Bandar Seri Begawan - What started off as a modest beginning, Chung Hwa Middle School, Bandar Seri Begawan (CHMS) had only two teaching staff and 20 students back in 1922. Ninety years on, after accomplishing momentous milestones, battling against the tide of time, the journey of one of the oldest and largest Chinese private schools in the country is that to be proud of.
Its success story is translated to what it has become today; with a strong teaching force of 200 staff, and accommodating more than 3,000 students. Indisputably, as one of the oldest schools in the country, it has made a significant contribution to the country's education system as the system rapidly evolves into its glory as one of the best in the region today.
The idea of the school's formation was initiated by its founder, Ong Boon Pang with other few prominent figures in the Chinese community back in the 19t1 Century. In its early beginnings, the school operated on a very limited rented space for its classroom at the second floor of a building known as York Choi School back then.
In 1922, its founders renamed the school to Chung Hwa School, and to accommodate the increasing demand and growing population of students, it introduced a new block located in Jln Bendahara in 1938.
Two years later, the Chairperson of the School's Board of Directors, Ong Boon Pang (who was then bestowed with Kapitan Cina title) passed away after 22 years of chairing. From then on, he has left a strong foundation for the development of the school.
Lim Teck Hoo was appointed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the school in 1954, and a year forwards, Chung Hwa School introduced lower secondary education to fulfill the needs of students who have completed their primary education. With that, the school transformed into Chung Hwa Middle School.
Starting 1957, the government started to provide subsidies to the school to ease the burden of the cost in teacher's pay, administration cost, as well as construction of facilities for the school.
In 1959, the school reached yet another milestone with the introduction of upper secondary education to provide a comprehensive education system for the school; starting from primary to upper secondary. By the same year, the students' population has reached 1,000 people. Due to lack of classrooms, the school launched a donation campaign for a new building to be built. Students, besides paying for school fee, also contributed B$2 each month to the school.
Three years later, the school finally completed the construction of a two-floor building costing B$800,000 with the support from the government and donations from the public. With the new facilities, Chung Hwa Middle School then started to offer kindergarten or preschool education in 1963, and then in 1968, the construction of the school's hall was completed.
After almost 20 years of receiving subsidies from the government, this practice was put to a halt in the 1970s. Hence, to overcome the financial difficulties, Kapitan Cina Awang Lim Teck Hoo, along with other members of the Boards of Directors, as well as the public made monthly contributions to the school.
By 1975, all subjects in secondary school were required to use English Language as the delivery language, with the exception of Mandarin, Malay, History Music, Physical Education, Art and Moral Education. At the same time, the school started to receive government teachers to teach Malay Language at the primary level.
Throughout the rest of 1970s, the school has achieved significant milestones as it began to accommodate for GCE 'O' Level examinations. Its image was also further heightened with excellent results coming from Primary Certificate of Education (PCE) and BJCE examinations.
The 1970s period also marked a milestone when the school celebrated its 50th anniversary. The late Sultan Hail Omar Ali Saifuddien Sa'adul Khairi Waddien officiated the celebration in 1972. During the same year, a new four-storey building was built to meet the needs of the secondary section.
Meanwhile, the 1980s era also marked significant achievements for the school. A new administration block was built in the 1980s, and the school celebrated its 60th anniversary in 1982, graced by HRH Prince Mohamed Bolkiah. This period also saw the establishment of the School's Alumni Education Fund. In 1983, a meeting was held by the school's sponsors and at the end of 1984, the school held its first election for members of its board of directors. Sixth Form classes were also introduced in 1986. In retrospect, the management had been computerised; computer class for secondary students was pioneered at the school as early as the 80s and it became the first school to make use of computer systems for its administration, and computer classes were also introduced to be part of co-curriculum activities subsequently.
Early in the 1990s, a new dormitory block for teachers and staff was built. The year 1997 saw Ang Swee Chuan elected as the Chairman of the School's Board of Directors to replace the retiring Pehin Temenggong Dato Lim Teck Hoo after 40 years of service. The school also launched its website in 1998, where parents can access their children's examination results and performance record online.
In this era of vigorous technological advancement, the school has always been gearing up to create innovative ways of integrating information and communication technology (ICT) into the curriculum and management. It was soon followed by the establishment of the school's computer room in the 90s and the introduction of computer lessons from primary one in 1998. The school in early 2000 gave students access to some learning materials online to its website for academic purposes.
Over the years, in response to the directives from the Ministry of Education, the school's ICT facilities have been substantially upgraded. Having begun the setting up of Chung Hwa Network in the library in 2002 and proudly emerging as the first school in Brunei to be linked by intranet, the school presently has one of the most extensive educational websites in the country, which incorporate all three languages, catering for parents and other educationists of different races.
His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam also consented to an unscheduled visit to the school for the first time in 2001. In 2002, His Majesty also graced the school's 80th anniversary celebrations. Throughout the decade, the school also saw several other achievements including the building of new blocks and a bridge, all which came from sponsorships derived from individuals and groups.
The school was also awarded the 'Exemplary School Award' in 2009 by the Foreign Office of the People's Republic of China.
Early in 2011, the school introduced a new education system for Chinese Language for its primary section. At the same year, the school also received accolades for various international and local competitions including the APICTA Competition held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Pattaya, Thailand.
In September 2011, His Majesty awarded the school's Principal, Kho Guik Lan the Meritorious Teacher (School Leadership) Award.
Over the course of evolution, Chung Hwa Middle School has been standing tall, attaining remarkable achievements for almost a century, aided by the capitalisation of the leading-edge technology.
Now with the surging needs to keep pace with the latest educational reforms, the school vows to implement the avant-garde SPN21 curriculum through the optimum utilisation of state-of-the-art facilities and up-to-date software.
Although the school has the undeterred aim to ensure a perpetual enthusiasm in Mandarin and Tiong Hwa values amongst Tiong Hwa community and other races in Brunei, it never forgets its duty to place equal emphasis on cultivating moral value, knowledge, physical strength, appreciation of arts and team spirit into the students. For decades, the school has been serving as the backbone of the society in producing well-rounded citizens who are trilingual and possess both academic and athletic competences.
Meanwhile, during an interview with Mr Tan San Leong, the current Chairman of the Board of Director of Chung Hwa Middle School, who was also one of the first few students to study in the school's secondary section, he said, "It was during the late 1940s that I entered the school, when I was nine years old. I was the first few secondary students of Chung Hwa to graduate in 1961."
Recalling on the infrastructure of the school back then, he said, "During that time, the school already had a proper building and also a small hall, which can only accommodate 100 students. The classrooms were made of wood, and there was also a field."
The education then, he commented, "subjects were mostly taught in Mandarin Language. Only after some time, the school took up English and Malay languages."
With Chung Hwa Middle School reaching 90th anniversary this year, he expressed, "The school has been through many challenges in the past and educational transformation in line with the development of the country. The school is now among the top Chinese schools in the country." He then added, "We want to continue to further develop the school in line with the Government of His Majesty's aspiration and the country's educational policy"
Mr Tan San Leong also hoped that the Chinese community will unite together in realising the aspiration of His Majesty for Wawasan 2035.
--Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin