SINGAPORE - Students and staff from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) lined up along school grounds to bid farewell to their outgoing principal, Dr Hon Chiew Weng, on Friday (Oct 27) morning.
The 60-year-old, who spent his entire career as an educator with the school in Bukit Timah, will be retiring after 35 years of service.
He first joined the Chinese High School - which has now become the high school section of HCI - as a physics teacher in 1982. He later headed the science department and assumed the post of dean of administration in the late 1980s.
Five years after the merger of the Chinese High School and Hwa Chong Junior College, Dr Hon became the principal of HCI in 2010.
Addressing some 4,000 students, staff, parents and alumni at the school's indoor sports hall, Dr Hon said that Hwa Chong has been his stage for the last 35 years.
He recounted the challenges in the school's early years before it turned independent in 1988.
A group of 30 teachers left the school because they did not agree with the independent status, he recalled.
"It took us three months to recruit enough teachers... it was very tough. But we never looked back, and since we turned independent, a lot of things have been implemented," he said.
HCI is now a well-established school with a strong focus on Chinese studies, bilingualism and research.
Under Dr Hon's leadership, the school also implemented the six-year Integrated Programme in 2004 where students bypass the O levels to focus on other talents and intellectual curiosity.
Dr Hon also set up in 2007 a satellite campus in Beijing - a first for a Singapore school - for students to experience immersion.
The school's success is because of the strong bonds among staff, students, parents and alumni, said Dr Hon.
"We can go so far only because there are many people who have contributed to the school," he added.
His successor will be Mr Pang Choon How, who is currently the director of mother tongue languages at the Ministry of Education's curriculum planning and development division.