Gan Eng Seng School

Gan Eng Seng School

Infobox Singapore School
name = Gan Eng Seng School
Sekolah Gan Eng Seng

motto = Onward
established = 1885
type = Government School
principal = Mr. Victor Giam
session = Single session
colours = Red and Green
enrollment = 1300
city/town = 1 Henderson Road
school code = 3006
homepage = []
Founded by philanthropist Gan Eng Seng in 1885, Gan Eng Seng School (Abbreviation: GESS) is one of the oldest schools in Singapore. GESS was the first school to be set up by a local Chinese and the first to form a parent-teachers' association in 1950. [cite book|last=Dabbs|first=Donald Matheson, 1948-|title=History of Gan Eng Seng School|location=Singapore|publisher=D. M. Dabbs|year=1994|page=p. 8] It was an all-boys' school for 102 years until it became co-educational in 1987.cite news | title = One of the oldest boys' schools go co-ed and to move | date = 1 September 1985 | publisher = The Straits Times] Before it became a government school in 1938, many prominent Chinese gentlemen such as Sir Song Ong Siang K.B.E, Dr. Lim Boon Keng OBE, Tan Keong Saik and Gan's descendants served on its Board of Trustees. By 1996, GESS was ranked 21st by the Ministry of Education (MOE)cite web | url = | title = Top 50 Schools in the 1995 GCE O-level Examination | accessdate = 2007-07-23 | publisher = Ministry of Education, Singapore] among the top 50 schools in Singapore and continued to stay within the top 50 rankings to this day.cite news | title = Marching into its 95th year today...We're not at the very top, but we're always there | date = 20 August 1980 | publisher = The Straits Times] The school's founding site at Telok Ayer Street was designated as a national historical site by the National Heritage Board in 1997. The school is currently located at Henderson Road in Bukit Merah on the western district of Singapore.



Gan Eng Seng School was founded in some shophouses in Telok Ayer Street in 1885 by the philanthropist, Gan Eng Seng and was known as "Anglo Chinese Free School". Born in 1844 into a poor family in Melaka, Malaysia, Gan came to Singapore at a young age to seek his fortune. Since he was unable to have much of an education in his youth, it was his ambition in life to build a school and help those who are poor as he prospered and became wealthy. Gan was far-sighted in placing emphasis on bilingualism in English and Chinese from the start. [cite news | title = The pioneers of Tanjong Pagar | date = 5 April 1989 | publisher = The Straits Times] The school proved to be a success—the enrolment figure reached a record of 167 by 1890, and rose to an all time high of 94% in 1892. GESSOSA, "1885—1899: Our Pioneering Years", pp. 23—31. ]

In 1888, GESS became an aided school which meant government recognition as an education institution. In 1889, the British colonial government offered a site at No. 106 Telok Ayer Street. Gan accepted the site and wholly financed the construction and furbishment of the building which could accommodate up to 300 primary students. On 4 April 1893, Governor Sir Cecil Clementi Smith opened the new building said:

Tan Keong Saik, a prominent Chinese businessman and board trustee of the school briefly gave a history of the institution to the distinguished gathering. [cite news | title = Gan Eng Seng Free School | date = 5 April 1893 | publisher = The Straits Times] On 9 September 1899, Gan Eng Seng died. In his his will he had made provisions for the maintenance of the school and its management by a Board of Trustees.


The Board of Trustees comprised of distinguished pioneers of Singapore such as Tan Keong Saik, Ho Yang Peng, Wee Theam Tew, Lee Cheng Yan, Sir Chan Sze Jin, CMG (S.J. Chan), Wee Swee Teow, Song Ong Siang, Dr. Lim Boon Keng and Gan's descendants. [ Dabbs, pp. 109—20. ] They all gave of their dedication, leadership and unfailing support to the school until 1938, when GESS became a government school. GESSOSA, "1899—1941: Board of Trustees and The Pre-War Years", pp. 33—47. ]

In 1923, the school was renamed as Gan Eng Seng School in its founder honour. In the same year the 8th Singapore Troop (now "Gan Eng Seng Dragon Scout Group") by G.C.S. Koch with 38 pioneering Scouts were founded. Chan Chon Hoe (1909-2003) who studied in GESS from 1921 to 1927, became the Troop Leader in 1927. Under the colonial system of education (1918-1953), GESS was a feeder school to Raffles Institution (RI). The feeder school provides education up to the "Standard V" (equivalent to Primary 6 today) after which the student need to gain admission to Raffles Institution via an entrance examination if he wished to pursue his education to "Standard IX" (equivalent to Secondary 4 today). Chan attended RI from 1928 to 1929, and Scouts promoted to Raffles Institution from GESS were grouped under "Gan Eng Seng Patrol" which Chan led.GESSOSA, "Alumus Extraordinaire—Chan Chon Hoe", pp. 40—1.] Due to his sound training and values inculcated in Scouting, Chan led a healthy lifestyle and lived strictly by the ethics of the Scout movement. Even at his advanced years in the 1990s, Chan participated in "New Nation Walk" and later the "New Paper Walk" well into his 90s wearing his Scout uniform and badges on every occasions. Chan attended the school's centenary celebrations at Shangri-La Hotel in 1985 and was honoured by the Singapore Scouts Association in 2000 — he was the only person to have attended the very first and last Scouts' Jamboree in the 20th century. Chan died at the age of 94 in Singapore.

With the economical downturn in the early 1930s, the survival of the school was at stake when community funding dwindled and the school building had reached such a deteriorated state that major repairs were urgently needed. As the two-storey school building was made mainly of wood, it suffered badly from dry rot and termites infestation. [Dabbs, "Anglo-Chinese Free School - Board of Trustees", p. 32. ] In 1937, the Board wrote to the Education Department detailing the plight of the school and urged the government to take over its management. In 1938, GESS became a government school and in the same year, the government proposed to build a new school building at Anson Road. However, no immediate plans were drawn up.

In July 1941, the Public Works Department declared the school building unsafe for occupation and ordered its evacuation. From September 1941 onwards, classes had to be held at two separate buildings in Sepoy Lines Malay School in Park Road and nearby Pearl's Hill School due to space constraints. On 5 December 1941, the school was closed for Christmas holidays but classes would later resumed only after four and the half years later.


During the Japanese Occupation (February 1942—September 1945), the school ceased to exist as it was shut down by the Japanese military administration. After the Japanese surrender, the British Military Administration took charge of Singapore and attempts were made to revive the school again. The school had lost most of its administrative documents, records, its former students and teachers at the aftermath of the war. The school was finally re-opened on the premises of Outram School by headmaster, Percival Frank Aroozoo on 13 May 1946. Aroozoo, a Eurasian of Portuguese descent was the grandson of Simon Aroozoo, who happened to be a close friend and colleague of Gan Eng Seng when both men worked together at Guthrie and Company for fifty years. [ Dabbs, "Simon Aroozoo", p. 42.] A year later, the school was moved to the former Japanese National School building (now the Stamford Arts Centre) at No. 155 Waterloo Street and remained there until 1951. During this period, GESS was still a primary school. The teething problems were soon over and on December 1949, Aroozoo launched the school's periodical, "Onward" to chronicalise the legacy and milestones of the school. On 29 May 1950, GESS became the first school in Singapore to form the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). GESSOSA, "1941—1951: Courage in Adversity", pp. 49—63. ] Its formation was an initiative by Aroozoo: "Parents as much as the teacher has a great deal to do with the training and development of a child as a useful member of the community."

And in the same year, the construction of a new school building in Anson Road began. Aroozoo had commissioned Italian Cavalieri Rodolfo Nolli to deliver two school crests, one slated for outdoor placement [cite web | last = | first = | url =
| title = Putting A Final Touch To The Gan Eng Seng School Plaque | accessdate = 2008-07-21 | publisher = National Archives of Singapore
] at the main block overlooking the school entrance and the other, for indoor placement inside the school hall above the stage. Nolli was a renowned sculptor in Singapore's colonial days. Some of his notable works included the Supreme Court Building, City Hall, Fullerton Building and the Merdeka Lions. The two iconic crests by Nolli were lost when the school moved on to Raeburn Park in 1986.


A new chapter in the history of GESS began in 1951 with the opening of the new school premises in Anson Road, as a secondary school ever since. For the second time in the school's history, a Governor of Singapore, Sir Franklin Glimson, officiated its opening on 15 May 1951. He was confident that the school would rise to heights of academic and athletic distinction:

The new building could accommodate some 800 students in 20 classrooms, had an assembly hall, a library and a science block. In the school hall, Gimson also unveiled a portrait of the late Gan Eng Seng that was presented as a gift by the PTA "to honour the late Mr Gan Eng Seng for his great services to education". GESSOSA, "1951—1959: The Early Anson Years". ] As the school developed through the decades, its students affectionately called GESSIANS brought honour to the school. Many students went on to post-secondary and tertiary education, and in 1966 seven students were awarded Colombo Plan scholarships. The uniformed groups, namely Scouts, National Cadets Corps (NCC), National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC), St John Ambulance Brigade and Brass Band, achieved eminence in their respective units, often at national level to this day.


With Singapore's Independence after its separation from Malaysia in 1965, manpower consideration assumed top priority in education planning. The emphasis on technical training and post-secondary education led to GESS being singled out as a centre for Technical Training and a Pre-University centre in 1970. In 1982, GESS was chosen to participate in its first mass display item titled "Singapore — Past, Present and Future" inspired by the Star Wars movie, featured interesting movement danced to the theme music of the movie. GESS participated at the Singapore Youth Festival during the mid year, followed by the National Day celebrations in August and in 1983, at the Opening Ceremony when Singapore played host to the 12th Southeast Asian Games at the National Stadium. [ "GESSIAN", 1982. ]

In 1985, the school celebrated its centenary year with celebrations that included a party for the under-privileged children, a walkathon, a variety concert, an exhibition and a grand dinner, in which the Minister of Communications and Information, Dr. Yeo Ning Hong was the Guest-of-Honour.cite news | title = Gan Eng Seng turns 100 | date = 6 August 1985 | publisher = The Straits Times] On September 1985, the MOE announced that GESS would move from Anson Road to Raeburn Park in mid-1986 and would cease to be a boys' school in 1987.


In 1986, the school was relocated to Raeburn Park after spending 35 years at the Anson Road's premises. The school became co-educational with the first intake of girls into Secondary 1 in January 1987 and the phasing out of the Pre-University classes by 1991. By 1996, GESS was ranked 21st by the MOE among the top 50 schools in Singapore and continued to stay within the top 50 rankings to this day.

In 1995, the GESS's Scouts celebrated the school's 110th anniversary by building a light two-seater aeroplane, "Microlight Challenger" that was supervised by five pilots who were former Scouts of GESS. The plane was paraded at the anniversary dinner in front of guests that included Guest-of-Honour, Dr. S. Vasoo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC and an old boy. [cite news | title = The sky's the limit | date = 5 August 1985 | publisher = The Straits Times]

The school's library was renamed the "Percival Aroozoo Library" on 20 July 1996 as a tribute to one of GESS's most beloved principals. The Ceremony was officiated by 3 of Aroozoo's daughters, they were Hegwig Anuar, a former National Library director and well-known feminist, former Katong Convent principal Marie Bong, and former LaSalle-SIA College of Fine Arts librarian, Eleanor Smith. [cite news | title = Gan Eng Seng School names library after ex-principal | date = 21 July 1996 | publisher = The Straits Times] On 30 August 1997, the school celebrated its recognition by the National Heritage Board as one of the 6 oldest schools in Singapore by marking its founding site at 106 Telok Ayer Street.cite news | title = Birthplace of Gan Eng Seng School marked as a historical site | date = 31 August 1997 | publisher = The Straits Times]


In December 2000, GESS moved to its new site at No. 1 Henderson Road, its eight home, where it stands to the present day. [cite news | title = On the move again: Gan Eng Seng will have a brand-new campus in 2001 | date = 26 July 1999 | publisher = The Straits Times] The new School building bears the hallmark of many GESSIANS both past and present, who have contributed and helped in the architectural design, the setting up of the Alumni Room and Heritage Hall in the school. The new school premises and the Heritage Hall was officially opened on 2 August 2001 by the Education Minister, Rear Admiral Teo Chee Hean. [ GESSOSA, "Gan Eng School Official Opening Ceremony", pp. 212—215. ]

To celebrate the 120th anniversary of GESS, the Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association (GESSOSA) published a pictorial history book in 2006 to document the school's rich traditions and history as well as the contribution made by its pioneers, old students and staff. [ GESSOSA, "Preface". ] All sale proceeds of the 230-page book were channelled into a students' fund for use to help any needy students. [cite news | title = 纪念建校120周年 颜永成校友会上月出图片集 (in Chinese) | url = | date = 18 June 2006 | publisher = Lianhe Wanbao | page = 16 ] A copy was donated to Lee Kong Chian Reference Library for public reference.



The choice of red and green for the school crest had been influenced by the colours of Gan Eng Seng Scout Troup. The Scout Troup's scarves were red and green. The Chinese Dragon on the Crest is a traditional Chinese emblem of good luck, courage and determination. Red is the colour of fire and suggests the fire of courage and leadership as written in the school song. The Chinese junk is a symbol of the slow but irrevocable progress which the school has achieved over the last 100 years. Green in colour to suggest the peaceful but relentless educational spirit which has guided the progress of the school. The school's motto — "Onward" — with its sense of determination reminds one of the slow, painful but relentless advances which have been made over the last century. [ Dabbs, "The Gan Eng Seng School Crest", p. 129. ]


*For boys: White short-sleeve shirt with white short for the juniors and long pants for the seniors
*For girls: White short-sleeve blouse with light green dress
*Formal assembly: Additional wearing of a maroon school-tie embroidered with the school emblem


Although GESS started out as a non-missionary Chinese school, the role as a school principal, were mainly filled by Europeans (mostly British) until the long-held tradition was broken in 1939. According to its annals, the principals of GESS were: [ GESSOSA, "Principals of GESS", p. 236.]
#1895—1904, Mr Robert Little
#1905—1914, Mr Ernest J.Gomes
#1914—1915, Mr Pagler (Acting)
#1915—1922, Mr J.A. Roberts
#1923—1938, Mr H.A.L. Orchard
#1938, Mr G.C.S. Koch (Acting)
#1939—1955, Mr P.F. Aroozoo (except during the war years 1942-1945)
#1955, Mr Soon Ban Hoe
#1955—1956, Mr Peter Lim (Acting)
#1957—1959, Mr Wee Seong Kang
#1959, Mr Mohd Abdul Kadir (Acting)
#1960—1965, Mr A.G. Meyer
#1966—1968, Mr Lee Chong Kee
#1968—1973, Mrs Peggy Phang
#1974—1976, Mr S. Thiagarajah
#1977—1978, Mr Ong Kim Siong
#1979—1980, Mr Teo Lye Huat
#1981—1983, Tan Sui Sen, Robert
#1984—1987, Goh Yong Hung
#1988—1994, Mr Eric S. Retnam
#1995—1997, Ms Ho Peng
#1998—2002, Mr Goh Choon Leng
#2003—Present, Mr Victor Giam Chong Guan


The design of the present premises was conceptualised by eleven old boys in the architectural profession headed by Jimmy Lam (Class of '83) who was the Project Architect then.GESSOSA, "Designing the Henderson Campus", pp. 198—9.] Design inspiration was taken from the symbol of the school crest, namely the Dragon and the Ship. The colours used bear resemblance to the school colours. Its final look and feel reminiscent of the one at the old Anson Road campus. The building key features are namely the The Arena, The Heritage Gallery and The Alumni Room.

The assembly ground of the school known as The Arena, takes the form of an arena that aims to generate a greater sense of community and the corporate spirit. Its strategic location is where the daily flag raising ceremonies, parades and special functions are held. The The Heritage Gallery is the school's tallest structure in the campus is a place that archives and showcases the school's illustrious history and legacies. From within, a view that orientates towards the founding site of the school at Telok Ayer Street. The Alumni Room, also known as the GESSOSA Room, it is located where the Co-Curricular Activities (CCA) Block is. It is another focal point in the campus, a gathering place for both past and present students.



Gan Eng Seng School offers both the Express (4 years) and Normal (5 Years) stream classes leading to the final GCE 'O' Level examinations. The school has ten departments that are closely integrated to promote both the academic and holistic aspect of a student's well being and learning development:
*English and Literature
*Mother Tongue (Chinese, Malay, Tamil)
*Physical Exercise and Asthetics
*Student Development
*Student Leadership
*Student Management

As of 2006, 97.3% of its Secondary 4 (Express) students qualify for junior college admission. 99.5% obtained passes in 3 O-level subjects and 97.8% passes in 5 O-level subjects. 4 students scored 8 distinctions and 51 students scored 5 distinctions. [cite web | url = | title = Academic Achievements: 2006 | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School] GESS was highlighted in MOE's press release for having students with outstanding results at the 2007 GCE O-Level Examination. [cite web | url = | title = Academic Achievements: 2007 | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]

Co-curricular activities

GESS sports houses

Before 1938, the boys were divided into 5 houses which had their respective logos for sporting activities and other competitions. They were named after famous names on the school's Board of Trustees:

*Gan House (after Gan Eng Seng)
*Lim House (after Dr. Lim Boon Keng)
*Chan House (after Chan Sze Jin)
*Song House (after Sir Song Ong Siang)
*Lee House (after Lee Cheng Yan)

The House system was dropped for a period of 9 years from 1972 to 1980. In 1980, it was renamed after their trustee in their full name. Gan House was replaced by Chen Su Lan House, after Dr. Chen Su Lan, another prominent trustee in the old days. The flags of the Houses no longer adopt their previous logos but simply a coloured flag with the name of the house spelled across the flag. Today, only 4 house names remain: Lim Boon Keng, Chan Sze Jin, Lee Cheng Yan and Chen Su Lan. [ Dabbs, "GESS House Names", p. 23. ]

As part of its co-curricular activities for students, GESS has six uniformed groups, five sport teams and ten special interest groups in its offerings to date.


*GESS has been officially recognised by MOE as a niche school for uniformed groups when four of its uniformed groups namely NCC, Scouts, NPCC and SJAB received or co-won the Sustained Achievement Awards (2000-2005).cite web | url = | title = Other Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*National Youth Achievement Award: BRONZE — 45, SILVER — 2.
*GESS National Police Cadet Corps won SILVER or GOLD award consistently for Unit Overall Proficiency Award since 2000. [cite web | url = | title = National Police Cadet Corps Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*GESS Dragon Scouts won the Frank Cooper Sands Award since 1997 and the Gold Award since 2003. [cite web | url = | title = Dragon Scouts Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*GESS National Cadet Corps was the only school to stay within the top 5 position since 1985. [cite web | url = | title = National Cadet Corps Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*GESS St John's Ambulance Brigade clinched GOLD in 2004 and 2005 CCA Award. Overall CHAMPIONS for 2004 and 2006 footdrill competition. [cite web | url = | title = St. John Ambulance Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*GESS Girls’ Brigade 71st company won SILVER for The Girls’ Brigade Singapore Company Award in 2004 and 2005. [cite web | url = | title = Girls' Brigade Achievements | accessdate = 2008-10-09 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]


*Ngeow Zi Jie, Campus Superstar 2 (2007) finalist.

Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association

Headed officially by Prof Kiang Ai Kim in 1958 after some old boys had expressed a desire to form such an association to keep in touch wth the school and with one another earlier. [ Dabbs, "GESS Old Students' Association 1958", p. 148. ] Since then, GESSOSA has continuously organise activities to strengthen the bond of old students to their alma mater. During its long history, it has managed to organise some highly successful past functions like Career Forums, Students' Mentoring Scheme, April Ball to raise funds for the association's scholarship and charity schemes.

One of the regular events is the Annual Dinner, is held annually to foster old ties not just for the alumni but also include teachers past and present, members of the Gan's Association to be updated with the latest happenings in and around the school. GESSOSA also co-organises the school's Anniversary Dinners which have been held every 5 years (except 1990). Notable alumnus were usually invited to attend as Special Guest to grace the event. GESSOSA has a dedicated room that is nestled in the school CCA Block that continue to serve as a melting pot for both past and current students to this day. [ GESSOSA, "OSA today", pp. 222—234. ]

GESSOSA Presidents

As of 2008, the Presidents of GESSOSA were: [GESSOSA, "Presidents of GESSOSA", p. 236. ]

#1958—1959, Prof Kiang Ai Kim
#1960, Mr Tan Wee Kian
#1961—1964, Mr Chu Tee Seng
#1965, Dr Lai Chan See
#1966, Mr Anwarul Haque
#1967, Mr Woo Kok Chew, Raymond
#1968, Dr Khor Tong Hong
#1969, Mr Chew Kwan Weng
#1970—1990, Dr Chan Yew Foon
#1991—1992, Mr Yap Eng Thong, Michael
#1993—1996, Mr Ho Wah On
#1997—1998, Mr Tan Teow Hock, Walter
#1999—2001, Dr Si-Hoe Kok Soon
#2002—2006, Mr Shee Ping Fatt, Alfred
#2007—present, Mr Teo Kim Ching

Notable alumni

*Dr. S. Vasoo, Member of Parliament for Tanjong Pagar GRC.
*Dr. Yeo Ning Hong, former Minister of Communications and Information.
*Chua Kim Yeow, former Accountant General and Presidential Candidate.
*Emeritus Professor Kiang Ai Kim, retired senior Professor of Chemistry, National University of Singapore.
*Khoo Kay Chai, former Principal of Singapore Polytechnic.
*Koh Poh Tiong, CEO of Asia Pacific Breweries. [GESSOSA, "120th Anniversary Dinner - Special Guest", pp. 223—237.]
*Leon Jay Williams, a Eurasian actor and singer based in Taiwan. [cite news | title = Williams on song; His compilation makes it into Taiwan's top 10 | date = 5 March 2005 | publisher = Today]
*R. Palakrishnan (d.2003), former Senior Counsel, ex-President of the Law Society of Singapore (3 terms) [cite web | url = | title = GESS Lost Another Remarkable Son | accessdate = 2007-07-18 | publisher = Gan Eng Seng School ]
*Chan Chon Hoe (d.2003), oldest Scout and Gessian at 94 and the last surviving witness of the aftermath of the 1915 Singapore Mutiny. [cite news | last = Rajagopalan | first = Manasi | title = Man, 91, scarred by sepoy execution | date = 13 April 2000 | publisher = The Straits Times]
*Borhan Abu Samah (d.1999), former national footballer.

ee also

*Gan Eng Seng
*Gan Eng Seng School Founding Site
*Ministry of Education, Singapore




*cite book | last = Dabbs | first = Donald M. | title = The History of Gan Eng Seng School | publisher = Singapore: Double-Six Press | date = 1994
*cite book | last = Gan Eng Seng School Old Students' Association [GESSOSA] | title = The Pictorial History of Gan Eng Seng School | publisher = Singapore: Stamford Press | date = 2006 | isbn = 981-05-5351-X

External links

* [
* [ Gan Eng Seng School: Awards and Achievements (2005-present)]
* [ 2002 Official Opening Speech by RAdm Teo Chee Hean at Henderson Road Campus]
* [ GESS Dragon Scout Group]

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