Singapore Chinese Girls’ School



Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (SCGS) is an independent school comprising primary and secondary levels.1 Established in 1899 on Hill Street, it is the first Chinese girls’ school founded in Singapore. During its early history, the school provided education in English and Chinese to Chinese girls, at a time when female education in Singapore was neglected.2 The school was relocated three times, including spending 70 years at Emerald Hill, before settling in its present location on Dunearn Road in 1994.3

Founding
The school owes its establishment to a small group of Chinese men, including Lim Boon Keng, Song Ong Siang and Khoo Seok Wan, with Lim taking an active role in advocating for the founding of a Chinese girls’ school.4 Lim believed that the lack of female education was one of the reasons for China’s defeat during the first Sino-Japanese War (1894–95).5 Elder members of the community, however, objected to the idea of setting up and running a girls’ school where students were taught morals, needlework, cooking and one language thoroughly.6


Nevertheless, the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School was opened on 3 July 1899 at a house named Deveronside at No. 52 Hill Street with seven students and Mary Geary as its first headmistress.7 Among its teaching staff was Lim’s first wife, Margaret Wong, who taught Chinese to the older girls twice a week.8

The first few decades of the school’s history were fraught with difficulties. Amid strong opposition from conservatives, carriages had to be arranged for the girls to be ferried between the school and their homes in order to avoid public scrutiny.9 By December 1906, high rental rates had forced the school to relocate to another site also on Hill Street.10 However, the school needed a better building and its own land.11 On 13 July 1908, the school moved again, this time to the corner of Hill Street and Coleman Street (the area now occupied by the Central Fire Station), with land offered by the colonial government.12 During this period, the school was facing issues such as financial difficulties, a high turnover rate among the teachers and the employment of underqualified staff to fill vacancies.13
 
Relocation 
In the early 1920s, the need for a new site and school building arose again because the colonial government had acquired the land for expansion of the Central Fire Station.14 Moreover, the existing school premises were found to be too old and the locality overcrowded with commercial buildings.15 A piece of land belonging to Lim at No. 37 Emerald Hill, facing Emerald Hill Road and Cairnhill Road, was acquired for the construction of a new purpose-built school building, complete with 12 classrooms, an assembly hall, a staff room and a principal’s office.16 This double-storey building served as the school’s premises for the next 70 years.17


The school became a self-contained institution incorporating Junior and Senior Cambridge classes in 1936, a policy in line with other girls’ schools to facilitate students’ entry into Raffles College and King Edward VII College of Medicine.18 Three years later, SCGS saw another major milestone in its history: the appointment of Tan Swee Khin as its acting headmistress, the first time the school was headed by a non-European. Tan formally succeeded Jessie Elizabeth Geake as the school principal when the latter retired in 1951.19

Japanese Occupation and postwar developments
During the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, the school was turned into quarters providing “comfort women” to Japanese troops.20 Lessons resumed after the war.21 In 1947, the school ceased to be a wholly Chinese school as it extended its enrolment to girls of all ethnicities.22


Later developments
In 1989, its 90th anniversary, SCGS became an independent school.23 The Singapore government offered land on Dunearn Road to the school in exchange for the site at Emerald Hill, and in 1994 the school relocated to Dunearn Road, its present premises.24 The new school building was officially opened by then Minister for Education Lee Yock Suan on 8 July 1995. Three of the school blocks were named after Song Ong Siang, Tan Hoon Siang and Evan Wong, in honour of the pioneers who had contributed significantly to the building and running of the school.25

Significance
Among the school’s alumni are Lee Choo Neo, the first local Chinese girl to obtain the Senior Cambridge certificate and the first woman in Singapore to qualify for medical practice; ex-parliamentarian Seow Peck Leng; and Singapore’s 16th Rhodes scholar, Patricia Tan Shu Ming.26 Unknown to many, the school also took in male students in its early days, among them playwright Felix Chia.27


Recent developments
In conjunction with its 110th anniversary in 2009, the SCGS heritage centre was launched in 2009. In 2011, SCGS was awarded the Best Practice Award (Student All-Round Development). In 2013, the school began to offer the Integrated Programme (IP) alongside its GCE (General Certificate of Education) ‘O’-Level programme. In 2016, SCGS introduced the bi-cultural programme to its Secondary Three IP students, and the humanities and music elective programmes to its junior college students.28




Authors

Chow Yaw Huah & Goh Yu Mei




References
1. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (2016). Principal’s message. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/about_scgs/principal_message.html
2. Chinese Girls School. (1920, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (a historical sketch) [Microfilm no.: NL 268]. (1907). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 10(4), 164–167.
3. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html
4. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (1899, April 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (A historical sketch) [Microfilm no.: NL 268]. (1907). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 10(4), 164–167.
6. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School [Microfilm no.: NL 267]. (1899). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 3(10), 70–71; Our nyonyas [Microfilm no.: NL 267]. (1899). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 7(4), 129–130.
7. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (1899, June 24). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 305. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); Ooi, Y.-L. (1999). Pieces of jade and gold: An anecdotal history of the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 1899–1999. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 52. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 OOI); The Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (A Historical Sketch) [Microfilm no.: NL 268]. (1907). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 10(4), 164–167.
8. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 237. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); The Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (1899, August 8). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School [Microfilm no.: NL 267]. (1902). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 6(24), 168–169; All in the (SCGS) family…. (1997, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 37. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Ooi, Y-L. (1999). Pieces of jade and gold: An anecdotal history of the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 1899–1999. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 OOI); Wanted. (1906, December 17). Eastern Daily Mail and Straits Morning Advertiser, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Wednesday, March 25. (1908, March 25). The Straits Times, p. 6; West teaching east. (1908, January 25). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Ooi, Y.-L. (1999). Pieces of jade and gold: An anecdotal history of the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 1899–1999. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 15. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 OOI); The Singapore Chinese Girls School. (1908, July 11). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 7; Singapore Fire Department. (1924, May 31). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Song, O. S. (1984). One hundred years’ history of the Chinese in Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, pp. 306, 448. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SON-[HIS]); The Singapore Chinese Girls’ School (a historical sketch) [Microfilm no.: NL 268]. (1907). The Straits Chinese Magazine, 10(4), 164-167; Chinese Girls’ School. (1921, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Chinese Girls’ School. (1921, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 9; Singapore Fire Brigade. (1922, September 28). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Chinese Girls’ School. (1924, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Chinese Girls’ School. (1923, December 13). The Straits Times, p. 10; Chinese Girls’ School. (1924, October 30). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html
17. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html
18. Straits Chinese education. (1936, August 18). The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls' School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html
20. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (2009). Spice is life. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 17. (Call no.: RSING 641.5 SPI)
21. More schools to reopen. (1945, September 30). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Ooi, Y.-L. (1999). Pieces of jade and gold: An anecdotal history of the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 1899–1999. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 30. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 OOI)
23. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html
24. New SCGS premises to have archive to preserve school’s past. (1993, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 21. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Singapore Chinese Girls’ men and their roles. (1995, July 9). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Dr. Lee Choo Neo. (1935, November 24). The Straits Times, p. 15; King Edward VII Medical School. (1917, September 3). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ooi, Y-L. (1999). Pieces of jade and gold: An anecdotal history of the Singapore Chinese Girls’ School 1899–1999. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 20. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 OOI); Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (2009). Spice is life. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, pp. 21, 58–59. (Call no.: RSING 641.5 SPI)
27. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (2009). Spice is life. Singapore: Singapore Chinese Girls’ School, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 641.5 SPI); Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (1931, March 21). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884–1942), p. 12; Singapore Chinese Girls’ men and their roles. (1995, July 9). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Singapore Chinese Girls’ School. (n.d.). SCGS milestones. Retrieved 2016, March 22 from Singapore Chinese Girls’ School website: http://scgs.edu.sg/information/scgs_milestone.html



The information in this article is valid as at 2016 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.

 

Subject
Politics and Government>>Education
Schools--Singapore
Education>>School and their activities
Education
Single-sex schools--Singapore