Treasure the Past
Shaky but Courageous Beginnings (1899-1939)
1 July 1899. SCGS opened on Hill Street, with seven Straits Chinese girls.
It was the result of the perseverance, courageous spirit and visionary leadership of the pioneers, chief among them Sir Song Ong Siang and Dr Lim Boon Keng. The founding of the School was made possible by Mr Khoo Seok Wan’s generous donation of $3,000, which was half the amount needed to commence operations.
The school survived the initial shaky years and began to attract more students. Conditions became cramped and the government stepped in to offer another piece of land on the corner of Hill Street and Armenian Street (where the Fire Station now stands).
By 1918, the school had its 5th principal in seven years. Enrolment continued to grow. Then the government dropped a bombshell, saying it wanted its land back by 1924.
No. 37 Emerald Hill was chosen as the new home. It cost $60,000 – a princely sum in those days! But SCGS finally had its very own purpose-built school – a striking two-storey block with 12 classrooms, an assembly hall, a staff room and principal’s office.
The SCGS identity started to take shape. A new school crest. A new uniform of white samfoo top and first black, then blue trousers. A new team system, with the school carved out into Red, Blue, Yellow and Green Houses, each with a house captain. A new Games Afternoon. A new addition of Cookery to the syllabus. A new formation of a Guide Company.
So many firsts! Things were really looking up!
The year 1936 saw another milestone, with SCGS becoming a “self-contained educational unit” with Junior and Senior Cambridge classes. The decade ended with yet another first in 1939 – Mrs Tan Swee Khin was appointed temporary acting Headmistress, the first time SCGS had a non-European in charge in any capacity.
Traumatic but Eventful Growing Years (1940-1969)
The Japanese invasion of Malaya and Singapore ushered in the darkest and most traumatic days of the school’s history. Everything came to a standstill.
But with the Japanese surrender to the British in 1946, SCGS wobbled to its feet and slowly but surely regained its footing.
The door was opened to girls of all races. Parents began to clamour to send their girls to the school. SCGS had 700 girls by 1950.
Mrs Jessie Geake retired as Principal in 1951. In stepped Mrs Tan Swee Khin as the first Asian principal of SCGS. She appointed Miss Tan Sock Kern Principal of the Afternoon School.
The numbers kept rising. SCGS had almost 900 girls by 1952
In 1956, Miss Tan Sock Kern succeeded Mrs Tan Swee Khin as Principal. Forthright and fearless, she forged a formidable way forward for SCGS.
The new school block called the Song Ong Siang Block was completed.
The years rolled by eventfully. The girls continued to do well. In 1961, SCGS presented the School Certificate to 101 girls.
With the changing times, there arose a changing of the guard. Some teachers retired, making way for new blood, including second language teachers for Malay and Mandarin.
The decade ended with SCGS celebrating our 70th birthday in 1969.
Challenging but Ground-Breaking Years (1970-2005)
The School Certificate exam was done away with. In 1971, girls sat for the first Singapore-Cambridge General Certificate of Education or GCE ‘O’ Levels. Everyone passed, giving SCGS a 100% record.
Dance came into the fore, with new teacher Mrs Jean Tan and veteran teacher Miss Olive Tan leading the way. It was well on its way to becoming an SCGS institution.
SCGS girls achieved sporting glory, especially in swimming and athletics.
In 1976, Belita Ong won the President’s Scholarship, followed by Lim Hoon Geok the next year.
Ms Tan Sock Kern retired in 1978, passing the baton on to Miss Rosalind Heng.
Then came a succession of changes in the educational system, including streaming, ranking and the advent of a new breed of independent schools. In 1989, SCGS celebrated our 90th birthday and also became an independent school, with more latitude to expand the curriculum.
Parents and the alumni began to play a more pivotal role, generously giving their time and effort to help out in the school.
After 70 long and eventful years at Emerald Hill, SCGS made the move to Dunearn Road on 4 July 1994.
In 1997, the old school at Emerald Hill was declared a significant historical site by the National Heritage Board. It was a sweet ending to the tale of the Grand Old Lady, who had served SCGS so well for seven decades.
In 1999, SCGS marked our centenary. One hundred years of tumultuous and illustrious history had flown by!
On the academic and sporting front, the momentum carried on unabated. SCGS achieved high rankings for GCE ‘O’ Level results and excellence in the sporting arena. The burning desire to excel and the proud tradition of higher, stronger and fitter continued to be upheld.
Embrace the Future
2006 and Beyond: Towards a Global Future
With pride, passion and purpose, SCGS embraces the new era of preparing our girls to be world-ready for a global future.
Mrs Low Ay Nar took over as Principal on 1 January 2007. A succession of new programmes was introduced and new skills and competencies nurtured.
The Understanding by Design (UbD) design tool for curriculum was implemented. This serves to guide teachers in designing and delivering learner-centred lessons that maximise opportunities for knowledge creation.
Language Arts has been offered to Lower Secondary students, while the Enhanced Word Recognition Programme for mastery of the Chinese language was introduced to Lower Primary students.
Accolades continued to come our way. SCGS received the Best Practice Awards (Teaching & Learning and Staff Well-being), and Singapore Quality Class and People Developer Standard Award in 2007. In the spirit of continual reflection and improvement, we continue to strive to bring the best to our students. Our efforts were again confirmed when we were awarded the School Excellence Award (SEA) in 2011, which recognises schools for their excellence in both education processes and outcomes. It is the highest and most prestigious award in the Ministry of Education Masterplan of Awards framework. Our Robotics Team was crowned World Champion at the First Lego League World Festival in the USA, while the Dance Group and Choir attained top awards at international competitions.
Some notable firsts have been notched. The SC Model UN Conference and Open Little Eyes Symposium were launched. The school also organised the inaugural National Young Women Leaders’ Day, with Singapore’s first female Minister Mrs Lim Hwee Hua as guest of honour. The SCGS Curriculum Series was initiated for teachers from local and overseas schools. Recognised for our good work in the teaching of the Humanities and our outreach to teachers in Humanities, SCGS is the first school in Singapore to be conferred the Centre of Excellence for the Humanities in 2013. Through this platform, the school has organised Humanities Symposiums for teachers and students in Singapore, providing a platform for practitioners and learners to come together to celebrate the study of the Humanities and to build a community of sharing to energise one another to explore and chart new grounds for Humanities education.
To allow our students to pursue their passion at a higher level, several programmes were introduced. The SC Young Scholar Academy for Mathematics and Physics was launched in 2009 to cater to students who demonstrate extraordinary mathematical ability and a strong interest in these subjects. We also became one of three schools to offer Media Studies as a GCE O-Level Examination Subject, from 2010.
Service to community has been a cornerstone of our all-round education. The school launched the Lead Youths in Research & Inquiry into Community & Society (LYRICS) and Young Docent Programmes to increase students’ awareness of community needs. Similarly, the Touchstone Programme and ANGELS InSIGHT Project were initiated – books by students were published, including one in Braille to raise awareness of needs of the visually challenged.
Much effort has gone into growing our international stature, with more and more overseas scholars in our midst. Our learning environment is enriched by the diversity. We appreciate this diversity and encourage the constructive dialogue and interaction from having a base that reflects our international stature, especially in today’s globalised world.
We channel our resources and creativity into developing in our girls a genuine international outlook for the 21st century. They are groomed and equipped to seize myriad opportunities and prepared for life as global citizens. From overseas field trips and study visits, to developing high calibre curriculum leaders among our staff, and nurturing collaborations with top schools in countries such as Australia, China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam, we add depth and value to the education of our students.
The holistic approach in education continues to be pursued without compromise. Our core programmes cover diverse areas such as Talent, Living and Lifestyle, Character and Leadership Excellence, and Internationalisation, for which we were accorded the Best Practice Award for Student All-Round Development in 2011.
In 2009, SCGS celebrated our 110th anniversary with a grand dinner, launch of the Heritage Centre and a Commemorative Recipe Book, Spice is Life.
From 2013, the School offered both the Integrated Programme (IP) and GCE O-Level Programme. The Integrated Programme is offered in partnership with CHIJ St Nicholas Girls’ School, Catholic High School and Eunoia Junior College (EJC). The Bi-Cultural Programme has been offered to the Sec 3 IP students since 2016 while EJC offers the Humanities Programme and Music Elective Programme. Regardless of the programme the students are in, the unique SCGS Experience stretches them and provides avenues for them to scale their personal heights of excellence.
In 2016, Mrs Eugenia Lim took over the helm of leadership from Mrs Low Ay Nar to continue to steer the school to develop capable women of character and relevance.
2019 was a milestone year in the school’s journey as we celebrated 120 years of nurturing kim geks. The celebration theme “A Tapestry of Jade & Gold: SCGS Celebrates 120”, galvanised the school family to continue to give back to the community through 120 ways of giving back.
We celebrated our Peranakan heritage with the opening of the refreshed Heritage Centre. We also reaffirmed our school values with the publication “Nearer the Sky: Pieces of Jade & Gold II”. A companion to the centenary volume, the book features stories of around 50 kim geks and SCGS educators, on how they live their lives anchored on our school values of Sincerity, Courage, Generosity and Service.
Under the steering leadership of the School Board, the school embarked on a large-scale School Building Project to rebuild our beloved school to provide a user-centred school environment and to upgrade our learning spaces to support a future-oriented curricular for our kim geks. The process was long and tiring but with the unstinting support and indefatigable efforts of our Board Members, Alumni, parents, school partners, and other stakeholders working alongside the school, we have in 2020 successfully completed this 13-year long journey. Distinctive hallmarks of this project are the Indoor Sports Hall and Creative Arts Hub where our girls can explore their talents, expand their horizons and to experience a truly unique SCGS education as well as the increase and expansion of classrooms in Mrs Lee Choon Guan block which strengthen the multi-disciplinary instructional process and contribute to the holistic development of our girls.