Tao Nan School celebrates 115th anniversary by launching innovation space

(From left) Primary 5 pupil Ryan Heng showing the coding toys to Manpower Minister Tan See Leng, Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan president Thomas Chua and Tao Nan principal Poh Qinyu at the school's Innovation Oasis. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Graduating Pri 6 pupils thanking their teachers and parents at Tao Nan School, on Nov 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI
Manpower Minister Tan See Leng using a VR headset as part of the AR experience in Tao Nan School's Heritage Gallery. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - At Tao Nan School, pupils are taught coding from as early as Primary 2 and experiment with technology such as augmented reality.

Principal Poh Qinyu, 40, who revamped the curriculum last year, said: "While the next generation are already digital natives, we thought it would be good for them to learn the technical aspects of digital technology so as to prepare them for the future economy."

On Thursday (Nov 18), a learning space for children to use digital technology to solve everyday problems was officially opened by Manpower Minister Tan See Leng in conjunction with the school's 115th anniversary and Primary 6 graduation day.

Dubbed the Innovation Oasis, the room has zones to cultivate sustainable living and entrepreneurship.

Dr Tan, who is also Second Minister for Trade and Industry, said the designated space for innovation is fitting for the school's spirit of striving for progress through the years.

"Tao Nan's innovative spirit is evident since its early years," he noted.

"In 1916, it became the first school in the Straits Settlements to use Mandarin instead of dialect as the medium of instruction."

At the school anniversary celebration, the alumni association launched a book tracing the ups and downs of Tao Nan School, including little-known facts such as its short-lived secondary school in the late 1950s.

Dr Lee Seng Li, chairman of the association and the book's chief editor, said the publication marks the first continuous record of the school's history, and the fruit of about 10 years of research.

The 66-year-old, who is chief of the cultural sub-committee at Singapore Lam Ann Association, graduated from the school in 1967. He noted that not many institutions in the country are older than a century, with many Chinese schools shut down or their names changed.

Over 115 years, the school has survived the Great Depression and World War II, which led to it closing for three years and eight months, said Mr Thomas Chua Kee Seng, president of Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, in his speech on Thursday. Tao Nan is among six schools affiliated with the association.

At one point in the 1970s, the school's population fell to 189 pupils because of the national urban renewal programme that led to many families moving to the suburbs and away from the city where Tao Nan School was formerly located, he added.

Despite poor enrolment until 1982, the school did not close and has since risen to be one of the most popular schools today, he said.

Among notable alumni and teachers commemorated in the book are philanthropist Lee Kong Chian, as well as award-winning Chinese calligrapher and former principal Pan Shou.

Dr Lee hopes that through the book, younger generations can glean wisdom from the school's past.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng (centre) and Tao Nan principal Poh Qinyu (second right) walking past the school's Heritage Gallery on Nov 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

An e-copy of the publication is available for free at the alumni association's website and several of the 1,000 physical copies have been donated to public libraries, he added.

Dr Tan, who is MP for Marine Parade GRC where the school is located, commended pupils and alumni for supporting the community.

"Besides giving back to the school, Tao Nan students and alumni proactively engage with the community and contribute back to the society, including helping the less fortunate in our society," he said.

Manpower Minister Tan See Leng (left) presenting a cheque to Lions Befrienders' Ms Jacqueline Beh on behalf of Tao Nan School on Nov 18, 2021. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

As part of Youth for the Environment Day this year, for instance, the school collaborated with the Marine Terrace Breeze Residents' Committee in a project, with pupils donating food to residents living in rental units.

The school's donation drives on Mid-Autumn Festival and Children's Day this year also raised funds for charities with the support of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, alumni and parents. On Thursday, the Lions Befrienders Service Association and Club Rainbow each received $11,500.

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