The Forgotten Former Schools at Pasir Panjang

Mention Pasir Panjang, and the impression that comes to mind is that it is now a busy strip of land occupied by the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) Container Terminals, Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre and the rows of warehouses, offices and industrial buildings.

However, before development, Pasir Panjang was largely a place made up of kampongs and rural school. In fact, there were four schools existed at this southern part of Singapore that provided necessary primary and secondary educations to the students living at Kampong Batu Berlayar, Kampong Sultan, Buona Vista Village, Kampong Jagoh and Heap Guan Village. The schools were mostly built in the fifties, and lasted until the eighties and nineties when the declining student enrollment led to their eventual closure.

Batu Berlayar School (1950s-1982)/Former NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre1

Along Pasir Panjang Road currently stands an old vacant building that previously housed the former Batu Berlayar School and, later, the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre. Its name literally means “sailing rock” in Malay, a reference to the Dragon Teeth’s Gate (“Long Ya Men龙牙门) that stood at Keppel passageway and were used as navigation aids for boats that visited Singapore before the 19th century. In 1848, the rocks were demolished with explosives by the British to widen the water passageway allowing the larger vessels to pass through.

batu berlayar school crestBatu Berlayar School was opened until 1982, when it was shut down due to low student enrollment. It was left empty for a few years before taken over by NTUC Comfort as a training centre for its taxi drivers. It was officially opened as its new Pasir Panjang branch in July 1987 by the former Second Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore Ong Teng Cheong.

Other events were regularly organised at the building compound for the benefits of its NTUC Comfort members. In 1987, a week-long Taxi Audio Equipment Fair was held at the centre, with a wide range of cassette-radios for the taxi drivers to choose and install in their vehicles. Auctions and sales of scrapped taxis, in the models of Toyota and Datsun, were also opened to interested parties.

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre2

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre3

After the NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre was shut down, the building was leased in the late nineties and early 2000s to Montessori Centre, a private school that offered Montessori education to young children. It was eventually returned to the Singapore Land Authority (SLA) and has been left vacant till today.

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre4

former ntuc comfort pasir panjang centre5

The Centre of Animal Welfare and Control, owned by the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore’s (AVA), currently stands a lane away from the former NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre. It was previously the Pasir Panjang Polyclinic, before the premises was leased to AVA in 1995. Its location was also the former site of the famous salt-water Haw Par Swimming Pool between the 1930s and the late fifties.

With its 20-year lease ending at end-2015, the animal welfare centre is expected to be relocated to Sungei Tengah.

Pasir Panjang Primary School (1930s-1986)

Situated between Jalan Mat Jambol and Yew Siang Road, off Pasir Panjang Road 5th Milestone, the former Pasir Panjang Primary School was one of the earliest schools established at Pasir Panjang. It started as Pasir Panjang English School, a co-education experiment proposed by the British government to have a mixture of boys and girls studying in the same elementary school. The co-education, also implemented among the Chinese, Malay and Indian students at Serangoon English School and Bukit Panjang English School in 1936, was considerably successful. As reported by the newspapers, the co-education:

pasir panjang primary school crestdoes not make boys effeminate, but gives them a sense of duty and polish, and makes the girls happier by removing an element of pettiness often evident in a class composed entirely of girls.

During the imminent Japanese invasion in 1941, the records of Outram School, under the orders of the Education Department, were transferred to Pasir Panjang English School for safe keeping. Unfortunately, the school was hit by the bombings during the invasion, resulting in the total destruction of all the records of Outram School between 1906 and 1941.

pasir panjang primary school 1970s

In the fifties and sixties, Pasir Panjang Primary School produced many outstanding students. The most prominent ones were Goh Chok Tong, the second Prime Minister of Singapore (1990-2004), Dr Tan Eng Liang, the Senior Minister of State for National Development (1975-1978), and Dr Cham Tao Soon, the founding President of Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI) (1981-1990) and President of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) (1991-2002).

Other prominent figures include Tan Hwee Hock, the primary school teacher of Goh Chok Tong in the fifties and former member of the Gold Medal winning water polo team in the 1954 Asian Games, and Edwin Nadason Thumboo, the unofficial poet laureate of Singapore.

former pasir panjang primary school premises

In the fifties, the teachers would regularly provide swimming lessons for the Pasir Panjang Primary School students at the Haw Par Swimming Pool, located on the opposite of Pasir Panjang Road. When Pasir Panjang Primary School was shut down in 1986, all of its remaining students were transferred to Jagoh Primary School. The premises was later used as a drug rehabilitation centre named Breakthrough Missions.

Pasir Panjang Secondary School (1955-1996)

Another former school in this vicinity was Pasir Panjang Secondary School, one of the few secondary schools that were built at this southern part of Singapore. Pasir Panjang Secondary School was established in 1955, first sharing the premises with Alexandra Estate Secondary School until it moved to its new building at Pasir Panjang in 1958. The secondary school, mostly made up of Malay students living at the nearby villages, had functioned for almost 40 years at Pasir Panjang until its closure in 1996.

pasir panjang secondary school 1976

An interesting trivia of Pasir Panjang Secondary School was the design of its school crest that consisted of a lion and three fish. The lion symbolised Singapore, while the three fish represented duyong, which means “mermaid” in Malay but is actually a marine mammal named dugong that could previously be found at the waters off Pasir Panjang. Portrayed as courageous and determined animals that were not afraid of the fiercest storms, the duyongs were inspirational symbols for the students studying at Pasir Panjang Secondary School. They were also mentioned in the school’s anthem:

pasir panjang secondary school crestAs the duyong rides up storm, so shall we face
The future with zest and steadfast enterprise.

and was used as the name of the school’s scout group in the sixties.

In 1987, Pasir Panjang Secondary School’s student enrollment fell to only 575, way below the average of 1,200 in other secondary schools. The continuous declining number in the enrollment led to its eventual closure in 1996. After its closure, the school premises was left empty for several years before being converted into a Ministry of Education (MOE) Adventure Centre.

ministry of education labrador adventure centre

Labrador Primary School (1961-1989)

The former Labrador Primary School, standing next to the NTUC Comfort Pasir Panjang Centre, existed between 1961 and 1989. Like the Pasir Panjang Secondary School, the primary school was enrolled by many Malay students living nearby, although it did provide four main streams in English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil. Built at a cost of $350,000, the four-storey building with 24 classrooms was officially opened on 28 October 1961.

labrador primary school crestBy the late eighties, the number of students at Labrador Primary School had dropped to only 172, and the government decided to close it in January 1989. Like the Pasir Panjang Primary School students, the last batches of the Labrador Primary School students were transferred to Jagoh Primary School.

The premises of the former Labrador Primary School was not left empty for long. Six months after its closure in January 1989, it was re-opened to serve as a temporary campus for the Singapore Polytechnic’s Business Administration faculty, which required additional space due to a large jump in the number of course applicants. Shuttle bus services were specially catered to ferry the students from the main campus at Dover Road to Pasir Panjang.

Today, the former Labrador Primary School building is leased to the Philippines Bayanihan Society.

school at pasir panjang 1972

Published: 21 June 2015

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25 Responses to The Forgotten Former Schools at Pasir Panjang

  1. Paul Ridgway says:

    After whom or what is the Labrador in Labrador Primary School named please?

  2. James says:

    It’s strangely coincidental I chanced upon this part of Pasir Panjang while searching for the former location of Keng Wah Theatre. Am planning to do a bit more exploration at Batu Berlayar School.

  3. flanders1914 says:

    I went to Pasir Panjang Junior School; circa 1964-65

  4. C Chow says:

    Great article as I studied at batu belayer school in the 60s with my siblings. Used to explore the Haw Par Swimming pool grounds which was forbidden due to numerous drownings n local tales of hauntings. The place was grandeur with a grand hall upstairs with dance floor and family area on ground floor fronted by a fresh water swimming pool. In the outer coast near the sea side, was a larger salt water pool. All left to ruins when the place closed down.

    Hi James – Keng Wah theatre was located at the junction of Pasir Panjang road and Bouna Vista road across from the old Pasir Panjang Hill market. It was an old open air theatre and remember on Sat in the market old hand flyers printed on thin colored paper will let you know the week’s movies n showing times. These handbills were distributed in the mkt during the weekend to locals for their patronage. Hope that helps.

  5. Mohammad yunus says:

    Where is indisen road?where is seraya island? Because my father came from there,somebody give me information ,please!

  6. Baya says:

    I grew up in the village in Pepys Road and went to school at Pasir Panjang Primary. Some of my friends went to Pasir Panjang Secondary. I think you have mixed up the Batu Belayar Primary and Pasir Panjang Secondary School. That orangey building is Pasir Panjang Secondary. Batu Belayar Primary school is behind Labrador Primary school.

    • C Chow says:

      Hi Baya
      Batu Berlayer School fronts the field along Pasir Panjang Road. A low 3 stores long block, which as mentioned served previously as the taxi training center. The PP Sec School hall and canteen is partially seen just behind BB School, across a narrow lane sharing the same car park. The building runs parallel to the sea coast with a small village behind the sea side.
      Labrador Pr School is east wards – nearer to the PP Power Station across the PP Sec School school field. Just need to clarify the location of the 3 schools.

    • nooraini meyer says:

      Hi Baya,we used to live at Pepys road,where the Malaysian customs houses were.It is a pity that everything is now gone except the Malaysian Custom House and the expensive houses at the main road.Went to Batu Berlayar Primary School(1965-1970) is in front of the a secondary school,sorry I forgot the name of the school(I was there as well).

  7. Tim says:

    I believe Jagoh primary school is also closed due to the building of the Telok Blangah mrt station . Which year I’m not too sure though

  8. Sue Maycock says:

    I went to Pasir Panjang Junior School in 1958. British Service children were educated there in the mornings and then local children used the classrooms on a single level aside from the 2 storey building in the afternoons. Our class teacher was Mr Parrish, then the following year Mr Manktalow and the Headmaster was Mr Bevan if my memory serves me well.

    • Mary Luxford says:

      This must be the school i went to as we only went in the mornings, all other sites here seem to be about some other school with the same name, but i remember Mr Manktalow he was my form teacher, he wore a small knife down the top of his sock as he was Scottish. I was there in 1954 and 55.
      Mary Belcher [as was]

  9. ricky lem says:

    I was fr pasir panjang sec sch fr 1986 to 90. Missed the good old days ☺

  10. Wow…very nostalgic indeed. Both Batu Berlayar Primary School (1957 – 1963) and Pasir Panjang Secondary School (1964 – 1967) is my former schools. I spend most of my adoldecent years within these schools. They carry a good mix of all races who pursue education cordially together

  11. S. Krishnamoorthy says:

    I used to live on Pasir Panjang Road from 1970 to 1974 when my father was working in Singapore and my older sister and I attended Batu Berlayar Primary School, my sister Primary 5 and 6, and I Primary 3 to 6. It was nostalgic to look at the old school building.

    I still remember some of my teachers from them: Mr. Thia, Ms Lee, Mr. Chong

    • Jamjuri jaafar says:

      I was a student of Pasir Panjang primary school from 1955-57..then waa transferred to Clementi school at 7 th milesone Paair Panjang…After PSLE i studied at Pasir Panjang Sec school..from 69 -64…i cycled to school from my kampung house at Pepys Rd..missed the good old days…had many friends of all races..we used to hang out at Strlight cinema opp the school..

  12. Timothy says:

    Perhaps you can do a topic on former primary schools if time permits .i think our primary schools peak in the 1980s

  13. Joseph says:

    I studied in PPSS from 1963 to 1967. One of my class mates lived in the seaside kampong behind the school. His father was a boat-builder and he would invite us for a ride on the new boats before they were handed over to their new owners. Yup, those were the days …

    • nooraini meyer says:

      I remember the beach near the Chinese temple,which I loved to visit before my school hours,now it is gone,very sad.I noticed as I was last in SGP,there were no open beaches.Pasir Panjang beach with all the open food stores and the playground,all are gone.

  14. David Ventress says:

    I went to Pasir Panjang when we lived on the Sussex Estate.My father was in the R.E.M.E. (Gillman barracks ?).I left in January 1964 to go to boarding school in England leaving the family behind !!.Memories of Singapore are wonderful.

  15. Bahrain says:

    Anyone here knows of Hj Fatimah, Auntie Lembik, Uncle Johan? Was staying near the pasir panjang jetty back in late 70s… ‘Bendung Abin’ anyone here familiar with this word?

  16. Was staying near Pasir Panjang jetty. ‘m looking for Hajjah Fatimah family, untie lembik, uncle johan, suzana… etc…. staying there—1972-1980, my dad was known as Samah@Muidz@Syarifuddin@Malek

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