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School History

DHS 55th Anniversary

A message from the Principal
In celebration of our school’s 55th anniversary and the opening of our new campus in 2011, the Humanities Department has put together a booklet titled ‘The Dunman High Story’ which traces our school history from 14 October 1956 to the present.

The Dunman High Story contains interesting anecdotal accounts of both staff and students which we interviewed. Several of the stories were taken from The Straits Times and Nanyang Siang Pau, oral transcripts from the National Archives of Singapore and the National Library and translations of Chinese articles of the school’s publications in the 1960s and 1970s.  These materials have given us a better insight and at the same time highlighted the key milestones events of Dunman High School.

We also seek to present the school’s unique history through multiple lenses and cover the little known facts about this educational institution which played an integral part in churning out impressive scholars and students even before the birth of independent Singapore.

For senior teachers who have taught in this school for many years, it is hoped that The Dunman High Story brings back fond memories of a place that you have called home. For newer staff, the story will help you better understand the rich and long tradition of this SAP school and its long term mission and vision.

Dr Foo Suan Fong
Principal (2009 – 2016)
Dunman High School

THE DUNMAN HIGH STORY
DUNMAN
Dunman High, a name
Unadorned, yet thought of fondly by the
Numerous who studied here, where
Many’s early memories are adhered.
A place where the talents of many are
Nurtured.

How many years has she stood, unwavering,
In stormy weather, in days bright as spring!
Growing, standing strong.

Silently she toils,
Calm in the breeze,
High above the trees,
Overcoming all difficulties,
Offering knowledge to all who will,
Loving and serving, education to fulfill.

Dunman High School,
A name to be spoken of with reverence true!

Lin Yunqi
1986 Class 4A

Chapter 01: Born in the Troubled Fifties: 14 Oct 1956

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‘SWEE HAR’S FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL’

1956 was a tumultuous year. Singapore was caught in the maelstrom of agitation for independence from the British colonial ruler, communist-instigated labour unrest and the frustrations of discrimination expressed by Chinese-stream students who went on strikes and riots during the 1950s.

That year, October was an unusually hot and humid month. It was the first day of school for a 14-year old girl, Lee Swee Har. She was taking her maiden ride to school in her father’s trishaw. As the wheels of the trishaw rambled along the bumpy road, Swee Nar noticed that the usually busy streets were less congested but the police presence had visibly increased. The still, dense air was punctuated occasionally by sounds of police radio patrol cars cruising by. Swee Har heard her father muttered under his breath, ‘Damn those troublemakers’. While waiting for a police car to move ahead, Mr Lee fanned picked up an old copy of The Nanyang Siang Pau lying next to Swee Har and fanned himself frantically. Swee Har knew full well that her father was cursing the students from the Chinese Middle Schools. “These students are merely pawns in the political battle. The riots must be the work of communists!” he exclaimed angrily.

Beads of perspiration rolled down the faces of father and daughter. Mountbatten Road, unshaded under the broiling sun was almost unbearable to pass through. Wet strands of hair covered Swee Har’s forehead and she tried to smoothen them back. The trishaw came to a halt outside a gate. It bore the name – Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School. Swee Har noted that this new school building was smaller than the other secondary schools. Smell of fresh paint wafted through the hallways which were rather narrow. Swee Har frowned. Wrapping his arm around Swee Har’s shoulder, her father assured her that the newly-completed Mountbatten Road school building was a temporary campus that had originally been slated for a primary school. Mr Lee said, “You’ll soon have a bigger school.”

Moving to secondary school may be unsettling for some but not for Swee Har. Like 400 other students from the Chinese High School and Chung Cheng High School that were shut down by Lim Yew Hock, Singapore’s 2nd Chief Minister, Swee Har was more concerned about continuing her studies. The government opened emergency schools for these affected students. Swee Har’s new school was one such school. Mr Sun Hwan Sin (1956-1958) was appointed the first principal of Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School.

Notably, Swee Har did not enroll herself at Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School. The school was born out of political necessity on 14 October 1956. The pioneer batch of students consisted of about 100 boys with a teaching staff of about 10.

In an interview with the National Archives of Singapore four decades later, Swee Har recalled:

At that time there were leftists in Singapore. My father was very worried. He didn’t allow me to study in the established Chinese Middle Schools because Chung Cheng High School and the Chinese High School were leftist in orientation. He forbade me from enrolling in these schools. There was one Chinese middle school that he had approved but it was too far from my house. I decided to continue my studies at Dunman High Chinese Middle School. The school building was not completed yet. The school was temporarily housed in Kallang. The school was then called Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School. The school building was originally built as a primary school. A year later in 1957 our new school building was completed.”

 那个时候学校有左派分子,我爸爸很担心,他不让我去中正中学和南侨中学读书。于是,我报读了德明政府华文中学,不过,当时的校舍还没建好,临时的校舍在加冷西(目前是一所聋哑学校)。一年之后,新校舍完工,我们就搬过来了。

Swee Har could still recall vividly the lessons and teachers at Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School. She reminisced:

We studied History, English Language, Geography and had singing classes. The school also offered Art lessons too. My deepest impression was my Chinese Language teacher because he’s from Beijing. He spoke with strong Beijing accent. He’s a nice teacher. His name was Mr Lee Zhong Qian. Mr Liu Kang was my Art teacher at Secondary Two. The second Principal of Dunman High School Mr Chen Jen Hao was an artist too. Mr Chen taught me Art but I only studied for a year. I left Dunman High at Secondary Two.”

我们有上历史、地理课,还有唱歌和手工课。给我印象最深刻的是一位国文老师,名叫李忠谦。他从北京过来,满口京片子的,令我难以忘怀。我读中学时家境不好,爸爸刚失业,怎么能供家里这么多人读书呢?

刚刚过世的刘抗先生,在中二的时候教过我美术,陈人浩校长是一位画家,他也是我的老师。可惜我在德明读了一年就停学了.

Swee Har discontinued her studies at Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School once she completed Secondary Two.

“My father was unemployed at that time. I came from a big family. It’s difficult for my dad to support all my siblings. My mother worked in a rubber factory – Firestone Factory. My primary school classmates had all been promoted to secondary schools. Even though they came from poor families like myself, they helped to raise funds for me to enroll in a secondary school. They helped to purchase my textbooks. When Mr Lee Zhong Qian got to know about my financial difficulties, he approached me. I told him that I didn’t wish to be a burden to my family and classmates. He comforted me, “Don’t worry about the school fees. Your classmates will continue to buy the textbooks for you and I’ll pay your school fees. Don’t worry!”

“With the financial support, it was no problem for me to complete my education. However, there were just too many chores to complete at home. I really didn’t have time to revise my school work. I had to manage house work every day and take care of my younger brother and sister. I had to take care of 5 younger siblings. I also did not realise the importance of education then. It was tough on me to cope with school work and household chores. I remembered my mother saying, “You better think carefully. I’m not forcing you to quit studies.” I’ve assured her that I have already considered my decision. Also, I’m feeling tired because of my poor performance in either Mathematics or English Language. The subjects are too tough. Forget it!”

Chapter 02: From Mountbatten Road to Dunman Road: 14 June 1958

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‘NEW NAME. NEW BUILDING. NEW BEGINNING’

Mr Sun Hwan Sin woke up particularly early on Saturday 14 June 1958. It was not a typical school day. As the first principal of Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School for one year and 9 months, Mr Sun had been looking forward to this day – inauguration ceremony of the 3-storey new school building. After bidding farewell to his wife and daughter, Mr Sun left in a jubilant mood for school.

Mr Sun’s close to 2-year old dream was falling into place on Dunman Road standing right in a nostalgic precinct embedded with a rich heritage in the eastern part of Singapore.In December 1957, Kallang West Government Chinese Middle School moved into its new location. It was given a new name: Dunman Government Chinese Middle School. The name of the road was adopted as the school’s name because it embodied the meaning of Confucian teaching. The first line of the famous Confucian classic “Da Xue” states that the main objective of education is to inculcate moral values.

At the new school campus, a celebratory mood filled the air. Teachers and students gathered in the spacious new school hall eagerly awaiting the arrival of the guest-of-honour – Mr Chew Swee Kee, the then Minister for Education.

The Straits Times reported that Mr Chew got his schools mixed up and delayed the official opening of the new school for 40 minutes. Mr Chew set out for the wrong school. He went to Dunearn Road Scgool in Bukit Timah, about eight miles away.

Rushing back to the new Dunman Road school which he was to open, he disappointed school scouts who were, to form a guard of honour for him. In his hurry, he was unable to inspect them.

Accompanied by the principal Mr Sun he went straight to a classroom where Education Ministry officials and school staff had been waiting.

The inauguration ceremony was featured in the Chinese language newspaper, The Nanyang Siang Pau.

On 15 June 1958, The Nanyang Siang Pau quoted the Education Minister Mr Chew Swee Kee as saying, “The completion of Dunman Government Chinese Middle School building is a clear reflection of the government’s effort in promoting Chinese education in Singapore. It also attests the success of collaborative effort. I urge both teachers and students to devote their energy to teach well and study hard respectively.”

The Chinese daily also gave much coverage to the Principal’s speech: “As principal, I shoulder a heavy burden of responsibility. The government hopes to see our students becoming future civil servants. The society expects the school to nurture students to be responsible and useful citizens.”

However, Mr Sun passed away shortly in that year before he could witness the progress of the school. Mr Sun was succeeded by the second principal Mr Chen Jen Hao (1958-1969).

Chapter 03: Dunman High in the Sixties – A Boy’s Nostalgias

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‘THE AGE OF INNOCENCE: BASKETBALL, PASSION & CASUARINAS’

The year was 1961. I had mixed feelings – one of shyness, apprehension, curiosity when I reported to Dunman High School.

Why wasn’t my name on the notice board? My eyes were nervously scanning the Secondary 1 name list. Seized with fear, I did not have the faintest idea of making enquiries about it with the general office. Fortunately with the help of a friend, I finally located my class.

I couldn’t remember the reasons for forging strong friendship with my secondary one classmates. Maybe it was basketball. During recess, we would never fail to pick up a basketball under the sofa in the General Office. Ignoring the searing afternoon heat, we would dash towards the basketball post on the field. Unlike current concrete basketball courts, our court was covered with sand. The field was uneven and anyone playing on it could easily trip and fall. This however did not deter us from having a whale of a time with our basketball game. Often, we would return to class tanned and reeking with sweat.

Time flew by. In 1965, I was promoted to the first year of pre-university education. The education system of Chinese secondary schools was modified. Previously, secondary education comprised 3 years of Junior Middle and 3 years for Senior Middle. From 1961 onwards, it was changed to 4 years for secondary education and 2 years for pre-university education.

In 1966 we witnessed the completion of a new four-storey building by the Ministry of Education – Building of Collective Wisdom [集思楼] which added sixteen new classrooms to the school. Shortly a two-storey building named ‘格致馆’ which consisted of 4 science laboratories, 3 Home Economics rooms and 1 AVA room. The student population increased to about 2,000 and the number of teaching staff increased to about 100.

My classroom was situated on the fourth level of the Building of Collective Wisdom. During recess my classmates and I would be resting at the railings along the corridor. We saw the decreasing size of the school field. The vast expanse of the blue sky in the bright sunlight remained etched in my mind. This sight was captured in those times when we had our jog on the newly paved concrete basketball field.

2 years of pre-university school days were the busiest period.

My pre-university one Chinese Language teacher was 苏启容师. 潘先钦师was my pre-university two History teacher. He had a good rapport with his students and understood us very well. The mild 吴辉榜师taught Literature and pre-u one History of China. I  remembered using at least 5 to 6 sheets of writing paper for his tests. My English Language teacher was an experienced teacher called 唐嘉和师 who was always beaming with smiles. We enjoyed attending the Geography lessons of the pre-u one teacher 万正纯师. I would use 4 to 5 note books for Geography lessons every year. The Geog teacher taught us how to draw to help us better understand the complex human geographical concepts. My pre-u 2 Geography was 苏月华师. Even though she had a small build, her voice was loud and clear. She gave us a fright during the first lesson. Her explanation was clear and her teaching style flexible. She would urge us to check maps regularly and draw. She was the reason why several of my classmates made the decision to apply to read Geography for our undergraduate studies. My pre-u two Chinese Language teacher was 殷月瑾主任 who expected us to prepare for her lessons in advance. She would then diligently cover the lessons which further helped to deepen our understanding in the subject. When she graded our compositions, she would circle phrases and statements that were well-constructed. We never failed to count the number of circles whenever our essays were returned to us.

Casuarinas trees are connected symbolically to our school. In front of 正心楼, and the Home Economics block, there were about ten casuarinas planted neatly in two rows. The Casuarinas served as a source of inspiration for us Dunman High students. After every rainfall, you would be able to spot crystal clear raindrops adorning the tip of every blade of leaf. The myriad of droplets on the branches and leaves shimmering in the sunlight ignited our imagination and creativity.

Chapter 04: Doctor who mistook piece of fat for Appendix: May 1978

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‘INQUIRY INTO THE DEATH OF MR CHEN JEN HAO’

The second principal of Dunman High School, Mr Chen Jen Hao, died after an appendix operation. He underwent an appendicitis operation but never had his appendix removed, according to a coroner’s court.

The reason was that the operating surgeon had mistaken a piece of fat for Mr Chen’s appendix. The patient died two days after the operation.

The surgeon, Dr Lo Chiung Min, a Taiwanese, who was under contract with the Singapore Government, has since resigned and returned to Taiwan. He was not present at the inquiry into Mr Chen’s death.

Two days after the operation, Mr Chen complained of stomach pains to the nurse who called for the senior registrar of the surgical department, Dr. W.R. Chen.

Dr Chen testified that he and nurse found Mr Chen on the floor of his ward lying in a pool of vomited material.

“There was no pulse or heart beat. His pupils were dilated and he was not breathing,” Dr Chen said.

Together they tried resuscitating him and also applied massage on him but he did not respond. After half and hour, Dr Chen stopped their attempts and pronounced Mr Chen dead.

The pathologist, Dr Wee Keng Poh, who performed an autopsy on Mr Chen said: “I found his appendiz, which was perforated, still intact in its normal position.”

He said the cause of death was septic poisoning due to the perforated appendix.

Dr Wee also said, a few of Mr Chen’s ribs were cracked, probably due to the muscular massage that was applied to regain his consciousness.

Chapter 05: Two Neighbouring Schools called Dunman 1979

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‘A TALE OF TWO DUNMANS: A CASE OF ‘CHANG AND ENG’?’

Yet another ordinary day, so it seemed. Mr Lim Nai Yan stepped out of his car at Kay Siang Road. A 12-storey main block interspersed with smaller buildings greeted him. This 10-hectare ground was a familiar sight for principals, a place which almost became the second office for them – the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Mr Lim was here on a mission with a key agenda. An agenda that was somewhat unprecedented in the history of education in Singapore.

Mr Lim was the fourth and longest serving principal of Dunman High School (1978-1993). The tall and dignified man, sauntered into the conference room with an air of confidence. He shook hands with his all familiar counterpart, the principal of Dunman Secondary School – our neighbour since 1964 when the school was founded.

Dunman High School and Dunman Secondary School were like the Siamese twins – Chang and Eng. In fact, both schools had another younger sibling – Dunman Primary School which was taken over by Dunman High School in 1978. Like Chang and Eng whose bodies were joined, the two ‘Dunmans’ shared a large field for many years.

The meeting was convened to convince one school of its need to change its name because the two ‘Dunmans’ had caused much confusion over the years. MOE wanted a solution to put an end to that.

Mr Lim Nai Yan, during an interview by the National Archives of Singapore recounted the unforgettable meeting that took place in the 1980s:

“One day, MOE summoned the two school principals to a meeting to discuss the possibility of changing the name of one school. This meeting was a failure from the onset because none was prepared and willing to change. From both schools’ perspectives, it’s understandable why the schools refused to relent. The meeting hence did not achieve what it had set out to do.”

教育部也了解这个问题,曾经召集两所学校的校长来商讨。站在学校的立场,双方都不愿意换校名,这个问题无法达致协议。结果,校名保留下来,后来这个问题不了了之。

Mr Lim also narrated in the interview:

Dunman High was a Chinese medium school in the past. It was then called Dunman Government Chinese Middle School. We had a neighbour which was called Dunman Integrated Secondary School.

Since the English Language became the first language in schools, there was a confusion over the names of these two secondary schools. Firstly, Dunman Integrated Secondary School decided to remove the word ‘Integrated’ to become Dunman Secondary School. Secondly, Dunman Government Chinese Middle School was no longer a Chinese medium school. We were told to remove the words ‘Chinese Middle’ from the official school name. However with the removal of these words, the names of these two secondary schools would become identical in Chinese. So I decided to retain the two Chinese characters which stand for ‘Government’. This was to distinguish one from the other in Mandarin.

When our school was selected as one of the nine Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools in 1979, the school was renamed ‘Dunman High School’. This would be different from Dunman Secondary School. However there is confusion till now. I’ve heard of so many students applying to the wrong schools every year. Even members of the public were confused.

I remembered vividly that there was one year in which our neighbour Dunman Secondary School organised a Wushu Exhibition. There were members of public who mistakenly attended another session held at Dunman High School. When the Principal of Dunman High School addressed the participants, several guests realised that they were in the wrong school. They started asking, “Is he the new school principal? I’ve never met him before!” Even after Dunman Secondary School had relocated to Tampines, there are still occasional confusions because the school is still called Dunman Secondary School.”

以前德明是一所纯华校,名为“德明政府华文中学”。它的后面有一所混合学校,校名为“德明混合中学”。

自从学校的源流改制之后,这两所学校的名称就产生混淆。第一,他们把“混合”去掉,称为“德明中学”,我们因不再是华校,如果把“华文”两字去掉,那么两所学校的名字就会一样。所以我在德明时,立即保留“政府”两字(“德明政府中学”),另外一间就叫做“德明中学”。

后来德明变成一所特选学校(SAP School)。假如英文名称为Dunman Secondary School,就会和另一所学校的英文名一样,所以我就把“德明政府中学”叫做Dunman High School。不过,到现在还是有人搞乱,每一年都有人报错学校,好些公众人士也会搞错。

记得有一次德明中学举办武术展览会,有人以为是我这一间。参加开幕典礼时,发现讲话的校长不同了。其实那人不晓得两所学校不一样,把名字搞乱了。现在,那间学校已经搬到淡滨尼去了,可是还叫做德明中学。

Chapter 06: Expat Teacher wants to give part of his pay to Charity: 11 April 1981

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EXPAT TEACHER WANTS TO GIVE PART OF HIS PAY TO CHARITY: 11 APRIL 1981
(Source: June Tan, The Straits Times, p. 10.)
‘A SELFLESS ACT’

A British expatriate teacher at Dunman High School will donate a chunk of his salary to charity because he wants to get the same pay as his Singaporean colleagues.

Behind this decision by Mr John Walter Eynon, 45, is an extraordinary story of him almost leaving Singapore because of his higher pay.  But at the airport, he changed his mind and returned to teach again at the Dunman High School, where he got a warm welcome.  The happy ending was brought about by the Education Ministry, which suggested that he cut his own pay by donating part of it to a charity.

And that’s what Mr Eynon will do.

Mr Eynon joined Dunman High after working in Hong Kong “on-and-off” for 20 years.  He had expected the standard of English here to be about the same as in Hong Kong, but soon found out otherwise.  He was impressed not only by his students, but also by Singapore’s taxi drivers and shop assistants.  It was not long after he started at Dunman High in July that Mr Eynon began feeling that his services as an English language and literature teacher were really not needed.

“I felt I wasn’t doing anything that your own teachers couldn’t do just as well,” he said.
Besides a basic salary of $2,225, Mr Eynon also received a $700 housing allowance and a personal allowance of $1,300 – more than $4,000 a month.  This was comparable with what he previously earned in Hong Kong.

Feeling that local teachers were not being paid enough, Mr Eynon resigned in February, and decided he would return to Hong Kong.

“It was not a matter of virtue or principle. It was just a personal thing,” he said.

He is not suggesting that other expatriates should do the same. As a bachelor, the cost of living is much easier for him to bear.  However, he had a change of heart at the very last minute, when he was at the airport.  He did not board his plane.

The next day he asked his principal, Mr Lim Nai Yan, if he would take him back. Mr Lim said he would.   But there was still the question of salary. At the Ministry of Education, Mr Eynon explained his feelings and asked to be allowed to return to work on a local teacher’s salary.  Not possible, replied the powers that be. They suggested, however, that if he felt so strongly about receiving a personal allowance, he could donate his monthly $1,300 to charity.

“That had never struck me before,” said Mr Eynon.  So from this month, his allowance does to charity – but he would not say which.  He feels he needs his housing allowance because he is having difficulty getting a house.  Dunman High principal, Mr Lim, described Mr Eynon as a hardworking and dedicated teacher.  He is the only expatriate in the Special Assistance Plan school.

A ministry official who knows Mr Eynon said he mixes well with his local colleagues and has adapted well to the Singapore way of life.  The official stressed that expatriate teachers are not overpaid, but Mr Eynon has adapted so well he even eats in hawker centres and so spends less than other expatriates.  Now that the excitement has died down, it’s back to work for Mr Eynon the English teacher. He’s $1,300 poorer but, apparently, happier.

Chapter 07: Shining Examples of the All-round Dunman High Scholars

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‘SCHOLASTIC EXCELLENCE: ALL THE PRESIDENT’S SCHOLARS’

Since 1976 Dunman High School has produced five President’s Scholars. The five Dunman High students who were picked as President’s Scholars fit well with the ideal of the scholarship. All achieved sterling academic results, possessed a keen interest in a variety of activities, knowledgeable, as well as demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities. Additionally, they were individuals with good character and personality.

The scholarship dates from Singapore’s colonial days when the best scholars were given Queen’s scholarships. The name of the award was changed to State Scholarships in 1959, then to the Yang di Pertuan Negara Scholarships in 1965 and one year later to the President’s Scholarships.

In 1976 Mr Poh Hean Lee who graduated in 1975 was awarded the President’s Scholarship. Three years later, Mr Cheng Shoong Tatt became Duman High’s second recipient. This was followed by Mr Sng Chern Wei, Mr He Ruijie and Miss Tan Bao Jia in 1990, 2004 and 2009 respectively. These Dunman High’s President Scholars have one thing in common – they made sure that a large part of their time was actively spent enjoying their secondary and pre-university life.

Cheng Shoong Tat (1979)
The following article titled ‘Student, Overseas Student. Relief Teacher’ was written by our second President’s Scholar Mr Cheng Shoong Tatt. It was published in the 1980 annual school magazine.

I’ve left Dunman High School for six years. Time really passed by so quickly.

I remembered my first day at Dunman High School in 1973. I was then an ignorant student. I attributed my present achievements to my four years in Dunman High School.

When I was still in Primary 6, my form teacher strongly encouraged me to enrol at Dunman High School. Dunman High was the top Chinese Middle School in Katong. Dunman High School had a conducive learning environment. The teachers were diligent in imparting knowledge to students. The school was well known for its administrative efficiency. All the above played a pivotal role in transforming Dunman High School into a successful learning institution. When I was in pre-university, a fellow classmate who was from a well known Chinese Middle secondary school lamented that the air-conditioned library at his secondary schools was not well-utilised by the students. This reminded me of Dunman High students who did not enjoy such good facilities but they were contented sitting at the sides of the drains revising their work. This really made my pre-university friend feel touched.

When I was studying at Dunman High School, the school had yet to be selected as one of the nine Special Assistance Plan (SAP) schools. Our school facilities definitely paled in comparison to the prestigious Chinese Middle Schools in Singapore. Despite the poorer facilities, it did not affect the learning climate. Even though Dunman High students studied at the sides of the drains without the air-conditioned comfort of the school library, our students were generally contented with what they possessed. Dunman High School in many ways had retained the strong Chinese cultural tradition. Our standards of English might not be as strong as compared with the mission schools, we were proud of this Chinese heritage. There were hardly any students who blindly followed the Western cultures and languages. In retrospect, there was certainly room for improvement in terms of our standards of English Language. However, we should feel proud that Dunman High School had done reasonably well in light of our status as one of the Chinese medium schools in Singapore.

After I graduated from Dunman High School at the end of Secondary Four, I did my pre-university education at Temasek Junior College. I was fortunate to earn a scholarship to further my studies at Cambridge University. I found the place very foreign and strange in my first year at Cambridge University. It was a time of self-exploration. Cambridge University was hailed as the haven of Mathematics learning. I’m very fortunate to be given the rare opportunity to read Mathematics there. The British were in general approachable and I befriended them easily. However, perhaps due to cultural differences, it’s hard to forge closer friendships. There were instances of clash of cultures but fortunately I did not lose my sense of identity because of the strong cultural influences I had.

I did relief teaching at Dunman High School this holiday break. It was really a rare opportunity. I was shocked by the news that our school name had changed. Also, at secondary one to three, the medium of instruction was entirely in English Language to keep up with the standards of English medium schools. It was however unfortunate that several of my former teachers such as Chinese language teacher 陈建绪师, 王业照师, 赵永延师; Mathematics teacher 郑振豪师,Science teacher 陈天福师, English Language teacher叶明发师 and several more had left Dunman High School。Since Dunman High became a SAP school, the facilities had undergone some improvements much to my envy. Our younger generation was indeed very fortunate.

I was in charge of Secondary Two Mathematics and Biology. This batch of students was living in an environment that places great emphasis on language acquisition. Not only was there an increase in the curriculum hours for languages, there were extra language lessons for them outside school hours. There were also some exchange programmes organised for them in English medium schools. Given more time, these students would definitely become effectively bilingual. Dunman High School had succeeded in nurturing fluent bilingual speakers.

In the last six years, Dunman High School had undergone drastic changes to the point that I even found the school a little strange. Perhaps this had signified a positive change.

 

Sng Chern Wei (1990)
Mr Sng Chern Wei, 19, from Victoria Junior College joins the ranks of 167 others who have become President Scholars since 1966.

Mr Sng’s parents run a butcher stall in Geylang East and many a time Mr Sng had to look after his younger sister and brother while they were away at the stall.

But that did not stop the Victoria Junior College student from keeping at his books.
“I used to study so hard that I had only about two hours of sleep each day for weeks during my secondary school days at Dunman High. But I learnt to be less hardworking and to spend more time on other activities as I grew older,” said Mr Sng, who is heading for Cambridge to study engineering.

While in college, he enjoyed playing games like volleyball and basketball. He has also been an active member of the St John Ambulance Brigade since 1984.

Mr Sng, who describes himself as a hardworking, quiet but friendly person, said that being in the Chinese Debating Society helped to bring him out of his shell and allowed him to gain confidence.
(The Straits Times, Saturday, 18 August 1990)

 

He Ruijie (2004)
When officer cadet He Ruijie found out he was awarded the prestigious Singapore Armed Forces Overseas Scholarship (SAFOS), one of the first people he called to share the good news with was his elder brother, He Ruimin, who had received the same scholarship four years ago.
The brothers, who are both also President’s Scholars, have always felt “duty-bound to serve the nation”.

“To be able to serve the nation is the highest honour, so it was only natural that we signed on with the SAF, to contribute something back to Singapore,” He Ruijie said.  In their father’s eyes, He Ruimin and He Ruijie could not be more different.

Ruimin is intellectual and reflective, while Ruijie is sociable and talkative, said Mr Ho Kee Chin.

Still, both his two children have done him proud: Ruijie is one of this year’s two President’s Scholars, while Ruimin was given the prize in 2000.

Ruijie, 18, who studied at Dunman High and Raffles Junior College (RJC), will head for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States to read aerospace engineering.

His interest in research was sparked in Secondary 3, when he worked on a robotic vehicle for six months in a mentorship programme under the Defence Science and Technology Agency.

He is not perturbed by comparisons with Ruimin, 23, who studied at Raffles Institution and RJC. Just a few weeks ago, Ruimin made the news when he became the first student at MIT to complete a PhD in economics in four years, on top of an electrical engineering degree.
Ruijie said his elder brother was a source of inspiration, not pressure. ‘He’s been supportive of everything I do,’ he added.

Their father, Mr Ho, 56, said: ‘From young, whenever one of them achieved something, we’d go celebrate with both of them equally. So they have a vested interest in each other and each wants the other to go as far as he can.’

Mr Ho is an electrical engineer while his wife, Madam Kwek Chay Tiang, 56, is a systems analyst. Both boys received no private tuition and the couple’s philosophy was to encourage them to stretch themselves.

‘Potential is not something you know in advance. You never know what your maximum potential is. As long as you keep on wanting to achieve a goal, your body and brain will grow to keep up with it,’ Mr Ho added.
(The Straits Times, Page 5, Saturday, 14 August 2004 & Ministry of Defence, Singapore)

 

Tan Bao Jia (2009)

Most President’s Scholars opt to go to the United States or to Britain to further their studies.

But 19-year-old Tan Bao Jia has chosen to absorb herself in Chinese culture, and will be going to Peking University in China to study Economics.

The former Dunman High student council president will be the first President’s Scholar to go to China – an emerging world superpower – where she hopes to bring back a better understanding of how the country operates.

This will put Singapore in better stead when doing business with China, she said.

President S R Nathan awarded the nation’s most prestigious undergraduate scholarship to Miss Tan.

Miss Tan’s road to China was not easy, considering that she had to struggle with Chinese Language and Literature lessons. She had taken up the subject for the A-levels, but never imagined that ‘it would be so hard to love it’.

‘And when you don’t love it, it’s hard to do well in it,’ she said.

However, she credits her teachers for making the subject so interesting that she scored an A for it.
(The Straits Times, Friday, 14 August 2009)

Chapter 08: Strengthen the Dunman High Family Ties

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‘THE (SCHOOL) TIE THAT BINDS’

Ye Weiqiang, Melyvn (Student, 1986)
1986 has indeed proved to be a memorable year for Dunman High. It marks its thirtieth birthday and hence, the cause for a grand celebration. The celebration kicked off this year with a lovely birthday present – the school tie.

We were first told about the tie in late January by our principal, Mr Lim Nai Yan, during assembly. The tie, which he held in his hands, was then presented for our viewing. Many squinted, leaned forward or stretched their necks just to catch a glimpse of the tie, which was soon to become part of our school uniform. Mr Lim then announced that it would be compulsory to put on the tie during assemblies and other special occasions with effect from February.

The students had mixed feelings about wearing the tie. “I’m simply thrilled and just can’t wait to put it on,” a boy from Secondary Two exclaimed. On the other hand, a number of Secondary Four students felt that the tie could have been introduced earlier as they would only have the chance of wearing it for only a year. In fact, the urge to wear the tie was so great among a number of students that a suggestion was made to wear the tie five days a week, that is, on all school days, instead of only on days when there were assemblies and celebrations. The suggestion was considered and very soon, it was announced that it would be all right, though not necessary, for students to wear their ties every day.

What exactly does this object, which caught the students’ fancy, look like? Measurig one hundred and fifty centimeters, it is made from rich Prussian blue cloth, emblazoned with stripes of red, two colours which have been identified with the school since its badge came into existence. Embroidered at the tapered end are a miniature replica of the school badge and the initials of the name of the school, done in brilliant white. Added to our uniform, the tie certainly has done a great job in making assemblies and celebrations look more solemn and meaningful.

To sum up, the tie of Dunman High marks a new chapter in the history of the school. It is an identification that enables its students to feel proud about belonging to the school.

Chapter 09: Dunmanians celebrate a Unique Friendship

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‘AN EXTRAORDINARY SCHOOL SERVANT: AN UNLIKELY FRIEND’ 

Mr Ho Ah Moey or affectionately called ‘Ah Bee’ or Ah Mei [阿美] by students is no ordinary school attendant. Ah Bee was a school servant who wore many hats – he’s a confidante, a chess player, a friend, and an instructor to many of our students.

Our fourth principal, Mr Lim Nai Yan, had fond memories of Ah Bee. This was what Mr Lim recounted in the interview with the National Archives of Singapore in the 1980s:

“There’s a school servant who had worked in Dunman High School for about thirty years. Dunman High students will still pay him a visit after they have long graduated. Many students will send him New Year cards every year. This school servant has cultivated a strong friendship with our students. He regularly played chess with them.

有一位校工,在德明工作了三十年。毕业的校友回校时都会去找他,过年时也会寄贺年卡给他。他和学生的关系很好,大家经常一起下棋。

Many students also remembered Ah Bee moonlighting as a driving instructor. In fact, several of them were taught how to drive by Ah Bee.

Several senior teachers have this to say about Mr Ho Ah Moey:

话说校工阿美

1963-69年,我在德明念书。由于曾当过几年的小班长,所以和校工阿美有一些“工作”上的联系。1992年我回母校执教,见到阿美如见到老朋友一般,非常亲切感人。阿美的记忆力超好,他会记得我们这些老校友,也会说当年某某人的小故事。

阿美的大半岁月是在德明度过的。以前校工很少,阿美可以说是“独揽大权”,风光一时。有人取笑说他是校长的助理、学校的副校长…  其实,若从实质上来说,这是没有错的。他管敲钟也管油印讲义、管校内的事也驾车出外办事,大大小小的工作真是杂而乱。

阿美做事很勤快,经常帮忙学生。当年没有人叫他Mr Ah Bee,学生一般上也没有人尊称他为阿美叔叔。但他并不计较,和大家的关系都很好。

六十年代的德明学生都会怀念他 —— 一个德明历史中值得记忆的人物。
Mdm Loo Chou Mui 

I remember Uncle Ah Bee as a very friendly and helpful member of the Dunmanian staff. As Bee Kee has mentioned, he can be counted on to get ready all the things we need for the half-yearly spring cleaning which includes the scrubbing of every single table and chair in each classroom. He’s also pretty knowledgeable about gardening and when I expressed interest in growing a particular plant (“shui mei”), he got a cutting for me and taught how to do it properly. That plant is still growing strong and blooming pretty well even after 2 decades!
Ms Tang Siew Boey

Ah Bee is a pleasant and easy-going person who helps to take care of the physical arrangements in school.  He can be called upon to replace spoilt furniture or move a cupboard to another room. During spring cleaning, he ensures there are enough pails, brooms and trash bags for pupils to clean up their classrooms. He also doubles up as a part-time driver.  When transport is urgently needed to send pupils for competitions, Ah Bee is willing to use his car to help out. He is also a very hardworking person.  After school duties, he works as a part-time driving instructor in the evenings.  Several teachers and their children have passed their driving tests under his good coaching. Needless to say, he also gives them a very special discount.  The name, “Ah Bee” pops up frequently for anything related to non-teaching duties.  He has been a great asset to the school.
Mrs Tan-Lim Bee Kee

After more than 30 years of contribution to Dunman High School, Ah Bee finally retired in the late 1980s.

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