(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."
Dr Chong Yean Chiong, Vice-Chairman of the School Advisory Committee
at the School’s Speech and Prize-Giving Day in 1972
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 which addressed the challenges of fostering social cohesion among students in Singapore and emphasized the importance of bilingual education, and 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 different 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 was encoded in her very being when she was founded. Dunman Secondary School was first of its kind as it was one of the first Integrated Schools in Singapore, and the first with triple integration. This foreshadowed subsequent attempts for schools to become the common space to forge a common identity, regardless of race, language or religion. Dunman Integrated Secondary School was founded in 1963. The School was situated at Haig Road and shared a large field with other schools. The school 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 1st Principal was Mr Au Keng Chu. As the 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 was about planting a strong foundation. Excellence, innovation, and ethics, the cornerstones of the school, were set right from the beginning.
While she had very humble roots, in fact, sharing premises with well-known schools, Dunman was bold to claim the vision of rising above her circumstances to be an established school which was well-regarded and well-sought after for her education.
Dunman’s first intake of students was enrolled in the School even as the building was under construction. The 9 English-stream Secondary 1 classes were held at Mattar West Vocational Institute and 3 Malay-stream Secondary 1 classes were held at Tun Seri Lanang School before they moved into the School when the building was completed in August 1963. Only a year after its opening, Dunman’s enrollment increased dramatically with 22 English stream classes and 21 Malay stream classes. In 1964, Dunman Integrated Secondary School became the first integrated school with 3 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 any problem because classes were not in session. However, 6 weeks later, fresh riots broke out at the Joo Chiat area. This unrest was two kilometers 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, 1st Principal of Dunman Integrated Secondary School
Parents started 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 the canteen operators fled. Thus during the ordeal, there were no foods or drinks for the staff and students. It was the neighbours of all races who 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 believed 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, Dunman had her School Song, composed by Mr John De Souza, a music teacher of the School. It expresses the purpose and mission of the School.
In the same year, Mr Tiong Dak Yu became the 2nd 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 item 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 Dunmanties and interestingly, the results for the GCE ‘O’ level that year was the best ever.
In 1971, Mr Chiu Hock Seng became Dunman’s 3rd Principal.
As Dunman developed, there was an increasing need to build a distinctive identity and instill a strong sense of belonging among the students in the school. Thus, in 1975, the Dunman Statue of the boy and girl students that 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 belonging to Dunman.
In 1976, Mr Poon Meng Seng became the 4th Principal of Dunman Secondary School. 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 6th Principal.
The school’s development in the earlier years was not without its challenges. This included the need for greater organizational efficiency, and student-related issues. The School also had a falling enrolment. Juxtaposed against the larger educational landscape, the Singapore education system had embarked on its efficiency-driven phase where the focus was on reducing 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 that there was a healthy organizational culture. Once again the pioneer, Dunman was the first school to institute the now familiar Heads-of-Department scheme to better serve the needs of the 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, there was also an increasing awareness of the need to nurture students holistically, and in leadership development. 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 potential. This move affirmed the importance of building positive teacher-student relationship which is a cornerstone of the School up 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 would come to an end in 1991.
During this time, the School also focused on building up ties with the parents to encourage their involvement in the education of their children. The first Meet-the-Parents session was held on 31 May 1985 and this was to become a regular feature of the School. The Dunman Focus, a quarterly newsletter, was also published. This aim of the Dunman Focus was to foster closer ties between the School, students and parents.
1988 was a significant year as the school turned 25 years. Around this time, there were discussions about finding a new home for Dunman. The premises at Haig Road were more than twenty years old. It could not be extended and lacked the modern facilities found in the newer schools. The school leadership was offered several possible locations for Dunman, and in the end, decided that Tampines would be an ideal location given that it was situated in a new town.
The movement of the School to her new premises was carried out by Mrs Tay Sor Har who became the 7th Principal of Dunman Secondary.
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. There were talks about changing the name of the School since it was no longer in the Haig Road/Dunman Road area. But the school leaders fought to keep the name as the School was not named after a road, but after the first Police Commissioner of Singapore. The School was eventually allowed to retain her name as Dunman Secondary School which meant that all former students would still have an alma mater, and the School would still have recourse to establish ties with a big pool of people who had first received their education in Dunman since her 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 staff of the school in her founding years.
Focusing on Character Development: The ‘5Ds’
The School continued to progress and establish itself as an institution of reputation in the East. It was during this time that the beliefs and aspirations of the school were formalised after considerable Vision and Mission of the School and its values, known as the ‘5Ds,’ came into being. Discipline, Diligence, Determination, Discernment and Duty became the values which guided the staff and students in all that they did.
In 1993, the leadership torch was passed to Mr Tng Kim Guan who was appointed the 8th Principal of the School.
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, which is still in practice 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 are 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. The form and substance was created by the Art Teacher, Mr Dzulkifli b Mohd Akbar. A special dedication was composed by Ms Hasnah Abdullah, a clerical officer with the school.
Developing the Arts
The School encouraged the development of the arts which enriched the lives of the students. There were opportunities for the students to put up public performances. The first drama performance put up at the Drama Centre was ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ in 1994. Since then, public performances by the 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 9th 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 wll 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 to the needs of the 21st century.
As the demands of a changing and increasingly globalized world will be very different, Dunman understood that a good legacy to leave to the students would be developing them to be future-ready while rooted in sound values. In addition, the profile of her students has also changed over the years.
Dunman responded to the challenge by participating in several initiatives led by MOE. In 1997, Dunman became part of the East One Cluster, a pilot project by MOE to divide the schools into clusters for better support. During the First ICT Masterplan, Dunman piloted the eduPAD project in 1999, a Research and Development pilot held in collaboration with the the Education Technology Division, MOE, 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, and 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 helm the school as her 11th Principal.
Moving towards Organisational Excellence
The new millennium also ushered in a period of organisational excellence for Dunman. By this time, the school has shown notable achievements in many diverse areas. From those pioneering years, Dunman Secondary School has since developed her distinct culture and strengths, went on to achieve 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 her students, Dunman needed to innovate. A strong culture of thinking and innovation among staff and students was encouraged, and a 6th ‘D’, Daring, was added to the school values in 2001 to inspire students to be creative, innovative and to take risks.
It was also the time when the school carved out her 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 to uplift the learning of her students and those of the schools in the East.
There was also greater emphasis on forging partnerships with the community and corporate institutions. In 2001, collaboration with partners was extended with the adoption of All Saints’ Home. The school also teamed up with Singapore Airlines as her 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, how we teach. It continues the ‘Thinking Schools, Learning Nation’ journey to improve the quality of interaction between teachers and the 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.
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 into ‘5Ds’ again. From 2007, the ‘5Ds’ refer to Discernment, Discipline, Daring, Determination and Duty. 2007 was also the year Dunman underwent 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 the students in the cognitive, social, moral, physical, and aesthetics areas. The DARE Framework was ahead of its time, and up till today, is used to anchor the School’s programmes.
Dunman’s commitment to bring out the best in her students by catering to different 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.
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.
The new campus was also officially opened by Dr Ng Eng Hen, then Minister for Education, after 3 years of undergoing PRIME.
The school was once again invited by the Ministry of Education to be a trailblazer to undertake a pilot project for three years to explore different teaching approaches of the 21st Century Competencies in the total curriculum.
As part of a holistic education, the School encouraged the Co-Curricular Activities to flourish for the development of the students. Dunman carved out a reputation as a powerhouse in the area of sports. In 2010, the School celebrated a double victory with both the B Division Boys’ and Girls’ Basketball Teams sweeping the National Championships. The Volleyball Girls’ Team also made its mark in the national scene with the B Girls’ National titles in 2010 and 2013.
Celebrating Dunman’s Year of Jubilee
2013 is yet another significant year for Dunman. The School celebrates its Jubilee (50 years of founding) with the theme, One Heart, One Voice, One Spirit, One Dunman. It seeks to bridge the past and the present, and to cast a vision for the future.
Moving ahead, there is a refocus of the school on character education and building an ethical community in the school. Dunman strongly believes in inculcating in the students the duty to give back to the community which has nourished them—“饮水思源”. The School is also committed to nurture grateful and positive change makers of society. To signal that refocus, the school embarked on its Jubilee celebrations at the start of 2013 with a difference, by making a difference. Guided by the vision to “light up the nation as One Dunman”, the school had embarked on 50 Acts of Service to be a blessing to others. The students and staff were encouraged to find creative ways to make a positive difference on the larger community. This was also a challenge to the young to lead and organize themselves, and to know that they are never too young to start to make a positive difference. As part of the Jubilee celebrations, the School opened the Dunman Heritage Centre in gratitude of how far it has come as a School, and to honour the vision, hard work and sacrifices made by generations of Principals and staff, 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 continue and 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 highlighted the focus on character development and sound ethics, and nurturing the 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 Secondary School to celebrate their contributions to Nation Building. To celebrate SG50, the whole school made small gift packs to give out to everyday people all around Singapore to bring a little cheer for the work they have 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 the graduates and to transit them to the Dunman Secondary Alumni when they turn 30 years old.