The school at Outram Road, Singapore

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The former Outram Prison located beside Outram School (above) was demolished and replaced by the HDB flats and shops at Outram Park (below).

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Little Red Dot walks you through some of the oldest schools in Singapore.

By Eisen Teo in The Straits Times, 13 March 2002.

One of the oldest … government schools in Singapore.

Founded: 1906 (106 years old).

Founded as:  A primary school that took in local pupils but used English as a medium of teaching, which was the exception for schools at that time.  Most schools taught in mother tongues like the Chinese dialects, Malay or Tamil.

The government, which was controlled by the British then, wanted to encourage the learning of English.

The school, named Outram Road School because it was located in Outram Road, was officially opened by the Governor of Singapore, Sir John Anderson.  It served as a feeder school for Raffles Institution, one of the top schools in Singapore at that time.

1939: The school was renamed Outram School.

Blast from the past:  In June 1939, Outram School headmaster R W Watson-Hyatt installed two traffic lights in the school – one of the front corridor and another over the main staircase, to regulate human traffic.  He decided to do so to educate pupils on heading traffic lights, which was introduced on Singaporean roads only a few years before.

Blast from the past:  In 1941, as the threat of a Japanese invasion of Singapore grew, the Education Ministry ordered Outram School to move its records to the nearby Pasir Panjang English School for safekeeping.

Unfortunately, while Outram School survived subsequent bombings, the Pasir Panjang school was destroyed – along with all of Outram School’s past record.

1954:  Outram School was converted to a secondary school.

1958:  Girls were admitted for the first time.

1961:  Outram School was renamed Outram Secondary.

1968:  The school moved to its present premises at York Hill, off Chin Swee Road.

1977:  The school opened a swimming pool – only the third school in Singapore to do so – and formed a Life Saving Society to teach students life-saving skills.

Famous Alumni

Former president Wee Kim Wee, former Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng and actor and host Gurmit Singh.

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Outram Secondary School at York Hill

[Source:  The Straits Times, 20 May 1970].

Outram Secondary School was officially opened by Mr Hon Sui Sen. MP for Havelock on Friday, 22 May 1970.

The school, originally in Outram Road, was demolished in 1968 two years ago to make way for urban renewal and development of the Outram MRT station.

Now sited in York Hill, it is a multi-purpose secondary school offering academic education with  a commercial bias and technical education.

The new building has a centralised workshop for technical workshop practice, four science laboratories, facilities for home economics, art and crafts rooms, a shorthand and typewriting laboratory and a library.

Outram Secondary moves back home [Source:  The Straits Times, 29 August 1999].

By Leslie Koh

One of S’pore’s first English schools, it celebrated the opening of its new premises on 28 August 1999 night with 600 guests.

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From Home Affairs Minister Wong Kan Seng to actor-comedian Gurmit Singh, Outram Secondary School has groomed many well-known names in Singapore.

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Last night, many of them went back to school – to celebrate the opening of the school’s new complex.

About 600 guests, including Mr Wong, Mr Koh Cher Siang, the commissioner of Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore, and Brigadier-General Patrick Choy, Singapore’s ambassador to Myanmar, had dinner in the school hall.

The entertainment was, of course, provided by old boy Gurmit Singh.

The school was rebuilt at a cost of $27 million.  It sits atop York Hill off Chin Swee Road, and boasts a 93-year history.

Founded in 1906, the school was one of the first English schools to be built by the colonial government.  Originally set up as a primary school, it used to groom students for Raffles Institution.

The new school complex is made up of six buildings, with some as high as six storeys.

There is also a large open-air amphitheatre, dance studios and s rock-climbing wall.

Its star facility, however, is the 25-m swimming pool, retained from the old complex.  The pool had helped the school build a reputation for excellence in swimming and water-polo in the past.

Outram Secondary is the only government school to have a swimming pool.

The 1,100 students and 60 teaching staff moved into the new premises in June last year, after it was completed.

For four years before that, classes were conducted in a school at Winstedt Road, while the rebuilding was being done.

Principal Chan Poh Meng said that the school’s strengths lay in its history as a school offering commerce subjects

Students used to graduate not with O-levels, but with a London Chamber of Commerce certificate of commercial education.

That was between 1957 and 1963, after the school had converted from a primary to a secondary school.

While the school no longer issues the LCC certificates, it has maintained its commerce roots.  Today, it has more students taking such subjects at O-levels than most other schools.

These subjects include commerce studies, office admimistration and accounting.

Outram Secondary was also ranked among the top 20 value-added schools for normal stream this year.

Said the principal:  “Outram has a history comparable to that of other top schools.  We want to maintain this tradition of an all-rounded education.

Memorable photos to remember

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Can you recognise the buildings behind the school field in the background?

Outram Secondary rebuilt school

[Source:  The Straits Times, 14 May 1999]

By Sandra Davie

BEFORE

The old building was built in the 1960s.  It had 21 classrooms and a sports hall.  In 1977, the school advisory committee raised funds to build a 25-m swimming pool.

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NOW

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The new six-storey bulding, at about 20,000 sq m, is double the size of the old one.  It has 36 classrooms, each of which is about 20 sq m larger than the old ones.

There are also four computer rooms with 40 computers each, a larger staff room, an amphitheatre, a multi-purpose hall, an indoor sports hall and several special rooms, including a dance studio, sound-proof music room and a fitness room.

School has become a more lively and interesting place for Outram Secondary students since their big move into a new six-storey building.

Jevon Liew, 15, for one, looks forward to stepping inside his school at York Hill, off Chin Swee Road, every morning.

He enjoys his classroom lessons more now because they have become “less chalk and talk” and more activity-based.

He said:  “Before that, when we were in an old building at Newton, my lessons just had the teacher standing in front of blackboard and talking.

“Now, lessons are more fun.  My teachers use computers, we go out of the class for project work and we get to play-act our literature texts at the amphitheatre.”

The 93-year-old school was rebuilt at it original site at a cost of $27 million.

When its staff and 1,100 students moved into the new, larger premises last July, Outram started life as a single-session school.  Lessons are held in the morning, and enrichment activities, remedial classes and ECA take place in the afternoon.

But in the four years of waiting for their new building to be ready, staff and students were using the old Monk’s Hill Secondary School building at Winstedt Road in Newton.

Outram was one of 106 secondary schools rebuilt since 1988, to convert them into single-session school.

Outram Secondary principal Chan Poh Meng said that even before the move, his 70 teachers were edging towards more activity-centred teaching to infuse creative and thinking skills in their students.  But they were constrained by the facilities.

“The biggest obstacle was the shortage of classrooms.  We had to function as a double-session school.  That meant that a whole lot of enrichment and remedial classes could not take place because we just didn’t have any spare classrooms,” he said.

Despite the Education Ministry’s push towards IT-based teaching and learning, his teachers had found it difficult to incorporate the use of IT in their lessons, he said.

“The classrooms were not wired up.  To teach computer application, we had to convert two small classrooms into two small labs with 20 computers each and the teachers had to move from one classroom to the other.”

Outside of the classroom, the school could only provide for run-of-the-mill extra-curricular and enrichment activities, he added.

“We didn’t have the dance studio, the soundproof music room, amphitheatre and multi-purpose sports hall that we have now.”

Moving into a new building has made all the difference.  The teachers say the state-of-the-art facilities have allowed them to try out interesting new approaches to teaching.

Mr Derek Tan, an English Language teacher who uses IT in every other lesson, said:  “This is a new generation of young people.  They have been brought up on computers.  So when you use computers, it is half the battle won, because they associate it with fun and games.  You see the students sit up and listen.

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Each classroom has been wired to allow for up to 11 computers.  Soon, notebook PCs will be available in classrooms for more computer-based lessons.

The head of English, Mr K. Selvakkrishnan, said that the bigger classrooms and the availability of more interaction spaces have also led to more group and project work.

“The bigger classroom space allow teachers to change the arrangement of tables and chairs for group work.  On top of that, there are many quiet, conducive spaces outside of the classroom that can be used.”

Mr Lee Khim Song, 29, head of science, said the six science labs and computers meant that teachers can get students to do more lab experiments on computers to demonstrate concepts.  Science has therefore become more “real and interesting” to the students, he added.

The school’s head of physical education and ECA, Mr Tan Tee Suan, who has been with Outram since 1970, said teachers could now offer more and interesting activities outside the classroom.

Rain or shine, the students play badminton, basketball, netball and football in the new multi-purpose sports hall.  Next to come is rock-climbing – once their $86,000 rockwall is ready.

“The new kind of teaching and learning methods demand new facilities – and it is good to have such facilities,” said Mr Tan.

Outram students agree totally.  Lee Yu Wei, 16, a secondary 4 student heading the students’ council, said:  “Using computers and doing project work and drama has made lessons even more interesting.  ECA and afternoon hour activities have also become more fun.”

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Another archived photo (below) of the former Outram Secondary School at Outram Road, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore and other unnamed contributors.

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