Alumnus returns as Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School's head

For Mrs Quek Li Gek, returning to head her alma mater Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School (Secondary) last year made it not one, but a two reunions.

The 42-year-old also taught biology there from 1996 to 2001. And this allows her to share even more during the school's centennial celebrations.

She said: "I can tell stories to the girls of my school days both as a teacher and as a student."

Formerly vice-principal of St Andrew's Junior College, she hopes to build on the school's rich heritage and strengths. Paya Lebar Methodist Girls' School - primary and secondary - was made the Centre for Excellence for creative arts for schools in the East Zone in 2008. This means schools in the area can tap its resources and expertise in setting up performing arts co-curricular groups.

The primary and secondary schools have six and nine performing arts groups respectively. These include dance, choir, guzheng and handbells, which consistently earn top accolades at the Singapore Youth Festival competitions.

Its music roots date back to the time of former principal Chew Hock Hin, who shaped the school after World War II. She died in 1979. Said Mrs Winnie Tan, 78, a former student and PLMGS' longest-serving principal: "Mrs Chew could play the piano and sing, and music became part of school life."

The school also prides itself on being inclusive - some of its students live in landed property estates, while others are from rental flats. The school has Normal classes alongside Express classes at each level. The decision to enrol Normal stream students was made by Mrs Tan in the mid-1980s as the school wanted its primary pupils to be able to continue into its secondary school. Today about 70 per cent to 80 per cent of them do so.

Amelia Teng

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 25, 2016, with the headline 'Alumnus returns as school's head'. Subscribe