How we came about
The Anglo-Chinese School was founded on 1st March 1886 by Bishop William Fitzjames Oldham in an old shophouse at 70, Amoy Street. He started with 13 students but that quickly grew and ACS moved to 1 Canning Rise in 1887.
Described as the largest educational project in Singapore and Malaya at that time, the Barker Road campus overlooked Bukit Timah and was termed “the Sentinel of Bukit Timah”. This campus would in turn house all the ACS units at one time or another.
With the Barker Road campus up in 1950 and a redevelopment of the Canning Rise site in 1957, all primary classes were moved to Canning Rise. The Junior School moved to Barker Road in the 1980s before being re-sited at its present location at Peck Hay Road. It then moved to its present location at Winstedt Road.
The secondary school at Barker Road [now known as Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)] also included the post-secondary section which separated in 1977 to form Anglo-Chinese Junior College.
The secondary school went independent in 1988 and later moved to its present premises in Dover Road in 1992.
In 1994, Anglo-Chinese Primary School moved from Canning Rise to Barker Road and Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road) was born when a secondary section was added to it.
The school grew rapidly and soon it faced operational and physical constraints as the retrofitted campus had originally been intended for a primary school. It was therefore decided in 1998, to re-develop the campus. The Primary Section of ACS (Barker Road) moved out to its holding school at Ah Hood Road on 15 December 1998 and resumed function as a primary school. The school was renamed Anglo-Chinese School (Primary).
On 4 December 2002, Anglo-Chinese School (Primary) moved back to the Barker Road Campus and operated as a single-session primary school. The school was officially opened on 15 July 2003 by DPM Tony Tan.
Anglo-Chinese Primary School [ACS(P)] is a shining example of the adage “the whole is more than the sum of its parts”. We cannot look at the school’s academic or sporting performance without first educating ourselves on its background.
In order to understand how the school manages to produce top quality students year after year, students who have made their mark in politics, business and sports and in society in general, we need to view the boys’ academic and sporting excellence in the larger context of the school’s educational philosophy. Only when we understand what the school believes in and how it managed to surmount the various obstacles over the years, will the uniqueness of the school that is ACPS be appreciated.
Since 1886, when the Rev William Oldham founded ACS at 70 Amoy street on the first of March, the school has been through many transitions, among them the growth from one shophouse to five school units that had branched out into other premises - ACS (Junior), ACS (Primary), ACS (Independent), ACS (Barker Road) and ACJC. ACPS itself was originally part of a full school until 1927 (when the secondary classes moved to Cairnhill) when it became a lower school unit sub-divided later into the Primary and Middle School.
This affiliation and attraction was not due just to the school’s strong academic performance. Indeed, the top PSLE aggregate seemed to improve each year. The percentage of ACPS students entering the special/express streams has always been well above the 80% mark.
However, strong academic performance is not the only reason why parents send their children to ACS(P). The school with its long history of sporting excellence and strong choir ensures that equal opportunity is given to all its pupils to be good in at least one sport or other activity. Participation in at least one co-curricular activity (CCA) is encouraged and the school offers a wide range of CCAs so that every pupil has a chance to participate in what he is interested in. To date, it has 15 sporting CCAs, 11 clubs and societies, 2 uniformed youth organisations and 4 performing arts CCAs.
It can thus be seen that if the education in ACS(P) were to be written as an equation, it would go something like:
ACS(P) = A – Affective, C – Cognitive, S – Social, P – Physical
An All-Round Education
The mission as stated is to provide “an all-round education in an environment which seeks to bring out the potential of every pupil to the fullest”.
Nowhere is this clearer than in ACS(P) where every pupil who has passed through its portals has worked towards the fulfilment of the mission and motto, “The Best is Yet to Be”, in all aspects of their lives, including sports, charity work, participation in uniformed groups and various clubs and societies.
This pursuit of an all-round education began way back when the Rev Oldham founded the school. It was not to be deterred even by the ravages of the Pacific War which left the school without proper buildings and facilities.
Despite the lack of facilities, it was noted in the 1953 ACS Magazine that a greater number of pupils took part in one or more of the activities available. The lack of facilities was keenly felt in swimming, where it was noted that, “this activity is not well supported, obviously due to the fact that pupils have to travel great distances to and from the pool”. Nevertheless, the school sent in a team to take part in the Teachers’ Training College Swimming Carnival in the Invitation 4x50 metres Inter -Junior School Freestyle Relay and came in third.
The school, which at times did not even have a playing field to its name, often relied on the goodwill of other town schools or Old Boys to supplement its lack of facilities. In the 1950s, there were no facilities for the pupils to practise their badminton games though there was keen interest shown in the game. It was only through the kindness of Mr Wiltiong Heng, an Old Boy of the school, that the boys managed to use the court at his home for practices. In spite of that, a team of six players represented the school in the Inter-School “City Group” Tournament held at Pearl’s Hill School I in the semi-final - and won.
The pupils and teachers had proved themselves to be true to the ACSian spirit and had risen above the various obstacles and difficulties they faced in the pursuit of an enriching all-round education that comprises not only the academics but also the sporting and extra-curricular activities.
The quality of the ACS education was such that it naturally presented the world with a number of trail-blazing leaders from all walks of life such as politics, business, sports and music/drama. With a long and varied history, it is not easy to identify which well-known person went to which ACS unit.
However, whichever unit the pupils came from, they carried with them an ever-inquiring mind and indomitable spirit. The 1954 ACS Magazine noted in its Editorial Comments:
“The School has an enviable reputation for producing students whose interests are diverse and varied and who aspire to distinguish themselves in both the academic and athletic fields.”
The ACS(P) Experience
The end of 2002 was another milestone in the ACS(P) history. That was when the school moved out of its temporary holding school at Ah Hood Road back to its Barker Road premise that had been reconstructed to include the latest facilities.
There were pupils who started Primary 1 at Ah Hood Road who missed the familiar surroundings of the temporary holding school. To them, it was not a temporary holding school but a place where they first began their ACS journey. It will hold special memories for them. However, the ACS(P) experience transcends buildings, facilities and location.
The experience is about working hard for the PSLE, training for competitions, enjoying camps and excursions, bantering with fellow classmates, praying and sharing during Chapel, celebrating Founder’s Day and striving forward, always remembering the school motto, “The Best is Yet to Be”. The same unique all-round education continued back at Barker Road.
Laying The Foundation
Since it was only from 1961 that ACS(P) was a full primary school with its first principal, Mr Lau Hee Boon, the focus of its history will begin with his stewardship. He relates in the ACS Magazine of the same year, “For the first time in the ACS family history, the Coleman Street Building is utilised by only primary units”. The large student enrolment gave rise to the extra-large staff: “I am deeply grateful to a great number of people who want either to send their sons to this school or desire to join the teaching staff but unfortunately our school walls are not made of rubber and expansion “at will is not possible”.
When Mr Lau retired in 1972, Mrs Lim Chew Swee took over. In 1974, with Mrs Lim Chew Swee as Principal, the school’s enrolment reached 2,525 pupils with a total staff strength of 77 in two sessions of 60 classes. Mrs Lim observes in the 1974 ACS Magazine:
“ACS(P) is easily one of the biggest primary schools in Singapore. We have our share of problems and shortcomings, but we also have many achievements and successes to be proud of and for this I would like to record my appreciation and thanks to all our pupils, parents and friends of this school and last but not least members of the school staff, many of whom are acutely aware of the important role they play to help our young pupils ‘grow in stature and in wisdom and in favour with God and man”.
Mrs Lim’s Senior Assistant, Mr Lim Keng Boon, stepped into her shoes in 1983. Like his predecessors, he emphasised character-building but added another dimension to it:
“Character-building is not complete without culture. I hope that you will not only concentrate on examination subjects but also take an interest in the enrichment and cultural programme that has been introduced.”
Mr Lim served as Principal till 1991 when Mr George Goh became the 5th ACS(P) Principal since the school came to its own at Coleman Street in 1961. Like his predecessors, Mr Goh worked towards the betterment of facilities at the school and ensured that its academic and sporting excellence, as well as Christian spirit, was upheld.
When ACS(P) moved to Barker Road to join its new secondary counterpart, ACS(P) then become known as the primary section of ACS (Barker Road). Mr Ng Eng Chin then headed both the secondary and primary section as Acting Principal. Mr Ng notes the change in name for ACPS in the 1994 ACS Magazine:
“1993 was a busy and eventful year for us… One of the significant changes was the change in name of the school. From Anglo-Chinese Primary School, we became Anglo-Chinese School (Barker Road); from a solely primary school to a full school-catering to the full primary cohort and starting off with a new secondary section for our boys.”
In mid-1995, Mr Ng proceeded to do a one-year full-time Diploma in Educational Administration course to prepare him for principalship. Mr Ng Chee Kheong, an Old Boy of ACS, Ipoh, relieved him. During his year of leadership as Principal, Mr Ng Chee Kheong revealed plans for an extension project costing nearly $15 million to start at the end of the year. However, Mr Ng was transferred to another school in December 1995 and until Mr Ng Eng Chin returned from his course in April, Mrs Margaret Ng covered the Principal’s duties.
In mid-1996, when Mr Ng Eng Chin was appointed as the new Principal, he reinforced the notion that education in ACS (BR) must also be anchored on a set of ACS beliefs and values.
In 1998, it was announced that ACS (BR) would be split into primary and secondary schools, the primary school once being known as Anglo-Chinese School (Primary). The split was hastened by the schools’ moving to different holding facilities while awaiting the completion of the massive project at Barker Road.
With the split at the end of 1998 and ACS(P) moving to its temporary holding school at Ah Hood Road, Mrs Daisy Ong was appointed Principal of ACS(P). She had joined ACS(P) in 1995 and brought with her 28 years of experience as a teacher, a senior assistant and vice-principal. In her maiden Principal’s Report (ACS Magazine 1999), she acknowledged that the school had entered a new phase and that the year had been a challenging and exciting one.
“Education in ACS must be more than just getting our boys to excel in the academics, otherwise we are no different from any other good school. I believe that we can mould and nurture our boys to be men of character, credibility and capability by instilling in them four main values. These values are humility, obedience, persistence and empathy - thus our vision of HOPE.”
After Mrs Ong’s retirement, Mr Richard Lim Chew Hiong was appointed the Principal of ACS(P) with effect from December 2004 and brought the school to greater heights in the nine years that he was with ACS(P). Under Mr Lim’s leadership, the twin pillars of academic excellence and character development continued to be emphasized. He will be remembered for putting in structures to ensure that every child realizes his true potential. To ensure that every young ACSian at ACS(P) displays the iHOPEFUL (integrity, Humility, Obedience, Perseverance, Empathy, Faithfulness, Unity, Loyalty) values, Mr Richard Lim taught the pupils that all ACSians should always care, share and pray for one another.
From 15 December 2013, Mr Arene Koh took over as Principal of ACS(P). He continued to build on the ACS(P) brand of education and developed the Traits of an ACSian unique to ACS (Primary). ACS(P) moved forward under the leadership of Mr Arene Koh with the firm foundation laid by past Principals. On 15 Dec 2018, Mr Arene Koh took over the leadership at ACS (Independent).
With Mr Koh’s move, Dr Irene Ng, was posted in and took over the headship from 15 Dec 2018. With her deep conviction that character and faith are the greatest legacies one can pass on to one’s children (Billy Graham), she steers the school towards providing the boys with authentic experiences that will ground them on values and seeks to increase the opportunities for them to mix with different social groups.
With Jesus Christ at the head of the school and with Bishop Oldham’s vision firmly intact, ACS(P) is an embodiment of its school motto, “The Best Is Yet to Be”.