Yong Nyuk Lin



Yong Nyuk Lin (b. 24 June 1918, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaya–d. 29 June 2012, Singapore1) was the minister for education in the first cabinet of the People’s Action Party. He later took on the health and communications portfolios. In these capacities, he increased access to education, sought to establish sustainable population growth, and improved public transport and traffic congestion.2

Education and business career
Yong, who was of Hakka descent,3 was educated bilingually before he attended Raffles College in Singapore,4 where he was captain of the tennis club.5 He graduated in 19376 and became the science master at Seremban’s King George V School the following year.
 
At his father-in-law’s urging, Yong joined Singapore’s Overseas Assurance Corporation (OAC) in 1941.8 During the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45), Yong briefly sold homemade stationery gum with his future brother-in-law Lee Kuan Yew.9 Subsequently, he became the OAC’s general manager and the first local associate of the London Chartered Insurance Institute.10 He also headed the Raffles College alumni association11 and represented the alumni on the University of Malaya Council.12

Contributions to public service
Yong became an executive committee member of the Malayan Democratic Union in 1947.13 Despite his family’s misgivings, he was persuaded to help Singapore, which was on its road to self-government, by leaving his job and standing for Parliament.14 After being elected the People’s Action Party assemblyman for Geylang West in 1959,15 Yong received the education portfolio.16

Ministry of Education
To realise the government’s goal of universal primary education, Yong doubled the number of places by splitting schools into morning and afternoon sessions17 and launched a major programme of school-building18 and teacher training.19 Under Yong, the number of teachers in government and government-aided schools increased from 10,061 in 1959 to 13,982 in 1963, and the primary and secondary school populations grew from 305,081 in 1959 to 413,341 in 1963.20

Yong furthered the government’s objective of a shared national identity by establishing parity and coherence between the four language streams. He introduced multilingual integrated schools21 and the first Malay and Tamil secondary schools;22 extended free textbook loans to non-English government and government-aided schools;23 and standardised curricula, syllabuses and examinations.24 Certain changes to the Chinese-medium school system sparked protests, but Yong held firm.25 Another aspect of nation-building was in promoting Malay, the new national language. He also formed the Adult Education Board,26 which had thousands of language students at 150 centres.27

Opportunities for higher education were widened with Chinese-medium upper-secondary classes (equivalent to the English-medium pre-university level)28 and free tuition for local Malays.29 To produce the workforce that Singapore needed at that point in its development, he encouraged the study of mathematics, science and vocations with bursaries and scholarships.30

Ministry of Health
In 1963 he moved on to lead the Ministry of Health,31 which was being reorganised and expanding its services.32 The department increased public cleanliness by implementing a hawkers’ code to raise hygiene standards,33 banning cattle from restricted areas34 and reorganising refuse collection.35

To address the shortage in medical staff, he introduced gestures of recognition such as Nurses Week,36 eased administrative burdens37 and expanded training schools to increase student intakes.38 Yong expanded hospitals39 and reduced waiting times as well as overcrowding by transferring outpatient services elsewhere.40 Children’s health was improved with an effective immunisation campaign against diphtheria, polio and cholera, and the expansion of school dental clinics.41

In 1966 the Ministry of Health formed the Singapore Family Planning and Population Board42 to control Singapore’s unsustainably high birth rate of 29.9 births per thousand population.43 The board offered advice and subsidised contraceptives to all eligible married women, and vigorously encouraged their use.44 The board’s efforts were effective: By 1967 the birth rate had fallen to 25.9 per thousand population.45 In 1967, however, Yong stirred controversy by announcing the government’s intention to legalise abortion.46

Ministry of Communications
Yong was transferred to the newly formed Ministry of Communications in 1968.47 Among the projects the department handled during his tenure were the creation of Singapore Airlines48 and the Telecommunication Authority of Singapore;49 the expansion of civil aviation50 and Singapore’s container port facilities;51 and the early feasibility studies of the Mass Rapid Transit.52

Much of his energies were devoted to traffic and public transportation. Singapore’s bus service, which was then divided into 11 companies, lacked coherent schedule and fare structures.53 It needed improvement in order to reduce car usage.54 Yong thus consolidated the 11 firms into four,55 and created the Singapore Bus Service monopoly in 1973.56 As change proved frustratingly slow, scores of civil servants, policemen and army mechanics and engineers were seconded to restructure administration and operations.57 Complaints diminished, but the increase of fares in 1974 was unpopular among the public. The fare increase was attributed partly to rises oil prices and wages.58

In order to reduce traffic and congestion, Yong hiked the cost of car registration by 30 percent,59 encouraged car-pooling,60 suppressed the pirate taxi trade,61 and introduced school buses and bus lanes.62 The biggest anti-congestion measure he implemented was the Area Licensing Scheme, which drew international attention.63 Launched in mid-1975, the scheme charged drivers a fee to enter the central business district during morning peak hours. This scheme was the forerunner of the Electronic Road Pricing system. Concurrently, the ministry introduced a costly and unsuccessful Park and Ride programme,64 but the Area Licensing Scheme reduced traffic65 and similar schemes were later adopted in Norway.66

Post-ministerial life
He continued as minister for communications until July 1975.67 The following month, Yong was appointed as the high commissioner to Britain.68 However, Yong resigned from this position a year later and returned to Singapore.69 He became chairman of the People’s Scholarship Fund,70 and left Parliament in 1979.71 He subsequently served on the Presidential Council for Minority Rights72 and oversaw the construction of a hotel and shopping complex at Marina Square.73

Yong was honoured with the Order of Nila Utama (second class) in 1990.74

Family
Parents: Yong Thean Yong and mother (unknown)75
Wife: Kwa Geok Lan (m. 1939)
Daughters: Siu Len and Siu Li76



Author
Duncan Sutherland



References
1. Au Yong, J. (2012, June 30). Pioneer Yong Nyuk Lin dies, aged 94. The Straits Times, pp. 2–3; Leong, W. K. (2001, December 10). Insurance sector honours pioneer after 4 decades. The Straits Times, p. 6; Teo, E. (2012, August 6). IN’s guide to Singapore’s old guard. The Straits Times, pp. 10–11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Au Yong, J. (2012, June 30). Pioneer Yong Nyuk Lin dies, aged 94. The Straits Times, pp. 2–3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Lam, P. F. (1996, February 4). Hakkas: China’s. The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Two newcomers in straight fight in Geylang West. (1959, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Raffles College Union. (1963, February 25). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Raffles College exams 1937 results. (1937, March 18). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Au Yong, J., & Chan, R. (2012, June 30). Friends pay tribute to pioneer minister. The Straits Times, p. 12; Two newcomers in straight fight in Geylang West. (1959, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Two newcomers in straight fight in Geylang West. (1959, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 4; Leong, W. K. (2001, December 10). Insurance sector honours pioneer after 4 decades. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lee, K. Y. (2015). The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 67. (Call no.: RSING 959.5705092 LEE-[HIS])
10. Insurance firm manager quits to work for PAP. (1959, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 8; Leong, W. K. (2001, December 10). Insurance sector honours pioneer after 4 decades. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Graduates to confer in Singapore. (1950, December 1). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. 4 for talks at Cambridge. (1952, December 12). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Two newcomers in straight fight in Geylang West. (1959, May 19). The Straits Times, p. 4; Insurance firm manager quits to work for PAP. (1959, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Insurance firm manager quits to work for PAP. (1959, March 1). The Straits Times, p. 8; Leong, W. K. (2001, December 10). Insurance sector honours pioneer after 4 decades. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. The results: All you. (1959, May 31). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Moving-in day for ministers. (1959, June 6). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Au Yong, J. (2012, June 30). Pioneer Yong Nyuk Lin dies, aged 94. The Straits Times, pp. 2-3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore story: Memoirs of  Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Straits Times Press, p. 327. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE-[HIS])
18. Schools of the future may all be multi-storyed. (1960, October 12). The Straits Times, p. 4; The skyscraper school will cost $660,000. (1960, October 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; Minister sees new sites. (1960, November 4). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Yong: Govt plans to build 19 new schools a year. (1960, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Ministry of Education. (1963). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 6. (Call no.: RCLOS 370.95951 SIN-[AR]); Ministry of Education. (1960). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 370.95951 SIN-[AR])
21. Two-in-one school scheme. (1959, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. State’s first Malay secondary school ready. (1961, October 12). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1; Yong: Govt plans to build 19 new schools a year. (1960, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 4; Leaving exams in 4 languages. (1960, March 31). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Ministry of Education. (1960). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 2. (Call no.: RCLOS 370.95951 SIN-[AR])
24. Yong: Govt plans to build 19 new schools a year. (1960, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25. Students’ boycott a failure: Minister. (1962, May 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. Way now clear for language institute. (1960, May 13). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. 6,000 students get ready for their language examinations. (1960, October 26). The Singapore Free Press, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
28. Accord on Chinese secondary education, (1961, October 6). The Straits Times, p. 4; Au Yong, J. (2012, June 30). Pioneer Yong Nyuk Lin dies, aged 94. The Straits Times, pp. 2–3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. New rules on bursaries for Malay students. (1968, October 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30. Singapore govt hands out 88 study awards. (1964, November 28). The Straits Times, p. 10; Government bursaries for technical students. (1960, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31. Sam, J. (1963, October 18). 3 new ministers. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32. Goh, S. T. (2004). Walk like a dragon: Short stories. Singapore: Angsana Books, p. 24. (Call no.: RSING S823 GOH)
33. A drive to control 30,000 unlicensed hawkers. (1967, February 24). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
34. Law to curb straying cattle takes effect in Singapore. (1965, January 2). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35. Ministry of Health. (1965). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 61. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR); Ministry of Health. (1966). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, pp. 26–27. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR-[AR])
36. Project a new image, nurses are told. (1964, July 16). The Straits Times, p. 18. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37. Ministry of Health. (1965). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 209. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR); Ministry of Health. (1966). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR)
38. Ministry of Health. (1965). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 139. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR)
39. All government hospital beds except Woodbridge to go up in Singapore. (1965, February 21). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40. Better medical care for sick in S’pore. (1964, July 11). The Straits Times, p. 11; Attention now for outpatients within 15 mins. (1964, November 17). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
41. More school dental clinics are planned. (1964, March 14). The Straits Times, p. 4; Au Yong, J., & Chan, R. (2012, June 30). Friends pay tribute to pioneer minister. The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Health. (1963). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, pp. 64, 88. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR)
42. S’pore plans to halve birth rate. (1966, January 13). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43. Ministry of Health. (1965). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 22. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR)
44. S’pore will halve birth rate by 1970. (1967, January 14). The Straits Times, p. 8; SFPA to continue operating three non-govt centres. (1965, September 30). The Straits Times, p. 7; Yong ‘clears air’ on family planning. (1964, April 17). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
45. Ministry of Health. (1968). Annual report. Singapore: Government Printing Office, p. 170. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.59570677 SMHAR)
46. Legal abortion ultimate weapon: Yong. (1967, September 6). The Straits Times, p. 10; SMA to debate Govt’s abortion proposal. (1967, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
47. Government of Singapore. (2014, October 1). Heritage. Retrieved 26 May 2017 from Ministry of Transport website: https://www.mot.gov.sg/About-MOT/Corporate-Profile/Heritage/; RAF airfields may be put to civil use. (1968, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
48. For the record. (1972, September 27). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
49. Second satellite station in final planning stage. (1972, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
50. New air charter policy to boost traffic. (1971, November 27). The Straits Times, p. 1; Yong opens new airport terminal complex. (1971, December 18). The Straits Times, p. 36. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
51. Container wharves: PSA plans new extension. (1970, November 2). The Straits Times, p. 17; Chandran, R. (1972, June 24). Big leap into the container era. The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
52. Poteik, C. (1974, August 29). MRT: Govt to make further study. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
53. Uniform bus fares by next July. (1970, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
54. Lim, S. K. (1972, December 19). A review to get to the roots of traffic problems. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
55. Uniform bus fares by next July. (1970, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
56. Wong, L. W. (1973, November 1). 40 jumbo buses roll out new image. The Straits Times, p. 6; Poteik, C. (1973, July 1). Better deals for bus commutators. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
57. Govt to invest in S.B.S. (1974, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 1; Rescue vehicles. (1974, July 30). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
58. Bus fares go up 10 cts. (1974, February 4). The Straits Times, p. 1; Students: Let us work out no-price-hike bus service. (1974, February 12). The Straits Times, p. 9; Students to hand out 20,000 protest leaflets. (1974, February 14). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
59. Raman, P. M. (1974, January 2). Cars now dearer by 20 to 22pc. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
60. Raman, P. M. (1974, May 29). Yong’s new shock for motorists. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
61. Lines of attack against the transport service snags. (1970, July 23). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
62. Poteik, C., et al. (1970, September 3). House gives big yes to transport white paper. The Straits Times, p. 2; Success so bus lanes to stay: Yong. (1975, March 18). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
63. All eyes on S’pore CBD scheme. (1975, February 24). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
64. Road pricing team for Europe. (1990, March 24). The Straits Times, p. 23; Park and ride from today. (1975, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 1; Raman, P. M. (1974, May 29). Yong’s new shock for motorists. The Straits Times, p. 1; Success. (1975, June 2). New Nation, p. 1; Gamboa, E. (1983, August 16). Whatever happened to fringe carparks? The Straits Times, p. 12. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
65. Rodrigues, C. (1976, April 9). Our ALS gets a pat on the back. The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
66. Leong, C. T. (1998, August 30). Time’s up: Goodbye. The Straits Times, p. 33. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
67. Fong, L. (1975, June 3). Cabinet surprise. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
68. Kwee, M. (1975, August 15). Yong to go to London as S’pore’s envoy. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
69. Yong: So happy to come home. (1976, August 2). New Nation, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
70. Balakrishnan, N. (1984, November 18). Our first cabinet: Where are they now? The Straits Times, p. 23; People’s Scholarship Fund at $2.5m. (1977, July 26). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
71. Hoe, I. (1979, January 18). I just want to fade out. New Nation, pp. 10–11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
72. Another 3-year term. (1982, July 26). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
73. Ong, C. (1980, September 19). Ex-civil servants join S’pore Lands. The Business Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
74. National Day Honours List 1990. (1990, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
75. Page 2 Advertisements Column 1. (1937, December 28). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
76. Au Yong, J. (2012, June 30). Pioneer Yong Nyuk Lin dies, aged 94. The Straits Times, pp. 2–3; Untitled: Yong Nyuk Lin. (2012, July 3). The Straits Times, p 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Doraisamy, T. (Ed.). (1969). 150 years of education in Singapore. Singapore: Teachers Training College, pp. 60—61, 69.

(Call no.: RSING 370.95957 TEA)

Family planning for 180,000 women. (1965, September 29). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Lim, L. C. (Ed.). (2007). Many pathways one mission: Fifty years of Singapore education. Singapore: Ministry of Education, Curriculum, Planning and Development Division, p. 194.
(Call no.: RSING 370.95957 MAN)

Quek, P. L. (1981, April 12). Exit from high office: The morning after. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Reds’ school plot. (1961, November 28). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Saw, S. H. (2005). Population policies and programmes in Singapore. Singapore: ISEAS, pp. 43, 60.
(Call no.: RSING 363.96095957 SAW)

Sharp, I. (1974, March 4). Buses give Lee a bumpy ride. Far Eastern Economic Review, 83, 26—27.
(Call no.: R 330.95 FEER)

Sharp, I. (2005). The journey: Singapore’s land transport story. Singapore: SNP Editions, pp. 46—52, 77—79, 202.
(Call no.: RSING q388.4095957 SHA)

Soh, T. K. (1971, July 1). Final action against pirate taxis. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.

Tan, J., Gopinathan, S., & Ho, W. K. (Eds.). (1997). Education in Singapore: A book of readings. Singapore: Prentice Hall, pp. 7—9.
(Call no.: RSING 370.95957 EDU)

Tan, N. (1991). Health and welfare. In E.C.T. Chew & E. Lee (Eds.), A history of Singapore. Singapore: Oxford University Press, p. 348.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 HIS-[HIS])

Wilson, H. E. (1978). Social engineering in Singapore: Educational policies and social change, 1819–1972. Singapore: Singapore University Press, p. 234.
(Call no.: RSING 379.95957 WIL)

Yeoh, B. S. A., Kai, H. P., & Fu, K. (2008). From colony to global city: Public health strategies and the control of disease in Singapore. In M. J. Lewis & K. L. MacPherson (Eds.), Public health in Asia and the Pacific. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 195–196.
(Call no.: R 362.1095 PUB)



The information in this article is valid as at 2017 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
Political leadership--Singapore
Yong, Nyuk Lin, 1918-
Education ministers--Singapore--Biography
Law and government>>Political process>>Leadership
Politicians
Personalities>>Biographies>>Political Leaders