Thursday, October 25, 2007

What Makes A School Great

The following are important factors that make a school great.

The founding vision of the School The building of its tradition Instilling into the teachers and students the right spirit. Dedicated & great principals and teachers Good students to produce Great Alumni

These are the pillars on which a school is built. Its greatness depends on the efforts put in by everybody involved in building of the school over the years. Everybody who has been with the school, the policy makers, headmasters, teachers, students through their activities and achievements contribute in the making of the image and reputation of the school. It requires a constant positive input from everyone involved to build and maintain the greatness of the school. The Penang Free School has gained this reputation not only in Malaysia but also abroad. The Singapore Old Frees contributed much to their new found home, Singapore. We must continue to do this and more to remain proud of being an Old Free.

History of Penang Free School.

The Penang Free School (PFS) is the oldest English School in Malaysia and the S.E.A. region. The School was founded on October 21 in 1816 and is located in the island of Penang. The word Free is important to many as it reflects the founding vision of the School. Being Free liberates everybody involved with it from being stereotyped by race, creed, economic or social standing. We are equals in the eyes of the school. We have to prove our worth. The School gained the reputation of being the institution for the best of our junior school students in Penang. Gaining admission to the school fulfils the dreams of many parents for the children.

Instilling the right spirit to the students.

The School's motto Fortis Atque Fidelis (Strength with Fidelity) and the School's rally song , (reproduced below) which we sang every year on Founder's Day, and on special functions inspire and fire up the young minds to do many things which we might not have done otherwise.

School Rally Song

It matter neither how strait the gate,
Nor how charged with dangers the goal,
Let the tempest rage and fell odds inflate,
We'll do it with our heart and soul.

Let us march unto fame,
Let the aisles proclaim,
Till our anthem will dare us to do,
Let us onward to win and new laurels gain,
Free School for the brave and the true.

In addition to this my headmasters Mr. L.W.Arnold (1940) and Mr. D. Roper (1946) reminded us that our Founder's Day, 21 October, is also the day that Admiral Lord Nelson defeated the combined superior French and Spanish Armada at the battle of Trafalgar . Although terribly outnumbered in ships and men England won the battle and this was attributed to the famous message Nelson gave to his men at that time:
" England expects every men to do his duty."

The Frees , young and old, are also expected to do their duty wherever they are at all times to win the many battles that had to be fought.

What did the school do for me?

I had some great teachers who not only taught me how to pass examinations but also helped me in many other ways. Mr. Ng Chong Weng, my Pinhorn House sports master, saved me the long walk from the school to the bus stop at Green Lane by dropping me at the nearest point to my home in town. Mr.Ooi Khay Bian (OKB) supported my request to be exempted from the Science classes so that I could use the time saved to do my home work and other studies in school as I had to teach to earn extra money for the family. I was the only student given this exemption. This incident has particular significance to my life. I would not be what I am, a man of science, who has used his science training for the development of our scientific manpower and industries through education and its application in Singapore.

Here is the story of this incident.

As my Senior Cambridge results were very good I cheekily decided to apply for a scholarship to study Science and not Arts in Raffles College. I took a big risk as I would have a better chance of getting a scholarship in Arts, without which I could not have gone for further studies. Risk taking, part of my PFS training? I expected the headmaster and my form teacher Mr. Ooi (OKB) to fall off their chairs with my request as I was the only student exempted from the science classes during 1947. They did not. They must have supported my application strongly as I was awarded the prestigious Raffles Scholarship. Such instances cannot happen in modern times! This is "flexibility" on the part of a headmaster of a great school and I am grateful. I ended up practicing science all my life in numerous capacities. I became the first chairman of the Singapore Science Council for 10 years, an advisory body to the Singapore government on science after Singapore's independence! I was also founder chairman and CEO of the Singapore Institute of Standards and Industrial Research (SISIR) for 18 years besides many other appointments and involvement in many other activities
It will be interesting to hear from other Singapore Old Frees how the PFS has made a difference to their lives. This can be an encouragement if not an inspiration for the young Frees to look out for the things that they may have taken for granted.

Alumni of The Penang Free School.

PFS, formed the backbone of Malaysia's education. It educated many generations of rulers, Malaysia's first Prime Minister, Chief Ministers, law makers, professionals and people of social standing in Malaysia. PFS can boast of being the Alma Mater of many well known and successful alumni all over the world. This includes the world renown Plague fighter, the late Dr. Wu Lien The, who also pioneered the modernization of China's public health system.

Singapore has its share of talented and dedicated Old Frees. In the 1940's to 1960's the Chief Justice, the Attorney General and seven out of the eight High Court Judges were Old Frees. The Speaker of Parliament was also an Old Free who was also the first professor of surgery in the University of Malaya in Singapore. The medical profession was dominated by many Old Frees in the University and in Singapore's Health Service. The Old Frees then expanded themselves in holding important posts in public administration and management in Singapore like Education, Industries, Engineering, Architecture, Customs, Science Institutions, Business, the professions and other walks of life. They served Singapore with dedication, commitment and courage that our school has instilled in us during our school days. We are constantly reminded of our School's motto, the Rally Song and the upbringing our dedicated teachers and headmasters gave us through their values and practices. We often speak of the Old school with pride for what it has given us to serve our adopted country. Let us hope that this oldest English school in Malaysia and S.E. Asia will always remain a great school that everyone will always be proud of. The School is great not because it is the oldest but that it is also the best and is Free – free from many of the social, economic, religious and racial issues which have bogged down many institutions and even governments throughout the world. Long live the Great Penang Free School!!!

Lee Kum Tatt
24th October 2007


Des said...

and I am proud to be an Old Free too...

For the brave and for the true,
Fortis Atque Fidelis!

jlshyang said...

same here! The spirit of PFS lives in us forever!