were resistant to the idea. An institution in Singapore would, therefore, enable the sons of the Malay nobility to receive the education deemed good by Raffles without requiring them to travel out of Singapore. Raffles had also wanted the institution to provide the Europeans based in Southeast Asia at the time with instruction in the native languages. In addition, Raffles wished for the institution to be a centre for research and scientific enquiry.
Raffles wrote a letter to his cousin on 12 January 1823, where he briefly mentioned that he had found a suitable location for the institution. It was decided that the institution would be located along what is known today as Bras Basah Road and Victoria Street. It was only in April 1823 that Raffles's plans started taking shape, beginning with the laying of the foundation stone for the building on 5 June that same year. The laying of the foundation stone signified the official founding of the institution.
According to records by Munshi Abdullah, the laying of the foundation stone was carried out at 6:00 a.m. in the presence of the Sultan, Temenggong and a large crowd of onlookers. As part of the ceremony, money in the form of golden rupees and Spanish dollars were placed into a box that was embedded in the ground. The box was then welded shut. Following this, a twelve-gun salute was fired, after which Raffles proclaimed the building to be “The Institution”.
1. Doraisamy, T. R., et al. (1969). 150 years of education in Singapore (p. 7). Singapore: Teachers Training College. Call no.: RSING 270.95957 TEA.
2. Buckley, C. B. (1984). An anecdotal history of old times in Singapore, 1819–1867 (p. 122). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 BUC.
3. Wijeysingha, E. (1989). The eagle breeds a gryphon: The story of Raffles Institution 1823–1985 (p. 21). Singapore: Pioneer Book Centre. Call no.: RSING 373.5957 WIJ.
4. Raffles, S. (1991). Memoir of the life and public services of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles (p. 533). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57021092 RAF.
5. Wijeysingha, 1989, p. 24.
6. Wijeysingha, 1989, p. 28.
7. Munshi, A. A. K. (1969). The Hikayat Abdullah: The autobiography of Abdullah bin Abdul Kadir, 1797–1854 (A. H. Hill, Trans.). (p. 182). Singapore: Oxford University Printing Press. Call no.: RSING 959.51032 ABD; Wijeysingha, 1989, pp. 28–29.
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.