The Forgotten Former Schools at Parry Avenue

Parry Avenue came into existence after the war but its surrounding areas were still largely undeveloped in the early fifties. The Singapore Rural Board, in 1949, prohibited pig rearing activities near Parry Avenue as it was developed as a residential area.

After the mid-fifties, a network of minor roads was constructed, branching off the main Yio Chu Kang Road. Back then, a section of Chuan Hoe Avenue was called Japanese Cemetery Road, named after the cemetery in the vicinity. Parry Avenue was further extended in the sixties.

Parry Avenue Boys’ and Girls’ Schools, and Parry Government Chinese Middle School

By the late fifties, numerous new primary schools were established by the Ministry of Education (MOE) to provide primary education for the growing population born after the war.

At Parry Avenue were three new primary schools – Parry Avenue Boys’ School, Parry Avenue Girls’ School, and the Chinese-stream Parry Government Chinese Primary School (also known as Parry Government Chinese School, Parry Chinese School or Parry Government Chinese Middle School). They were catered to provide educational needs to the population living at Jalan Hwi Yoh, Yio Chu Kang Road, Upper Serangoon Road, Seletar Hills and Jalan Kayu.

The national level of primary education remained low in the fifties. In 1958, the Education Ministry announced on the newspapers to request parents to seek admission for their children to the published list of government schools with vacancies. Parry Avenue Boys’ and Girls’ Schools were two of the schools with many vacancies. Both schools were also affiliated. It meant that the sibling of a student at Parry Avenue Boys’ School could claim affiliation and register to study at Parry Avenue Girls’ School, and vice versa.

The Parry Avenue Boys’ School and Girls’ School were also among the first selected English-stream primary schools in the sixties to provide Tamil classes to the Tamil students. Tamil as the second language was continued to be offered at both schools till the eighties. The other second languages were Chinese and Malay.

Both Parry Avenue Boys’ and Girls’ Schools were excellent in track and field, competing regularly in the Serangoon District Singapore Combined Primary School Sports in the sixties and had won medals in the relays, hurdles and high jumps. Its large field was often selected as the hosting venue of annual athletic meets.

Both schools also won certificates of merit, along with 10 other schools, in 1968 in an inter-school cleanliness competition organised by the Singapore Tourist Association (STA), where a total of 517 schools in Singapore participated.

In 1980, Parry Avenue Girls’ School was part of the 12-school choir at the Singapore Festival of Choirs held at Victoria Theatre, where they presented to the audience a range of songs made up of both Asian and Western folk melodies, such as Sarinande, Di-Tanjong Tanjong, Hallelujah Chorus, Holla Hi Holla Ho and Tiratomba. Towards the end of the performance, the 20 best singers from the 12 schools also combined to sing “Let there be peace on Earth” and “Harmony”.

Parry Primary School

The boys’ and girls’ schools of Parry Avenue and Parry Government Chinese Middle School were merged in 1981 to become Parry Primary School.

In the same year, the new Parry Primary School was selected, along with Broadrick Primary School and three secondary schools (Anglican High, Chinese High and Nanyang Girls’ High), to be part of a pilot project for full-day school.

This meant that the schools would operate on a five-day week from 730am to 230pm (for lower primary), 730am to 310pm (for upper primary) and 730am to 320pm (for secondary). The students would then carry out their extra-curricular activities (ECA) for an hour after their classes. Saturdays would be left entirely free.

The Ministry of Education hoped that this scheme would keep the students in school under the guidance of their teachers. On the other hand, they would be able to have more time with their families during the weekends.

However, many teachers began to seek transfer out of Parry and Broadrick Primary Schools. Teaching in a full-day school meant they would spend lesser time with their families. This was because many teachers were mothers themselves. The students were also observed to be restless, tired or sleepy by the afternoons.

Hence, by December 1983, the Education Ministry decided to switch the pilot project’s full-day schools back to the half-day, double-session mode.

In 1983, Parry Primary School was the first non-mission school in Singapore to start a Boys’ Brigade as ECA for its students.

In 2007, Parry Primary School, due to dwindling student enrollment, was merged with Xinghua Primary School at Hougang Avenue 1. Xinghua Primary School has a long history dated back to 1930 when it was founded as Sing Hua School at Lim Tua Tow Road. It was relocated to Hougang and renamed as Xinghua in 1984. In 2000, Xinghua Primary School had a brief temporary relocation to Parry Avenue. Another school, Charlton Primary School at Aroozoo Avenue, was also merged with Xinghua Primary School in 2003.

Parry Secondary School

The fourth school at Parry Avenue was Parry Secondary School. It was established in 1967 (but was officially opened on 3 July 1968 by Sia Kah Hui, then-Parliamentary Secretary to the Labour Minister).

Parry Secondary School was opened at the same period with two other new government secondary schools in Singapore – Toh Tuck Secondary School at Toh Tuck Road and Changkat Changi Secondary School at Jalan Tiga Ratus, off Changi Road.

Between the late sixties and the early seventies, when the National Service was still at its infancy, due to a lack of training centres, Parry Secondary School was utilised to provide basic police training course for the Vigilante Corps.

Parry Secondary School proved itself as a contender in badminton, regularly participating in the Serangoon district badminton championships against other secondary schools. Its students also took part in inter-secondary school track and field events, such as high jumps, as well as football competitions. The secondary school shared the large field with its neighbouring primary schools.

Parry Secondary School’s Art Society and Home Economics Club made the headlines in 1978 when they held a “Art and the Home” exhibition at the Toa Payoh Library, showcasing their elegant and practical design works in home accessories. They would later take part in another art exhibition in 1980 at the National Museum Young People’s Gallery.

The premises of Parry Secondary School was used several times for Singapore’s General Elections. In the 1972 election, it was one of the 10 nomination and votes-counting centres. The electoral division it represented was made up of Jalan Kayu, Nee Soon, Punggol, Sembawang, Serangoon Gardens and Upper Serangoon. It was subsequently used again as a nomination and polling centre in the 1976, 1980 and 1984 elections.

The Education Ministry introduced in 1972 the “instant school” scheme to Parry Secondary School and three other secondary schools (Monk’s Hill Secondary School, Rangoon Road Secondary School and Chai Chee Secondary School). It was due to an unexpected surge in the number of primary school students passing the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). In 1971, 47,000 or 53% of the students passed PSLE. The number increased to 53,000 or 62% a year later.

To accommodate the additional 6,000 students, the four secondary schools had to hold additional classes at their respective primary schools – Parry Secondary School/Parry Government Chinese Primary School, Monk’s Hill Secondary School/Bukit Tunggal Malay School, Rangoon Road Secondary School/Joo Avenue Primary School and Chai Chee Secondary School/Siglap Malay School.

The new secondary one students would take their English, second languages and mathematics classes at the primary school premises, while making the trips back to their secondary schools’ labs and workshops for the science and technical lessons.

This issue was gradually eased after Singapore built more secondary schools in the seventies.

In 1976, Parry Secondary School celebrated its 10-year anniversary, attended by guest-of-honour Sia Kah Hui, the former Minister of State (Labour).

The eighties saw a significant population shift to the new towns. Also, due to dwindling student enrollment, in 1984, Parry Secondary School and Hwi Yoh Secondary School were merged to form Peicai Secondary School. The new secondary school’s name, picked by the Education Ministry, aimed to reflect the histories of the two merged schools – Parry was “Pei Li” in Chinese, and Hwi Yoh was “Xi Cai”. Hence, the two names combined to form “Pei Cai” which means “nurture of talents”.

The new Peicai Secondary School was established in 1984 at the former premises of Hwi Yoh Secondary School, whereas Parry Secondary School officially walked into history. The campus of Parry Secondary School was then taken over by Rosyth School, which was located along the nearby Rosyth Road.

Established in 1956, Rosyth School became one of Singapore’s four primary schools to host the Gifted Education Program in the mid-eighties. Due to this, its old school buildings at Rosyth road were unable to accommodate the rising number of students. At Parry Avenue, Rosyth School operated for 17 years before it shifted again to Serangoon North Avenue 4 in 2001.

The former Parry schools were no longer in operation, but their premises at Parry Avenue still exist. The school buildings are currently left vacant, while the large school field is occasionally used by the nearby residents for dog walking.

Published: 18 May 2021

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9 Responses to The Forgotten Former Schools at Parry Avenue

  1. Ma Yuzhe says:

    wow, i cant believe it. I used to study at Rosyth School (the one at Serangoon) and I live at Simon Road, very near Parry Avenue, and I didn’t even know that this place existed!

  2. Imperios says:

    Having 3 canteens, 2 ponds, a huge annex that housed a rather large library and a field too large for a single school, Parry Primary of the 90s was the most well equipped primary school that I have seen back in the day. The close proximity to the beautiful Japanese cemetery was also a huge plus point.

  3. I used to live on Parry Avenue and attended Parry Avenue Girls School in the 70’s along with two cousins. My other cousin, a boy, attended Parry Avenue Boy’s School which was in front of the Girl’s school and next to the Parry Avenue Chinese school. I’ve lost track of my friends from Primary 4 – 6. Sure wish I could find them! My other cousin attended Rosyth school when it was located on Rosyth Rd, and then she went to Parry Secondary. Good times!

  4. tincan says:

    Wow, that is interesting. In the 70s, I lived at Simon Rd and attended Rosyth School (at Rosyth Rd). I usually walked back from school and would pass by the Parry Schools every day. I left Singapore in 2000 and now live in Georgia (US).

    • Oh wow, that is so cool! My cousin who attended Rosyth for primary went on to Parry Secondary. I was at Parry Girls for 4th – 6th having previously attended a school near Bukit Timah near mum’s work. My other two cousins from Parry moved to Australia. I’m currently living in Washington State! If you attended Rosyth school then no doubt you visited the little shop on the corner of Sandilands and Rosyth Rd. We just visited in 2019 to visit the same shopkeeper who is beloved to our entire family! Nice to hear from a former kid in the n’hood!!

      • Yes, it is Tee Seng Store! My grandmother, mother, aunties and uncles all shopped there. Back in the day, he used to deliver groceries on his bike. Later on when I was a kid, he had a delivery boy. My cousin who lives in Hougang still goes by once in a while to say hello. I brought my son there in July 2019 to say hello and we got a great photo !! He just means so much to us as he’s a connection to our growing up years! My dad and I once had a little fender bender with our car and a garbage truck there, and I remember Ah Pu (nickname we called him) coming out with a cold 7 ups to comfort us as we waited for the police to arrive.

  5. tincan says:

    Yes, I certainly remember that shop! Used to buy “kachang puteh” from that shop if I have spare coins after school. I also remember a public phone booth at the south-east corner of the Rosyth school compound.

    There was also a stall that sells syrup drinks along Parry Ave on my walk home. I don’t believe this one was a store, it was just an enterprising homeowner selling drinks.

    • I bet we bought stuff from the same family. There was also a guy selling ice balls with syrup and pisang goreng on the corner of Parry and Sandilands. His cart was on Sandilands, on the right side, looking up toward Rosyth School. He sold the best pisang goreng ever!

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