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School History

The Haig Road Years
In the Beginning: Planting a Strong Foundation

“We have every intention of making our school the prestigious school for Katong first, and finally the prestigious school for the whole of Singapore... this is no pipe dream. It is an attainable goal. It may take time, but I am serious - we shall overcome”.


Establishing Dunman Integrated Secondary School

Against the backdrop of the Communists infiltrating Chinese schools for political gains in the 1950s, an All-Party Committee on Chinese Education in Singapore was appointed. The Committee presented a report that addressed the challenges of fostering social cohesion among students in Singapore and emphasized the importance of bilingual education as well as the, inter-mingling of students from different language-medium schools. As a result, the government set up schools where two or more language streams were housed under one administration and one principal. Called Integrated Schools, these establishments brought students of various ethnicities into close proximity, creating an environment and opportunity for fostering racial harmony. The pioneering spirit of Dunman and the boldness to break new ground were encoded in its very being when it was founded. Dunman Secondary School, founded in 1963, was the first of its kind, as it was one of the first Integrated Schools in Singapore, and it was the first with triple integration. This foreshadowed subsequent attempts for schools to become the common space for forging a common identity, regardless of race, language or religion. 

Dunman Integrated Secondary School was situated at Haig Road and shared a large field with other schools. It was named after Sir Thomas Dunman, the first Commissioner of Police in Singapore from 1856 to 1871. Mr Ng Yeow Chong, then the Assemblyman for Mountbatten, officially opened the school premises on 16 October 1963. Dunman’s first  Principal was Mr Au Keng Chu. As the school pioneer, he created both the school badge and the school motto: ‘Knowledge is the Torch of Life’.


Setting the Cornerstones

The early years of Dunman were about planting a strong foundation. Excellence, innovation and ethics, the cornerstones of the school, were set right from the beginning.

While Dunman had very humble roots, in fact, sharing premises with well-known schools, it was bold to claim the vision of rising above its circumstances to be an established school that was well-regarded and well-sought after for its education. Dunman’s first intake of students was enrolled in the school even as the building was under construction. The nine English-stream secondary one classes were held at Mattar West Vocational Institute and three Malay-stream secondary one classes were held at Tun Seri Lanang School before they moved into the new school which was completed in August 1963. Dunman’s enrolment increased dramatically with 22 English stream classes and 21 Malay stream classes, just one year after its opening. 

In 1964, Dunman became the first integrated school with three mediums of instruction after 10 classes of Chinese-stream students were integrated into the school. The results of integration were tested during the 1964 race riots in Singapore. On 21 July 1964, a race riot broke out in Singapore but the school was spared problems because classes were not in session. However, six weeks later, fresh riots broke out in the Joo Chiat area. This unrest took place two kilometres from the school. 

On 3 September, we had wind of communal unrest occurring in the Joo Chiat area between Chinese and Malay gangs, and as soon as parents phoned in to inquire about their children’s safety, I decided to close the school. I ordered the gates to be manned by teachers and the watchman...” – Mr Au Keng Chu, first Principal of Dunman Integrated Secondary School. 

Parents began to appear at the school gates. For students whose parents did not come to get them, Mr. Au organised the teachers and staff to ferry them home. When the news of the riots broke, all of the canteen operators fled. Thus during the ordeal, no food or drinks were available for the staff and students. However, neighbours of all races brought biscuits, drinks and other foods. Mr Au recalled, “When school re-opened, the pupils returned to school surprisingly unaffected by the scary reports of the past few days of fights in their locality. I believe that the conduct of the teachers of the different language streams working solidly together to see to the safety and the welfare of the pupils regardless of their race could have impressed them and their parents that all could be well if we could put aside our differences. The conduct of my staff was exemplary”.

In August 1965, the Malay-stream staff and students were transferred to Telok Kurau Secondary School. Dunman then functioned as an English-Chinese Integrated School. In 1968, Mr John De Souza, a music teacher of the school composed Dunman’s school song. It expresses the school’s purpose and mission.In the same year, Mr Tiong Dak Yu became the second Principal. The school’s first Advisory Committee was officially formed with Mr Tan Tock San as the Chairman.

In the same year, Mr Tiong Dak Yu became the second Principal. The school’s first Advisory Committee was officially formed with Mr Tan Tock San as the Chairman.


Building an Identity

One of the most memorable events in the history of the school took place in 1970 when the Dunmanites put up a display, ‘Fountain of Youth’ at the Padang during the National Day Parade. Dunman was the only school to perform that year and the display was the finale for the parade. Every single Dunman girl and 336 boys took part in the performance. The event contributed to the bonding of all Dunmanites. The results for the GCE ‘O’ level that year was the best ever.

In 1971, Mr Chiu Hock Seng became Dunman’s third Principal.

As Dunman developed building a distinctive identity and instilling a strong sense of belonging among the students in the school became increasingly necessary. Thus, in 1975, the Dunman statue of the boy and girl students we know and love so well was completed at a cost of $1500 by Mr Lim Nang Seng, who was also the sculptor of the Merlion. Today, the statue stands proudly in front of the school porch, as a symbol of  Dunman. In 1976, Mr Poon Meng Seng became the fourth Principal of Dunman. The school saw its first female Principal when Mrs Jeanette Ho was appointed to lead the school in 1981.

In 1985, Mr Johnny Lau became the sixth Principal.

The school’s development in its earlier years was not without its challenges. This included the need for greater organizational efficiency, and student-related issues. The school also suffered from falling enrolment. Juxtaposed against the larger educational landscape, the Singapore education system had embarked on an efficiency-driven phase where the focus was on reducing the attrition rate and wastage in the system.


Trailblazing in the 1980s

In the 1980s, the school leaders and staff took on these challenges with a bold and determined spirit. Many important school-based initiatives were introduced to ensure a healthy organizational culture. Once again as a pioneer, Dunman was the first school to institute the now familiar Heads-of-Department scheme to better serve the needs of  staff and students. The Former Dunmanites Association (FDA), an idea mooted during the school’s 20th anniversary dinner celebrations in 1983, was inaugurated in October 1985. In addition, an increasing awareness of the need to nurture students holistically, and in leadership development existed. The school wanted to look into the socio-emotional needs of the students and to give them a voice. The formation of the Student Welfare Unit and Class Committees in 1985 provided numerous opportunities for students to lead and organise themselves. Dunman was also the first school to launch the Pastoral Care programme to look into a student’s development holistically. The main aim of the Pastoral Care programme was to enable every student to have at least one teacher as a mentor to care and develop his or her potential. This move affirmed the importance of building positive teacher-student relationship which remains a cornerstone of the school till today.

In January 1987, Dunman took in Pre-University One students. That same year, the first Students’ Council was elected and the Pre-University One students became the pioneer batch of Student Councillors. The Pre-University classes came to an end in 1991. During this time, the school also focused on building ties with the parents to encourage their involvement in their children’s education. The first Meet-the-Parents session was held on 31 May 1985 and became a regular feature of the school. TheDunman Focus, a quarterly newsletter, was also published. The aim of theDunmanFocuswas to foster closer ties among the school, students and parents. 1988 was a significant year as the school turned 25 years. Around this time, discussions about finding a new home for Dunman took place. The premises at Haig Road was more than 20 years old. It could not be extended and lacked the modern facilities found in  newer schools. The school leadership was offered several possible locations for Dunman, and  ultimately, decided that Tampines would be an ideal location given that it was situated in a new town.

Mrs Tay Sor Har who became the seventh Principal of Dunman, carried out the school’s movement to its new premises.


Dunman @ Tampines Road (A New Home) Breaking New Ground: Bearing Good fruit

“We have come to Tampines to realise a dream – to make it one of the best schools in Tampines, a school that will be sought after for its academic performance and character development.”

Mrs Tay Sor Har, Principal, 1993


Moving to Tampines

On 20 May 1990, Dunman began a new phase in its history at Tampines Street 45. It was a memorable event for the school as staff and students made their way to the new premises via the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), cars, buses and road relay. Dunman was one of the earliest schools in the Tampines New Town. Discussions took place about changing the school’s name because it was no longer in the Haig Road/Dunman Road area. However, the school leaders fought to keep the name as the school had not been named after a road but rather after the first Police Commissioner of Singapore. The school was eventually allowed to retain its name which meant that all former students would still have an alma mater, and the school would still have recourse to establish ties with the big pool of people who had  received their education at Dunman since its earliest years.

On 3 April 1993, Dunman was officially declared open by Mr Sidek Saniff, Minister of State for Education and a Member of Parliament for Eunos GRC. Mr Sidek Saniff used to be a member of the school staff in its  founding years.


Focusing on Character Development: The ‘5Ds’

The school continued to progress and establish itself as a reputable institution in the East. It was during this time that the school’s beliefs and aspirations were formalised after the school’s vision and mission as well as its values, known as the ‘5Ds,’ came into being. Discipline, Diligence, Determination, Discernment and Duty became the values that guided the staff and students in all they did. In 1993, the leadership torch was passed to Mr Tng Kim Guan who was appointed to serve as the school’s eighth  Principal. The focus on character and leadership development continued. With the aim of character development and instilling the values of the ‘5Ds’, a comprehensive Pastoral Care and Career Guidance (PCCG) programme was put in place, and  is still in effect today. The ‘5Ds’ were further crystallised into the Dunman Creed in 1993 which spelt out the desired outcomes for a Dunmanite. To continue to signal the importance of the ‘5Ds’, the Distinctive Dunmanite Award was given out for the first time in 1995 to recognise outstanding and all-rounded Dunmanites who were good role-models to their peers.

A second statue to show the special bond between teacher and student was erected in the school’s garden in 1996. Art teacher, Mr Dzulkifli b Mohd Akbar created the form and substance of the statue. Ms Hasnah Abdullah, a clerical officer with the school, composed a special dedication.


Developing the Arts

The school encouraged the development of the arts which enriched the students’ lives. Students had opportunities to put on public performances. The first drama performance put on at the Drama Centre was ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ in 1994. Since then, public performances by the school’s performing arts groups such as the Choir, the Concert Band and the String Ensemble have become a regular feature of the school to showcase the students’ artistic talents.In 1996, Mrs Chua Siew Eng became Dunman’s ninth Principal, and an old boy of the School, Mr Gan Chin Huat, took over as the 10th Principal in 1997. This change in school leadership came as the school entered the new millennium.

In 1996, Mrs Chua Siew Eng became Dunman’s ninth Principal, and an old boy of the School, Mr Gan Chin Huat, took over as the 10th Principal in 1997. This change in school leadership came as the school entered the new millennium.


The New Millennium - Soaring to Greater Heights: Growing a Legacy

“All Dunmanites should be proud of your heritage and your efforts and those of your predecessors in making the school what it is today… I am certain that the torch will keep blazing for Dunman.”

Mrs Angela Ow, Director, Training and Development, Ministry of Education at the school’s 40th Speech and Prize-Giving Day in 2003


Meeting the Challenges of the Future

The new millennium marked a period of change. It was an exciting time in the education sector. The shift to a Knowledge Based Economy led the Ministry of Education to launch the vision of ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’ (TSLN). This vision describes a nation of thinking and committed citizens capable of meeting the challenges of the future, and an education system geared towards the needs of the 21st century.

As the demands of a changing and increasingly globalized world will be very different in the future, Dunman understood that a good legacy to leave to the students would be developing them to be future-ready while also rooted in sound values. In addition, the profiles of its students have changed over the years.

Dunman responded to the challenge by participating in several initiatives  under the leadership of the Ministry of Education. In 1997, Dunman became part of the East One Cluster, a pilot project of the Ministry of Education to divide the schools into clusters for better support. During the first ICT Masterplan, Dunman piloted the eduPADproject in 1999, a Research and Development pilot held in collaboration with the  Education Technology Division, Ministry of Education, National Computer Board and Kent Ridge Digital Lab. Secondary one express students that year were issued electronic palmtop notebooks in which they inserted thumb-sized microchip textbooks for their lessons. They could also log on to the Internet in a wireless fashion to conduct research.

In 1999, another milestone was reached when Dunman became a single session school.

In 2000, Mrs Edelweis Neo was appointed to lead the school as its 11th Principal.


Moving towards Organisational Excellence

The new millennium also ushered in a period of organisational excellence for Dunman. By this time, the school had shown notable achievements in many diverse areas. Dunman has since developed its distinct culture and strengths achieved Autonomous Status in 2000, and was awarded the Singapore Quality Class in 2001.


Strengthening Culture of Thinking and Innovation

To better meet the needs, abilities and aspirations of its students, Dunman needed to innovate. A strong culture of thinking and innovation among staff and students was encouraged, and a six ‘D’, Daring, was added to the school values in 2001 to inspire students to be creative, be innovative and  take risks.

It was also the time when the school carved out its strength in the sciences. In 2001, Dunman opened the Life Sciences Training and Research Centre. Currently, Dunman serves as the East Zone Centre of Excellence for Innovations in Science with the mission of uplifting the learning of its students and those of the schools in the East.


Forging Partnerships

Greater emphasis was also placed on forging partnerships with the community and corporate institutions. In 2001, collaboration with partners was extended with the adoption of the All Saints’ Home. The school also teamed up with Singapore Airlines as its corporate partner.


Providing Quality Education for all Dunmanities

The educational landscape continued to evolve, and in 2004, the ‘Teach Less Learn More’ (TLLM) movement was launched to re-examine the core of education – why we teach, what we teach and how we teach. It continued the ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’ journey to improve the quality of interaction between teachers and learners, shifting the focus from ‘quantity’ to ‘quality’ in education.Dunman thus embarked on school-based curriculum innovations to better meet the needs, talents and aspirations of its students. One example is the Music-English-Literature Fusion (MEL) project, which was a TLLM Ignite! Project.

Dunman thus embarked on school-based curriculum innovations to better meet the needs, talents and aspirations of its students. One example is the Music-English-Literature Fusion (MEL) project, which was a TLLM Ignite! Project.

2007 was a watershed year for Dunman. During that year, in recognition for its exemplary school processes and practices, Dunman received the School Distinction Award. To move ahead, the school also undertook a review and rebranding exercise. The school badge was changed. The school also streamlined the values in the  ‘5Ds’ again. They are Discernment, Discipline, Daring, Determination and Duty.  2007, was also the year Dunman underwent the upgrading of its premises under the Programme for Rebuilding and IMproving Existing schools (PRIME).

Building on its earlier efforts to holistically develop the student, the school came up with the DARE Framework in 2008 to guide the school in nurturing students in the cognitive, social, moral, physical, and aesthetics areas. The DARE Framework was ahead of its time, and up to today, is used to anchor the school’s programmes.

Dunman’s commitment to bringing out the best in its students by catering to  their various needs was acknowledged when it received the inaugural Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovation in the Normal Course in 2009.

In 2009, Ms Beatrice Chong was appointed to lead Dunman as its 12th Principal. There was a commitment to build on the strengths and heritage of the school.


Soaring High

2010 was a memorable year for the school. In terms of organisational recognition, it was a great honour for Dunman to receive the School Excellence Award, the highest and most prestigious award that serves as a mark of excellence for schools that have sustained achievements in a wide spectrum of student development processes. The school also received the Outstanding Development Award for Character Development.

Dr Ng Eng Hen, the Minister of Education at that time, officially opened the new campus after it had undergone PRIME for three years The Ministry of Education once again invited the school to be a trailblazer by  undertaking a pilot project for three years. The purpose of the project was to explore various teaching approaches of the 21st Century competencies in the otal curriculum.

As part of a holistic education, the school encouraged Co-Curricular Activities to flourish for the development of the students. Dunman particularly carved out a reputation as a powerhouse in the area of sports. In 2010, the school celebrated a double victory with the B Division Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball teams, both sweeping the National Championships. The Volleyball Girls’ team also made its mark on the national scene with B Division Girls’ national titles in 2010 and 2013.


Celebrating Dunman’s Year of Jubilee

2013 was yet another significant year for Dunman. The school celebrated its Jubilee (50 years of founding) with the theme of ‘One Heart, One Voice, One Spirit, One Dunman’. It sought to bridge the past and the present, and to cast a vision for the future.

Moving ahead, the school is refocusing on character education and on building an ethical community in the school. Dunman strongly believes in inculcating in the students the duty to give back to the community that has nourished them—‘饮水思源’. The school is also committed to nurturing grateful and positive change makers in society. Guided by the vision to ‘light up the nation as One Dunman’, the school embarked on a 50 acts of service to be a blessing to others. The students and staff were encouraged to find creative ways in which they can make a positive difference in the larger community. This was also a challenge to the young to lead and organize themselves, and to know that they were never too young to start to make a positive difference. As part of the jubilee celebrations, the school opened the Dunman Heritage Centre with  gratitude for how far it had come as a school, and to honour the vision, hard work and sacrifices made by generations of principals and staff who were supported by the alumni, School Advisory Committees, the dedicated and supportive parents’ group and other key partners. It serves to remind future generations of Dunmanites of the heritage of the school, and inspire them to proactively contribute to the Dunman legacy. In December 2013, Mr Suresh Balakrishnan was appointed as the 13th Principal of the school.


Realising its vision

Following the jubilee celebrations, the school unveiled a compelling and future-oriented Vision - 'An Institution of Excellence which Nurtures Ethical Change-Makers'. The vision marries the school's strive for excellence, with a nurturing environment, and its aspirations for the future to produce ethical change-makers who are the beneficiaries of the school's Total Curriculum. It also highlights the focus on character development and sound ethics, as well as on nurturing  students to be active citizens who will make a positive difference in small or big ways.

The 50 acts of service provided the impetus for the school to embark on providing opportunities for the school as One Dunman to reach out to the community. In 2014, the school invited pioneers in the Tampines community and Dunman to celebrate their contributions to nation building. To celebrate SG50, the entire school created small gift packs to give out to everyday people all around Singapore to bring a little cheer for the work they had done.

To strengthen its focus on providing for the well-being of its students, the school piloted the Student Development Team in 2015. The Dunman Youth Alumni was set up in 2014 to enlist  graduates and to transit them to the Dunman Secondary Alumni when they turn 30 years old.


Remembering and Revalidating

In 2016, Dunman offered its inaugural Heritage Module to all Sec 1 students to imbue in them a love for Dunman Secondary School through an understanding of the school’s history, culture and heritage.

To affirm the hard work of both the staff and students, Dunman was also revalidated for its autonomous status and received the School Distinction Award. It achieved all five Best Practice Awards given by the Ministry of Education and the school attained the Singapore Quality Class Award and the People Developer Standard which was awarded by Spring Singapore. Dunman was one of two schools in Singapore that was revalidated and awarded the Lee Hsien Loong Award for Innovations in the Normal Stream Course and continues to sustain its innovative practices to engage its Normal Course students.


Realising the Nation's Vision

In Dunman’s drive to realise the nation’s vision of building a SMART nation, Dunman embarked on several projects to become a SMART school. Dunman was certified as a Green Mark (Gold) school by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) to endorse its building energy performance, resource stewardship as well as smart and healthy building efforts.

In their pursuit of excellence, many former Dunmanites have made a name for themselves internationally in 2017. On 22 May 2017, Ms Nur Yusrina from the class of 2003 became the first Malay-Muslim woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest after more than 50 days of trekking. Ms Laanya Asogan from the class of 2012 was crowned Miss World Singapore 2017. These are former Dunmanites who have displayed determination and a daring spirit, and they are an inspiration to all Dunmanites.