Outram Secondary School

by Renuka, M.

Outram Road School, now known as Outram Secondary School, was officially opened on 26 February 1906 by then Governor John Anderson. As one of the first English schools built by the colonial government, it has a rich history, dating to even before their official opening in 1906.1

The late 19th century saw the dire need for more schools providing English education. As a result, two schools were built in Singapore to teach English through the medium of the mother tongue – one located on Cross Street and the other in Kampong Glam.2

To accommodate the increasing enrolment in the school on Cross Street, the government had originally planned to establish a training school to meet demand. However, a new school, Outram Road School, was built on Outram Road instead. The new school was formally opened by then Governor John Anderson on 26 February 1906. In 1939, the word “Road” was dropped from its name and the school was henceforth known as Outram School.3

Early history
Outram School started off as a primary school, taking in students who had completed Standard One at Pearl’s Hill School, which was a feeder school for Outram. This affiliation between the two schools continued until 1953.4 Outram School was also affiliated to Raffles Institution, acting as its feeder school. This relationship continued up to February 1942, when Singapore fell to the Japanese. After the war, students from Outram had to compete with other government primary school pupils in securing places in government secondary schools as a result. Another consequence of the war was that many of the school’s records from 1906 to 1942 were lost when it suffered a bomb attack by the Japanese.5

Conversion into secondary school (1954)
Outram ceased to be only a primary school and became a four-year secondary commercial school on 1 January 1954, with students graduating with the School Certificate of Commercial Education of the London Chamber of Commerce. The school motto was also changed from “On to Success” to “Labor Omnia Vincit” (Labour Conquers All), and a new school crest was adopted.6

Further developments (1954–present)7
The first group of Outram candidates takes the London Chamber of Commerce School Certificate of Commercial Education Examination which subsequently becomes the Secondary School Leaving Examination.8 Outram students would take this examination instead of the General Certificate of Education Ordinary Level examination till 1963.

1958: Girls are admitted to the school for the first time.
1961: Renamed Outram Secondary School.9
1964: The first group of Secondary 4 Outram students take the examination for the Cambridge Overseas School Certificate instead of the original London Chamber of Commerce Examination offered to students.
1965: Old Outramians’ Association is established.
1968: The school moves to its current premises at York Hill, off Chin Swee Road. The original Outram Road site is demolished in November/December 1968 for urban renewal and development. In the same year, the Outram Secondary School Advisory Committee is formed.
1969: The school is converted to a multipurpose secondary school offering academic education but with an emphasis on commercial education at the Upper secondary level. The Higher School Certificate in Commercial Education is introduced for the first time in Singapore.10
1976: Foundation stone of the swimming pool complex laid by Hon Sui Sen, then minister for finance and member of Parliament for Havelock.
1977: The swimming pool complex is completed and officially opened by Hon on 15 October 1977.11 Outram becomes the first school to have a short-course (25 m × 21 m) swimming pool.
1979: A three-year pre-university course is introduced, and a school advisory committee comprising old boys and ex-teachers is formed. Students could now stay on after their secondary education to pursue the Advanced Level certification.12
1994: Outram moves to another site at 10 Winstedt Road.
1996: Outram celebrates its 90th anniversary.
1998: Outram moves to back to its original site at York Hill.
1999: New premises at York Hill officially opened on 28 August.
2006: Outram holds its centennial celebrations.13
2007: The school is recognised as a Centre of Excellence in Business & Enterprise,14 and achieves its first niche status for rock-climbing.15
2012: Memorandum of understanding on a sports education programme is signed between Outram Secondary School and the private education institution, International Sports Academy, providing opportunities for its students to be educated on topics such as sports psychology, sports medicine and athlete management.16 In the same year, Outram also became one of the pilot schools to roll out a programme by the Action Community for Entrepreneurship to teach entrepreneurship to students in a more structured manner.17
2016: Outram became one of the designated schools to accept students with hearing loss.18

Famous alumni
Actor Gurmit-Singh and former Minister for Home Affairs Wong Kan Seng are among the school alumni.19

Labor Omnia Vincit (Labour Conquers All)

Renuga M. & Neo Tiong Seng

1. Kevin Y. L. Tan, Labour Conquers All: 100 Years of Outram Secondary School (Singapore: Outram Secondary School, 2006), 19. (Call no. RSING 373.5957 TAN)
2. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 13–14.
3. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 17.
4. “History,” Outram Secondary School, accessed 4 December 2017. 
5. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 19.
6. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 53–54.
7. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 53–59, 64–89, 94, 114, 118, 120.
8. Tan, Labour Conquers All, 54.
9. Outram Secondary School, “History.”
10. Outram Secondary School, “History.”
11. Outram Secondary School, “History.”
12. Outram Secondary School, “History.”
13. Outram Secondary School, “History.”
14. Bryna Sim, “Students Learn Art of Business.” New Paper, 13 May 2011, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
15. G. Ng, “More Schools to Provide Niche Lessons,” Straits Times, 13 May 2011. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
16. Lim Say Heng, “Outram’s Students Get Sports Education Programme,” New Paper, 22 April 2012, 47. (From NewspaperSG)
17. “ACE to Spend S$15M on Entrepreneurship Learning,” Channel NewsAsia, 9 November 2012. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResourcesa website)
18. “Enhancing Support for Students with Hearing Loss Who Sign,” Singapore Government News, 20 September 2016. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
19. “A Hallmark of Distinction – Outram Secondary School,” Outram Secondary School, n.d., 1.  

The information in this article is valid as at 1 February 2018 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history on the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic. 

Schools (Buildings)
Education, Secondary--Singapore