Sunday, February 22, 2009
The ancestors of the Chinese community in Penang came from various backgrounds, various dialect groups, clans and provinces, and they settled here during different periods in Penang’s history. They took up various trades and occupations, and established many religious and social institutions. Later, they established their family here, and built schools for their descendents.
Chinese education was only introduced to Penang in the early 20th century, a century later than the English schools were introduced. Penang Free School was founded in 1816, followed by Hutchings School in 1821, Saints Xavier’s Institution and Convent Light Street in 1851, Methodist Boys’ School in 1881 (was known as Anglo-Chinese School), St George’s Girls’ School (1884) and Methodist Girls’ School (1895).
Cheong Fatt Tze (Chang Bishi), a wealthy businessman, was worried that new generations of Chinese might eventually forget their mother tongue and their own culture. He saw education as a means to bring the Chinese into the 20th century. He, therefore, donated funds to build Chung Hwa School (1904) in Penang and Ying Sin School (1905) in Singapore. These schools were the oldest formal Chinese Schools established in South-east Asia as a result of influence by the educational reforms in China in early 1900s, Mandarin is the school’s medium of instruction.
Cheong founded Chung Hwa School on 15th of May 1904 at “Ping Zhang Hui Guan”, Pitt Street, where the present Penang Chinese Town Hall is located. The school is one of the oldest formal Chinese Schools in Malaysia and the first to use Mandarin as the medium of instruction instead of the Chinese Dialects. It is the only overseas Chinese school to be sanctioned by the Qing dynasty government of China, which officially presented it with royal seals bearing the school's name through its consulate and Cheong Fatt Tze.
Initially, the school had only an enrollment of 160 students and 8 teachers, classes were only conducted for primary level. The administration of the school came under the patronage of the school's board of governors. The school was originally located at the rented premises at the present day site of the Penang Chinese Town Hall in Jalan Masjid Kapitan Keling. In 1908, it moved into its own building in Maxwell Road.
Chung Hwa Confucian School on Maxwell Road (courtesy of Malcolm Wade, England).
The school building was designed in 1907 by H.A. Neubronner, the same architect who designed the HongKong and Shanghai Bank building (was destroyed in second world war) and the present USM-ABN-AMRO Arts and Cultural Centre.
Anglo-Chinese School was on the left side, after the school moved to a new site next to Suffolk House, the school building was subsequently occupied by Li Teik School. Unfortunately, both school buildings on Maxwell Road were demolished in the late 1970s.
In 1912, the Republican overthrew the Qing dynasty government and took over the administration of China. In the same year, the Penang Confucian Association known as the Confucian Temple allocated funds to sponsor the school which came under the patronage of the association and the term “Confucian” became part of the name of the school. The school was then renamed to Chung Hwa Confucian School.
In 1924, the school opened its first lower secondary classes, the enrolment increased to 900 pupils. The school progressed and prospered until the period of Japanese occupation, fortunately the school premises survived from the destruction of the second world war.
A year after independence was declared in Malaya, Chung Hwa Confucian Primary School became a government-aided school, which is known as a national type primary school. Meanwhile, Chung Hwa Confucian Secondary School remained under the administration of the school's board of governors. As the enrolment of students increased in 1964, Chung Hwa Confucian Primary School was divided into two schools, which are Chung Hwa Confucian (Morning) Primary School and Chung Hwa Confucian (Afternoon) Primary School.
In 1972, the secondary was moved to its current school premises in Island Park, at No. 2, Persiaran Tembaga. It was then renamed Chung Hwa Confucian High School. The primary schools remained at Maxwell Road.
The school premises at Maxwell Road served its last batch of students in 1979, and was demolished to make way for the Komtar project, they were moved to their current premises next to the State Mosque at Jalan Air Itam, at No. 2, Jalan Ibbetson. Both primary schools were then renamed to Chung Hwa Confucian (A) Primary School and Chung Hwa Confucian (B) Primary School.
On 15th of May 2004, the school celebrated centennial with grand dinner at Chung Hwa Confucian High School's main hall, more than 1,000 guests attended the centenary dinner, and more than 5,000 visitors visited the school's centenary exhibitions.
Today, Chung Hwa Confucian School provides primary, secondary and pre-university education. Classes include science, information technology, commerce, arts, sports and vocational trainings.