Gan Eng Seng School



Gan Eng Seng School is one of the oldest schools in Singapore and the first free school to be founded and supported by a Chinese benefactor in the Straits Settlements.1 First established as the Anglo-Chinese Free School in 1885 and later renamed Gan Eng Seng School after its founder, the school relocated at least seven times before settling at its eighth and present site between Henderson Road and Alexandra Road in 2000.2 It was well known as a feeder school to Raffles Institution in its early days, and for introducing bilingual education in English and Chinese in 1913.3

Early history
In 1885, Malacca-born businessman Gan Eng Seng founded the Anglo-Chinese Free School to offer free Chinese and English4 primary education to poor boys living in the vicinity.5 The school was set up in shophouses located along Telok Ayer Beach6 (later renamed Telok Ayer Street following land reclamation works in the late 1800s7), and its expenses were all financed by Gan. Impressed by Gan’s work, the colonial government provided a site on Telok Ayer Street for a new school building. Gan financed the construction and furnishment of the new two-storey building. It was officially declared opened by then Governor of the Straits Settlements Cecil Clementi Smith on 4 April 1893. The school remained at this site until 1941.8


After Gan’s death in 1899, a Board of Trustees was established to take over the management of the school. The board was made up of prominent members of the Peranakan (Strait Chinese) community, including lawyers Wee Theam Tew and Song Ong Siang; entrepreneur Ho Yang Peng; renowned philanthropist Lim Boon Keng; financier Lee Cheng Yan; and the owners of law firm Chan and Swee Teow, S. J. Chan and Wee Swee Teow. Despite the board’s notable standing, the school was not financially sustainable as a free school and began to charge school fees on a monthly basis with effect from 1899.9

The colonial government took over the running of the school in 1938 when the board ran into serious financial difficulties.10 Percival Frank Aroozoo, a teacher at Outram School, was appointed headmaster of the school in the same year and had the heavy responsibility of leading the school through its most traumatic period.11 By then, the school building was deteriorating and deemed unsafe by the Public Works Department. The school was forced to evacuate to the Sepoy Lines Malay School in Park Road and the nearby Pearl’s Hill School in 1941. Although there were plans for a new building in Anson Road, these failed to materialise due to the Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945.12

Post-war developments
The school underwent major developments in the 1950s.13 It was reopened after the war and temporarily housed in the premises of Outram Road School (known today as Outram Secondary School), before relocating to the abandoned Japanese National School building at Waterloo Street (now known as Stamford Arts Centre).14


The school established Singapore’s first Parent-Teacher Association in 1950 to promote cooperation and better understanding between teachers and parents.15 A new two-storey building at Anson Road was opened on 15 May 1951 by then Governor of Singapore Franklin Gimson.16 Evening adult education classes were introduced in October the same year, providing new education opportunities for illiterate adults. The school was converted into a secondary school the following year.17

Between 1961 and 1991, the school also served as a pre-university centre. The intake of pre-university girls for the sixth-form class signified the school’s gradual transformation into a co-educational institution.18 The process of becoming co-educational was completed with the admission of the first cohort of girls into secondary one in 1987, after the school’s relocation to Raeburn Park Road. Due to its proximity to the Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, the new premises were soon found to be unsatisfactory as the students and teaching staff often had to put up with noise and air pollution.19 A new campus located between Henderson Road and Alexandra Road was completed in 2000 and has since served as the school’s premises.20

Significance
Among Gan Eng Seng School’s achievements was the implementation of bilingual learning in Chinese and English, a move that predated the present bilingual policy in the education system. Renowned as a feeder primary school to Raffles Institution between 1938 and 1951, the school has produced eminent alumni such as former Minister for Communications and Information Yeo Ning Hong,21 former principal of Singapore Polytechnic Khoo Kay Chai,22 and former Accountant-General Chua Kim Yeow.23


Variant names
Anglo-Chinese Free School was referred to as Gan Eng Seng School in the 1927 Singapore and Straits Directory, probably to distinguish it from the Anglo-Chinese School founded by missionary William F. Oldham in 1886. While the sign at the school building facing Cecil Street showed “Anglo-Chinese English School”, the old sign at the original building at Telok Ayer Street read “Anglo-Chinese Free School”. The school was officially recognised as Gan Eng Seng School after moving to Anson Road, and renamed Gan Eng Seng Secondary School upon relocation to Raeburn Park Road. In January 1993, it reverted to its historical name, Gan Eng Seng School.24


Timeline
1885:
Anglo-Chinese Free School is founded by Gan Eng Seng at Telok Ayer Street.25

1893: New school building opens at Telok Ayer Street.26
1898: A second building facing Cecil Street is added.
1899: Gan Eng Seng dies; a Board of Trustees is established to take over the school management.
1913: Mandarin is made a compulsory second-language subject in the school, following a period when only English was taught after Gan’s death.27
1938: Becomes a government school; Percival Frank Aroozoo is appointed headmaster.
1941: Relocates to Sepoy Lines Malay School and Pearl’s Hill School.
1946: Reopens using the premises of Outram Road School.
1947: Relocates to the former Japanese National School building on Waterloo Street.28
1949: The first school magazine, Onward, is published.
1950: Establishes Singapore’s first Parent-Teacher Association.29
1951: Official opening of the school premises at Anson Road; becomes a secondary school.30
1954: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association is formed.
1961: Admits pre-university students.31
1986: Relocates to Raeburn Park Road.32
1987: Admits the first cohort of secondary one female students.33
1991: Ceases to be a pre-university centre.34
1997: The school’s original location in Telok Ayer Street is marked as a historic site.
2000: Moves to a new campus between Henderson Road and Alexandra Road.35
2010: The school celebrates its 125th anniversary.36



Author
Chow Yaw Huah




References
1. One of oldest boys’ schools to go co-ed and to move. (1985, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 20; The Anglo-Chinese “Free” School. (1893, April 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5, 8. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
2. School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15; $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5, 22. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Gan Eng Seng School. (2011). GESS history. Retrieved 2017, February 7 from Gan Eng Seng School website: http://ganengsengsch.moe.edu.sg/about-us/history/gess-history/
3. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5, 8. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN)
4. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); On the margin – Gan Eng Seng. (1950, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 6; School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. The Anglo-Chinese “Free” School. (1893, April 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
6. The Anglo-Chinese “Free” School. (1893, April 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5; School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
8. The Anglo-Chinese “Free” School. (1893, April 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884-1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 11. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
9. Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 34. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 22, 30, 32, 34–40, 119, 124. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
10. On the margin. (1950, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC)
11. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 55. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 97. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC); Braga-Blake, M. (Ed.) (1992). Singapore Eurasians: Memories and hopes. Singapore: Times Editions, p. 84. (Call no.: RSING 305.80405957 SIN)
12. Gan Eeng Seng pupils to go to another school. (1941, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 10; $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 8, 11, 55. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
13. Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 58. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC)
14. Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 8, 58. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
15. One of oldest boys’ schools to go co-ed and to move. (1985, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 20; Parent-teacher assn. formed. (1950, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 8. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Ministry of Education. (2010, July 18). Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at Gan Eng Seng School’s 125th anniversary dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre [Press release]. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
16. Building ban will not hit the school plans: Gimson. (1951, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 70. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC)
17. Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5, 9. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 80. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC)
18. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, p.3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 5, 10–11. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
19. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5, 10–11. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); One of oldest boys’ schools to go co-ed and to move. (1985, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 197. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC); Gan Eng Seng School. (2011). GESS history. Retrieved 2017, February 7 from Gan Eng Seng School website: http://ganengsengsch.moe.edu.sg/about-us/history/gess-history/
21. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5; School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Ministry of Education. (2010, July 18). Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at Gan Eng Seng School’s 125th anniversary dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre [Press release]. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources webThe site: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
23. Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 6. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Chang, Z. L. (2016, August 21). Chua Kim Yeow, Singapore’s first local accountant-general, dies at age of 90. The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
24. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5; School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 5–6, 22, 25. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
25. $500,000 school after 10 years. (1949, March 8). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26. The Anglo-Chinese “Free” School. (1893, April 5). The Singapore Free Press and Mercantile Advertiser (1884—1942), p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 8, 11, 24. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
28. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); On the margin. (1950, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 6; Gan Eeng Seng pupils to go to another school. (1941, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 10; A ‘homeless’ school. (1947, April 10). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29. Parent-teacher assn. formed. (1950, May 30). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 6, 8. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Ministry of Education. (2010, July 18). Minister for Education and Second Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen speaks at Gan Eng Seng School’s 125th anniversary dinner at Raffles City Convention Centre [Press release]. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/
30. Building ban will not hit the school plans: Gimson. (1951, May 16). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 9. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB); Gan Eng Seng School. (2011). GESS history. Retrieved 2017, February 7 from Gan Eng Seng School website: http://ganengsengsch.moe.edu.sg/about-us/history/gess-history/
31. Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, pp. 8–9. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
32. One of oldest boys’ schools to go co-ed and to move. (1985, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 20; School gets its seventh home. (1989, July 13). The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, p. 177. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC)
33. One of oldest boys’ schools to go co-ed and to move. (1985, September 1). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Gan Eng Seng Secondary School. (1989). G.E.S.S. official opening, 12th July 1989. Singapore: Author, p. 3. (Call no.: RCLOS 373.5957 GAN); Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
34. Dabbs, D. M. (1994). The history of Gan Eng Seng School. Singapore: D. M. Dabbs, p. 10. (Call no.: RSING 372.95957 DAB)
35. Phang, M. F., & Chang, Y. T. (2006). The pictorial history of Gan Eng Seng School: In commemoration of our 120 years of extraordinary existence. Singapore: Gan Eng Seng School Old Students’ Association, pp. 80, 177. (Call no.: RSING 370.95957 PIC); Gan Eng Seng School. (2011). GESS history. Retrieved Retrieved 2017, February 7 from Gan Eng Seng School website: http://ganengsengsch.moe.edu.sg/about-us/history/gess-history/
36. Paper anniversary: Students at Gan Eng Seng Secondary School folding 125,000 paper ships on 4 Jan to commemorate the school’s 125th anniversary. The feat will be recorded in the Singapore Book of Records. (2010, January 7). The New Paper, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 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