They don’t build schools like they used to

18 06 2010

I just love old school buildings in Singapore. There are many built by the various missions which still survive in some form like the magnificent building that was my alma mater, now the Singapore Art Museum, and there are the many more that were built at various periods in  Singapore’s history, reflected in the architectural style (or absence of), each with a charm and character of its own. I particularly love the single storey schools, which I suppose were liked by both teachers and students: teachers as there would not be the need to trudge up and down the stairs with the heavy pile of books before and after each class, and students, as it allowed a quick dash to the expansive playing field that were usually found by the clusters of classrooms, or to the tuck shop. One such school was Anthony Road Girls’ School which my mother taught at in the 1960s. She did mention that this was her favourite school for the very reasons that I mention, and for the airy widely spaced classrooms housed in rows of single storey buildings spaced relatively widely apart, providing the classrooms with very generous ventilation.

Anthony Road Girls' School in the 1960s.

During her posting there, I had a few opportunities to accompany her, mostly on the Saturdays when classes were conducted (classes were conducted every other Saturday at one time in Singapore), when I would wait for her in the airy staff room while classes were going on. Walking around the school with her, I always caught the smell of exercise books that somehow always accompanied visits to the schools. What I remember the most was the wonderful field which ran along Clemenceau Avenue where sports days would be conducted.

The dressed up buildings that were once Anthony Road Girls' School.

It’s nice to see that the buildings are still there – although they have been disfigured somewhat for use by the Ascott Group, for what appears to be a training centre. It had previously housed the Chao Yang Special School for special needs pupils, and was before that, the temporary home for St. Margaret’s Primary School while the premises at Mount Sophia were being rebuilt soon after the Girls’ School closed its doors. It would however, really be nice to see it as it was, plain and unassuming, built as a functional and practical solution to solve a growing problem in post war Singapore.

The field and the cluster of single storey buildings gave the old school a certain charm.

The school was one of the first four “emergency” schools that were built in 1950, under the supplementary education scheme launched to provide schools to absorb the growing population of school going age children, who had had no schools to go to. Many had ended up working as juvenile hawkers which was creating a potential social problem and with the realisation of this, the then colonial government put forward the scheme which involved building “emergency” schools and also the training of more teachers to cope with the tens of thousands of school children that the schools were being built to house. The other of these first four schools were Monk’s Hill Boys’ School, and schools at Duchess Road and McNair Road. These days, schools are no longer what they used to be like, simple in form and in execution. It would be good to see some of the old schools such as this one at Anthony Road, kept as they were built to be, as a reminder of how it once was in Singapore.

Roof structures that have been added that overdress the old school buildings. It would be nice to see the buildings in their original form.




21 responses

4 08 2010
Seri Kustina

i was the last ones to graduate from this school. i am now overseas and it is good to still see the building still exists albeit with a different architecture. i hope to show my son my old school the next time we make a trip back to singapore.

the field used to look like a padi field when it rains. the principal had to call everyone telling them not to come to school as the water was rising.

it was quite an international school…as we had a number of foreigners living in the orchard area going to school here.

5 08 2010
The wondering wanderer

Thanks for sharing this Seri Kustina … it’s always nice to see things from our past still around … and it is certainly nice that you would be able to show your son the old school! 🙂

That area was pretty flood prone … and I guess floods were a common occurrence – as it was where I went to school in Thomson Road. It’s nice that you have that opportunity to interact with kids from other parts of the world! 🙂

19 01 2011
Parsan Kaur

Thanks for the lovely writeup and pics. I too love most of the older school buildings that I was fortunate to have enjoyed going to in the 60′ s and 70’s. I live overseas and in my trips toSpore , I have been somewhat disappointed to note the speed with which most older buildings have been replaced with nary a trace of their original flavours. Miss Tan Moi Lan was one of my teachers as well and unfortunately for me, I still remember her… not for the same reasons as Rashida. I attended ARGS fr 64-69 and loved going there. I still remember the grounds, friends and many teachers with great fondness.

3 12 2010

hi, Seri Kustina.
R u a pri sch teacher in princess elizabeth.

18 08 2010

i was there from 1963-68 and have very fond memories. we had a good laugh when i showed my husband and kids the school, and it was then a special needs school. Jokingly they said it was not surprising that i was there. ha ha.
i too am living overseas now and can’t recognise the Spore that i was brought in.
good times….

19 08 2010
The wondering wanderer

Wow Rashida … that goes a long way back … you might have seen me with my mum around the latter part of the time you were there. 🙂 Thanks for sharing – it’s always nice to touch base with someone with whom we might have shared experiences! Good times certainly!

19 08 2010

may I know your mum’s name. she may have been one of my teachers. if she was i hope she has good memories of me. anyway i wouyld like to get in touch with one of my favourite teachers Miss Tan Moi Lan. if your mum knows of her contact details please pass it on to me. muchh appreciated.

20 08 2010
The wondering wanderer

I’ve replied you in the email Rashida …unfortunately my mum doesn’t remember a Ms Tan Moi Lan …

3 12 2010

hi, Seri Kustina.
Are you a pri sch teacher in Princess Elizabeth in yr 1994-1997

20 12 2013
Seri Kustina

yes i was.

20 12 2013
Seri Kustina

Hello again!

My family and I were in Singapore for a visit this past summer and managed to point my old school out to my son while we were in a taxi. LOL

The buildings are still there. Somehow I still remember the backroads to go from the school to Orchard Road. We had friends who used to live in the Cairnhill area.

My sister mentioned that she has uploaded some pics of of the school recently in Facebook. Worth a look!

19 07 2011
Anjana Dutt

Hello all ex-ARGS students. I left ARGS in 1969. Govindasamy Pillai was the principal. My friends were Angela Davies, Tifadah Sani, Parsan Kaur, Sulaimah,
Chandrika (lived near Newton Circus), Penny D’Silva, Siti, Azizah, Kanta Lachmandas and others I am trying hard to remember! Some of us were together at Raffles Girls’ Secondary School in 1970. Rashida do you know me!
My sister, Monica, was also with me. I still have photos of the school, students
and teachers. How do I ‘post’ them?

21 07 2011

Hi to all ex-ARGS students. I attended ARGS from 1969-1974. I joined a group in facebook called Anthony Road Girls School. Why not share your stories and look for your friends there as well as sharing your primary school pix.
Anjana, I remember Miss Govindasamy Pillay, my principal in P1. From P2 onwards, we had a new principal, Miss Lim Bong Soo.
Lachmandas sounds familiar. I remember my younger sister’s classmate, Neeta Lachmandas who lived at Bukit Timah.
There is a Puro Kaur in ARGS facebook looking for her friends. You could be one of them.
To Jerome Lim, thank you for the informative blog! Btw, was your mum the school principal?
Looking at the ARGS photo, it could be taken before 1969, cos the school uniform looked different from our pinafore uniform. Also, hibiscus shrubs were not planted yet.

11 05 2012

Hi Anjana – i think i vaguely remember you. you were one year my junior. say hello to all those who still remember me. sekarang sudah tualah!
all the best to yo uand family.

3 01 2021

I remember Chandrika very well esp.her tight black curls and her long perfectly trimmed nails ; she was a gifted Indian classical dancer who was regularly asked by the school to perform in the annual school concerts . Where are you Chandrika

29 03 2012
Raji ( Rasa )

Can anyone please let me know how I can contact my former classmate Heather Balasingham ? Her mother was a teacher there and Heather took Mandarin as a second language which she hated so much.
I am an ex-ARGS. Mrs Ong was my Primary One teacher when I started school as a 7 year old .The principal back then was Mrs Ambiavagar .

I can still smell the lovely fragrance of the many frangipani trees at the school boundary

31 05 2013
Dr. Khin Luetzow

I was probably the only Burmese girl in ARGS between 1968 to 1972 . My last class teacher was Ms. Durai. I remember lovely teachers like Ms Tan Moi Lan, Mrs Winters , Mdm Lee, and the tuck shop. I guess my dearest friends were Han Wee Lin, Sim Sai Choo , Ly LAN Phoung, Francis , Shirley & Audrey Wright, Saifah…. life in our times were simpler isn’t it ! We had fun as kids . Thank you so much for the photos! Regards!

6 11 2013

Hi, my name is Iriana and I was from the last batch of P5s from ARGS to join St Margaret’s for P6.. I still consider ARGS as my primary school and do still remember all the fun and fond memories esp moving all the teachers’ desks to the hall to make a stage when we have any kind of celebration. I am also in FB’s ARGS group. ” KNOWLEDGE IS POWER”

7 11 2013
Cat Tan

And a bunch of us are trying to keep it going and staying in touch here too :

I have the fondest memories of this school….the wonderful teachers, the small yet functional tuckshop…thank you for reliving it!

22 11 2013
Lakhvir Kaur

Surfing the net for some pictures of my elementary school to share with my children, I came across your writeup on Anthony Road Girls School. I was at ARGS from 1968-1973, good old memories! Dreaded the in-school dental visits, and of course remembered Mrs. Govindasamy very well. It is a shame that ARGS building is totally transformed and beyond recognition. Shoutout to all 1973 Primary 7 graduates!

21 02 2016
Florence lim

I was the student in ARGS too..Mrs Govindasamy is my principle. I still holding my leaving certain with her signature in it. My favorite teacher taught me in pri 5 is Ms desuzer ( might be wrong in spelling but right pronounce) A very pretty and good teacher…wonder where is she now..

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