GESS50: Diving into the 80s

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This article is a continuation of the GESS50 series. Read about the 70s here.

Searching for a New School Site

From 1901, the Swiss Club owned a large piece of land around the Bukit Tinggi area. This piece of land was not used and the Singaporean government wanted to expropriate this land at that time. The Swiss Club wanted to prevent this by dividing the land so that it could be better used.

In October 1979, the German School Singapore (DSS) began negotiations with the Swiss Club for the lease of a 12,000 square meter area at Bukit Tinggi. At this time, 5 other institutions also expressed their interest in a piece of building land. Besides the German, Dutch and French schools, these were the British Club, because the Tanglin Club was no longer considered a British Club and the people in charge preferred to build something of their own, and a retirement home. Switzerland also needed a place for its embassy. The area around Bukit Tinggi was then divided into five plots accordingly.

In 1980, Dr. Otto Knödler became the principal of the German School Singapore.

Dr. Knödler in class

From his time at the school, the school tree, the Traveller’s Palm, came to be used more and more as a school symbol. And till date, the Traveller’s Palm continues to remain a part of the GESS logo.

In 1982, the DSS signed a lease for the land at Bukit Tinggi for S$1.3 million. The French school leased an area of about the same size just opposite, where the Korean school is today. The British Club paid a little more for a site spread across the hillside and on 2 levels: the clubhouse above and the tennis court below. The remaining land was taken over by the Institution of Engineers. The Dutch school still stands in the near the former French School’s location with a slightly smaller land area of about 8,000 sqm. The Swiss Embassy uses another part of the former total area. At that time, the tenants had to pay for the construction of the road from Swiss Club Road to Jalan Kampong Chantek.

The school project at Bukit Tinggi cost a total of S$6 million (first stage of expansion). The construction was financed with reserves from the association and surpluses from 1983 and 1984 amounting to S$ 1.5 million, a joint bank loan of S$ 2.6 million from all German banks in Singapore and individual loans from the members of S$ 10,000 per child, which resulted in S$ 2.3 million. To make room for the school construction, quite a bit of jungle land had to be cleared.

However, in accordance with government requirements, certain trees had to be left standing and new plantings on the same site were also ordered by the National Environment Agency. The laying of the foundation stone took place on 21 June 1984. During this event, a time capsule was buried on campus. However, the whereabouts of the capsule have unfortunately yet to be discovered.

In 1985, after 12 years, the German School Singapore moved out of the school building on Chatsworth Road and into the new building. At the time of the move, the school had 240 students. On 08 November 1985 the school building was officially inaugurated with a big school festival.

In 1986 Karl Ulrich Lechner became principal of the DSS and had a decisive influence on our school in the following years.

In 1987 the forum, from that time onwards the central point of the school campus, and the sports field were built.

First Abitur Examination

The school had to choose which German school system and curriculum to follow and ultimately the curriculum of Thuringia was chosen. The school also aimed to gain permission to offer the Abitur exams to students at the end of 12 years of schooling, as the DSS was competing with the other international schools in Singapore, all of which offered graduation after 12 years of schooling. Even then, competition among international schools was very high, as Singaporean students could not be enrolled in these schools and students could only be recruited from a limited number of expatriate families.

In 1989, seven students graduated from high school for the first time. The school had about 500 students at that time. Thanks to the special efforts of Mr. Lechner, the principal at the time, the DSS was one of the few schools abroad to receive recognition from the Kultusministerkonferenz (Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs) to hold the Abitur examination. During this time, Anita Lechner, his wife, compiled a school chronicle consisting of 6 volumes, which are still available at GESS today.

Images of the first Abitur in 1989

Read more about the further development of GESS through the 90s in our next issue of the GESS Magazine.

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