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Historical Milestones

Established in 1879, Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) is today a leading girls’ school providing a holistic education via its six-year Raffles Programme.

The growth of RGS is largely attributed to the commitment of individuals who were passionate about the education of girls in an era when the provision of academic education for girls was considered unimportant.

RGS’ humble beginnings can be traced to a group of eight ladies who were determined to rescue orphans and very poor girls from vice and provide them with care and protection through education. Their efforts to set up a girls’ school attached to the Singapore Institution (later renamed Raffles Institution) were supported by Mrs Elizabeth Cavenagh (nee Moriarty), wife of the Straits Settlements Governor, who became the School’s Patron. It was their labour and dedication that enabled RGS to make steady progress in student enrolment, paving the way for its status as a distinguished educational institution in Singapore. The commitment of good people, many of whom remain unsung heroes, continues to shape RGS as an institution for high-ability girls.


From its humble beginnings at Bras Basah Road on 4 MArch 1844 as a one-room department in a boy's school (Raffles Institution), RGS was officially established in 1879 with an enrolment of 77 students.
Miss M Nelson (1880-1884) was the first Headmistress of the school, and together with three assistants, they taught the girls sewing, cooking, reading and writing to equip girls with the tools to become an educated wife.
From 1882, English-speaking boys were admitted to the ower, middle and primary classes. This was discontinued in 1927 due to the increasing demand for places for girs. The school had, by 1883, four classrooms, occupied by 134 students.
RGS attained the status of an English High School, offering Latin as a subject with proved useful to girls aspiring to become doctors and lawyers.
The Director of Public Instruction referred to RGS as an “admirably managed establishment”.
RGS become a Government School and henceforth, the Government set the standard of education and appointed civil servants to run the School.
Principal Miss Tarbet (1904-1910) pushed for the start of a training establishment where students could be trained to be teachers.


To date, Miss Dorothy Martha Buckle (1910-1937) remains the longest-serving RGS Principal. Mr H R Cheeseman (Director of Education, Singapore) praised her for making her mark not only as a trainer who produced teachers who maintained “her high standards of efforts and efficiency”, but also as a Principal who taught students to be independent thinkers.
As enrolment expanded, RGS moved to Queen Street in 1928 whereupon it became a full-fledged girls’ school and stopped admitting boys to the lower and middle forms.

Principal Miss C Richardson (1938-1939) was known for her efforts in impressing on students the importance of articulating the English Language properly and her emphasis on discipline.
RGS’ Queen Street campus was occupied by the Japanese Military Police, Kempeitai, as its headquarters during the war years.
When World War Two broke out, Principal Mrs K Waddle (1939-1942) chose to remain in Singapore out of dedication to her job. When she left on the last evacuation boat just before the Japanese occupied Singapore, the boat was torpedoed and she lost her life at sea.
The House system in RGS was started by Miss M M Hadley, the postwar principal of the school from 1946 to 1951, to develop in RGS students a strong sense of belonging to the school. Ten years later, when Miss Evelyn Norris became Principal, a fifth house was added in honour of Miss Hadley’s contributions to the school. Hence, as a tribute to the former Principals, the five RGS Houses were named after them – Tarbet, Buckle, Richardson, Waddle and Hadley. It is one of the oldest House systems in Singapore.
Principal Miss Tarbet (1904-1910) pushed for the start of a training establishment where students could be trained to be teachers.


Principal Miss Cecily Hinchliffe (1951-1956) championed all-round development of students. A Science Department was established in 1955 and a laboratory completed in 1957. She also introduced weekly assemblies to the school programme, which have since become part of the school’s tradition.
The school motto, Filiae Melioris Aevi or Daughters of a Better Age, was introduced, with the school’s first annual Speech Day held on the same year.
‘From High Olympus’ was adopted as the school song (lyrics and music by Miss Florence Hoare and Miss H L Schnoor).
Principal Miss M N Oehlers (1958-1961) oversaw the move of the school to Anderson Road. She had been a student, teacher and Assistant Principal before taking over the helm as Principal of RGS. At her retirement ceremony in 1961, she outlined what she regarded as important
In January, the primary and secondary sections of the school were separated and the secondary section moved to Anderson Road, while the primary section was renamed Raffles Girls’ Primary School and remained in Queen Street. At RGS’ new premises in Anderson Road, the school operated on two sessions, morning and afternoon, to cope with the increasing enrolment.
Principal Miss Noel Evelyn Norris (1961-1976) encouraged leadership training and character development for girls, and avidly promoted CCAs. She also made it compulsory for students to read both Science and Arts Subjects so as to have an all-rounded education. The school premises were upgraded such as the construction of a new Science block and the carving out of a large new playing field.


Principal Miss Tan Leng Neo (1977-1979) oversaw both the Secondary and Pre-University classes at RGS. Believing that students absorb more through experiential learning, she encouraged teachers to organise field trips and outdoor activities for students. Concerned about the welfare of staff and students, Miss Tan installed water coolers and placed terrazzo tables and chairs around the school. She also looked into the installing of the Stevens Road traffic lights (right-turn green arrow) into Anderson Road to help traffic flow to the school.
Principal Mrs Chee Keng Soon (1980-1988) introduced job attachments, talks and other activities outside of school for character and leadership development. To inculcate in students a concern for the less fortunate, classes were encouraged to visit welfare organisations.
To ease constraints on school facilities, the Pre-University classes were phased out.
The Gifted Education Programme was introduced. A year later, RGS went single session when the school was given the use of the adjoining ex-Anderson Secondary School campus. Students enjoyed ample opportunities to showcase their creative talents in music, drama, art and languages when ‘RGS Nite’ (originally known as ‘An Evening of Music and Dance’) was started. It was on this platform that the talents of violinist Seow Lee Chin, choir pianist Karen Yip, singer Kit Chan and actress Emma Yong were showcased.

RGS moved to a holding school located at Jalan Kuala (off River Valley Road).
As a proponent of a multi-pronged approach to education, Principal Mrs Carmee Lim (1988-1999) championed creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship. Special rooms such as the Humanities Centre and the RGS Guidance Centre was set up. Together with staff, Mrs Lim came up with the concept of the Living Values known as the four ‘Ps’ – Principled, People-Centred, Passionate and Professional. To shape RGS into a ‘School for the Future’, students were exposed to a learning environment that tapped on multimedia technology and a Cyber Learning Centre (which came to be named in Mrs Lim’s honour) was set up.
RGS linked up with the University of Michigan in the Interactive Simulation project, which allowed RGS students to exchange ideas with students in six other countries in a ‘Global Classroom’ setting.


RGS moved from its holding school in Jalan Kuala to its original location at Anderson Road on 1 November. 50 girls, carrying a torch and the school flag, took part in the school’s bus-stop relay from River Valley Road to Anderson Road.
On 1 January, RGS became an Independent School, recruiting her own teachers and introducing innovative enrichment programmes to promote the total development of students and go beyond textbooks.
To replace the Women’s Rafflesian Chapter, the RGS Chapter was formed.
Principal Mrs Deborah Tan (1999-2007) played an instrumental role in nurturing the ideals of scholarship in the students. During her tenure, RGS achieved four Sustained Achievement Awards – the only school to do so across the nation at the time. Under her leadership, RGS and RI came together to offer the six-year Integrated Programme called the Raffles Programme. Fittingly, at the farewell ceremony held for Mrs Tan in 2007, it was announced that the school library would be renamed in her honour.
A multi-purpose parade ground was constructed to provide a suitable assembly area for flag-raising ceremonies as well as for uniformed groups to form up. The parade square also serves as a venue for special celebrations like Founder’s Day, Speech Day, National day and Teachers’ Day. This parade ground was named Tan Leng Neo Square in honour of our former principal in 2001.
Registered as a society in 2003, the key objective of the Parents for RGS Association is to connect parents, the school and students, fostering meaningful ties among key stakeholders in the students’ holistic development.
RGS and RI implemented the six-year Integrated Programme known as the Raffles Programme (RP). The RP grew out of a strong desire to prepare students for the demands of a fast-changing world where they will be expected to lead and serve the community and nation. The RP is consistent with the philosophy of the Raffles schools in delivering a broad-based education that is focused more on process than mere content. The added emphasis on the co-curriculum is also in line with what the Raffles schools have been well-known for.
Principal Mrs Julie Hoo (2007-2012) initiated the first RGS Homecoming for alumnae as part of the school’s anniversary celebrations. She also saw RGS through the Raffles Institution-Raffles Junior College merger, maintaining RGS’ distinctive identity and heritage as a premier school for girls and close partnership with the ‘merged’ RI. Under her watch, the RGS F1 Centre for Innovation was set up to promote learning and engagement in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
The Wallace Environmental Learning Laboratory (WELL) was established by RGS and NParks with sponsorship from GlaxoSmithKline and the support of the Economic Development Board. Situated at the Dairy Farm Nature Park, WELL is Singapore’s first and only learning laboratory in the forest.


An in-house educational research and consultancy centre was set up with a team of four Teacher-Specialists, led by a Director. It was named the RGS Pedagogical Research Lab.
2011 saw the introduction of the four-year Raffles Diploma (RD) award, which was co-developed with Raffles Institution to recognise individual talent, encouraging personal responsibility in learning and peaks of excellence. The RD certification recognises student participation and achievements in five developmental domains: Cognitive, Character and Leadership, Community and Citizenship, Arts and Aesthetics, Sports and Health.
The Regional Studies Programme was also introduced in RGS to nurture a group of non-Malays comfortably conversant in the Malay Language and able to engage the region.
A new campus for RGS was announced. The new campus, to be ready in 2019, will provide the space and facilities required to deliver innovative curriculum and programmes to better support the school’s teaching and learning goals. To be located along Braddell Road opposite RI, the new campus will allow for better planning of schedules for common programmes between the two schools while retaining RGS’ independence and distinctive heritage.
Two large-scale fund-raising events for the new campus was held in 2013 and 2014. The first was the launch of the ‘Consuming Passion’ cookbook by RGS alumnae, where proceeds from the sale of the book went towards the New Campus Development Fund. The Guest-of-Honour for the event was former President of Singapore, Mr S R Nathan.
Another fund-raising event, the New Campus Fund Raising Banquet was held in 2014 at Orchard Hotel, and the Guest-of-Honour for the event was Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam.
In moving the school forward and in light of new challenges within the education landscape, RGS embarked on a Strategic Envisioning Exercise from 2014-2018 under the watch of Principal Mrs Poh Mun See (2012-2019). The RGS Management, in consultation with staff, students and parents and working with a professional consultant, updated the school Strategic Map.
The RGS Alumnae was established in July as an association for RGS graduates. Its aim is to inspire, enable and engage alumnae to build a community that embodies the Rafflesian spirit and work towards the betterment of society, nation and self.
To celebrate RGS’ 135th birthday and raise funds for the New Campus, Homecoming III was held in August. It was a day when Rafflesians, past and present, came back to celebrate and to connect with one another over a range of activities that foster bonding across generations of Rafflesians.
The Pedagogical Research Lab was expanded to incorporate the Teaching track, namely the Senior and Lead Teachers, as well as the Head of Professional Development. It was later renamed the Centre for Pedagogical Research and Learning to reflect its growth in Research, Consultancy and Professional Learning.
In celebration of SG50, RGS held several activities to commemorate Singapore’s Golden Jubilee, including a high tea co-organised by the RGS Chapter and RGS Alumnae.
A Curriculum Review was conducted to revisit its alignment to the goals, values, approaches and features of the Raffles Programme, and to make recommendations for future directions.
In 2016, RGS embarked on a school-wide review of its programmes and resources for the next five years, with particular focus on consolidation and innovation. This was in response to shifts in the Singapore society in terms of its priorities and strategies where multiple peaks of excellence and multiple pathways to excellence are encouraged.
On 17 February, a model of the new campus was unveiled at the Anderson Road campus.
The Groundbreaking Ceremony of RGS’ New Campus@Braddell took place on 12 August. The Guest-of-Honour for the event was Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, and Ministry of Health. The event marked another milestone in RGS’ 138-year history. In breaking ground for the building of the new campus, the school is symbolically laying the foundation for RGS to set a new benchmark for learning spaces that is student-focused, environmentally-friendly and inclusive of the community around RGS. This will be RGS’ fifth campus since the school was established in 1879 and will continue the RGS legacy of fostering a healthy balance of academic excellence and sporting prowess.
Carnival Memorias, was held at RGS in March to raise money for the New Campus Development Fund.
Arising from a school-wide review of RGS’ programmes and resources, Raffles Academy 2.0, a talent development programme, was implemented. Students are able to broaden and/or deepen their learning in a particular area of study through Coursework or Research Modules. This inclusive, opt-in programme combines the best features of three of RGS’ instructional programmes to develop in Year 3 and 4 students the fundamental skills and passion for research and creative problem-solving (Research Studies), to cater to the varied interests of these students beyond the academic curriculum (Year 4 Options) and to stretch and challenge students with advanced knowledge and skills in their talent area (Raffles Academy). These modules are taught by RGS teachers as well as industry practitioners ad experts in tertiary institutions
RGS commemorated Singapore’s Bicentennial with a skit on the Founding of Singapore in January, a hall assembly in April reflecting on RGS’ journey over the years, a school-wide fieldtrip to The Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning in July and a ‘Sixth Statue’ Competition in August.
On 17 August, RGS held its 140th Founder’s Day in the morning. The event was graced by Guest-of-Honour Ms Chan Lai Fung (Permanent Secretary, National Research and Development).
Co-organised with the RGS Alumnae, RGS held its 4th Homecoming on the same day as its 140th Founder’s Day, which saw 5,000 participants comprising alumnae, current and former staff and students, and well-wishers thronging the Anderson Road campus for a grand farewell before the ‘Big Move’.
The ‘Big Move’ from the Anderson Road campus to the Braddell Road campus was held on 21 October. It started with a hopper bus journey from Anderson Road to Braddell Rise – a symbolic move with the Principal carrying the RGS flag from the ‘old’ campus to the ‘new’. Four launches took place that day, namely the Performing Arts Centre, the Innovation Hub, the Hong Leong Foundation Filiae Centre and the Triple C Programme.
RGS began its academic year in the new campus at Braddell under a new Principal, Ms Haslinda Zamani (Dec 2019 – present). To ensure learning outcomes meet the needs of our students and society in the near and further future, RGS embarked on an envisioning process at the start of the year, involving all members of staff, and included input from alumnae, students and parents. Arising from the Gifted Education Branch curriculum study report of the Raffles Programme, school efforts gave focus to enhancing enactment of classroom teaching including design of extension learning activities for very high ability learners. Efforts also went into making the new campus safe and vibrant like a home away from home for students and staff members.