The Quest for Knowledge
For over 90 years, Ai Tong School has provided quality education to generations of young school children, initially as a Chinese school, progressing to an English school and eventually as one of the most sought after schools in Singapore.
Ai Tong's existence and success can be attributed to two main factors. Firstly, great men like Tan Kah Kee and Wee Cho Yaw with the foresight to invest in the future — through educating the young — have turned Ai Tong into one of the leading schools in Singapore. Secondly, the total commitment, dedication, and perseverance of the staff and Principals over the years have pulled the school from mediocrity to its current premier position.
With the perseverance and dedication exhibited by the teachers and principal, combined with the clear focus of the Hokkien Huay Kuan Education Committee Ai Tong will continue to be a beacon in education and continue to groom the future generations.
The Development of Ai Tong School
Under the guidance of the Hokkien Huay Kuan, Ai Tong School was the second school established by the association and it opened on 12 October 1912. At that time, the school's curriculum was based on the fundamentals Chinese values similar to China's education system.
Beyond the Academics
The school has achieved many laudable achievements outside the classroom. In line with the education direction of the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan — to preserve Chinese teachings, values and culture — the school developed some excellent programmes in areas like essay writing, Guzheng, wushu, Chinese dance, calligraphy, art and choir.
In the area of sports, Ai Tong excelled in basketball, volleyball and table tennis.
||Ai Tong School started with about 30 pupils in a Methodist Church on Boon Tat Street, then known as Japan Street, when it took over the running of the school from some missionaries. Mr Koh Chee Hou became the first principal of Ai Tong.
||As pupil numbers increased to 120 the school decided to move to bigger premises at 209 Telok Ayer Street. But high operating cost threatened the school's existence. Eventually the school had no choice but to sell the site because of the lack of funds and debts were mounting. Philanthropist Tan Kah Kee stepped in and rescued the school from financial woe. His generous gesture provided a lifeline for the school and enabled it to offer quality education to Ai Tong's pupils.
||Once again, Tan Kah Kee stepped in to the rescue the school from another financial crisis threatening the school's survival. This time he decided to undertake the entire responsibility of funding the school's expenses. 1929: The Hokkien Huay Kuan took over the school management and with better administration and experience rejuvenated the school and enrolment started to increase.
||After the interruption of World War II there was a surge in student numbers and Ai Tong decided to create a branch unit at the old Gan Eng Seng School at Cecil Street for some 470 students. Within the span of one year, the enrolment increased further to 1600 pupils and the 17 classrooms and a large field were soon found to be inadequate.
||For almost 50 years, Ai Tong served as a boys' school but with the closure of Ai Hwa School for girls, Ai Tong became co-educational.
||Ai Tong moved the main part of the school to the Hokkien Huay Kuan Building located at 137 Telok Ayer Street and had facilities like a science laboratory, geography/history room, specimen room and library, second to none at that time.
||Ai Tong became a government-aided school.
||Sansui and Tong Hua Schools closed and their pupils joined Ai Tong, swelling the student number to 2360. This was the highest enrolment in the school's history.
||The Government acquired the land of the Ai Tong branch school and the pupils were sent to Yang Zheng and Umar Pulavar Tamil Schools at Maxwell Road. 1963: With the setting up of Telok Ayer Integrated School, pupils from the Tamil School moved to this new location.
||Urban development and falling popularity of Chinese school education caused the pupil numbers to fall to 800 and classes were also reduced to 24. Although Ai Tong, like Yang Zheng and Chong Fu, suffered from this decrease in enrolment, it could still manage to stay open. Many smaller schools were not so fortunate and had to cease operation. Principal Ting Chin Beng held numerous discussions with the Hokkien Huay Kuan Management Committee on this issue and eventually a decision was made to relocate the school to the satellite town of Ang Mo Kio.
||With the Ministry of Education financing half the cost of the new school building in Ang Mo Kio, the design was based on the Standard School Design Blueprint with the hall and canteen located on the same level. But the Hokkien Huay Kuan found the layout cost efficient but impractical and decided to provide a further $200,000 to have the hall and canteen built on separate levels. Upon completion the project cost close to $3 millions.
||Mr Goh Tjoei Kok, member of the Standing Committee of the Executive Council of the Hokkien Huay Kuan laid the foundation stone. In the late 70s, Chinese schools were at their least popular and Ai Tong faced the predicament of extremely poor intake of students. Records show that during the 1980 enrolment exercise for primary one, only two students registered but one eventually withdrew his application. It was only when the two other English schools in the Ang Mo Kio area could not accept any more students that Ai Tong received more applications. In truth, these students came to Ai Tong by default and not by choice.
||In January, the nine classes holding in Mayflower Primary, the ten classes in Ang Mo Kio Primary and the three in Ai Tong Schools were finally gathered under one roof in the new premises at the junction of Avenues 3 and 4 of Ang Mo Kio. There were 50 classes in total.
||The school organised a concert and exhibition to celebrate the official opening on 9 October and this was officiated by Mr Ho Kah Leong, Parliamentary Secretary (Education).
||The Principal and teachers of Ai Tong, together with the Hokkien Huay Kuan Management Committee worked extremely hard to overcome the stigma of being a Chinese school by improving the students' results and within a short span of two years, the school attracted a record number of students and became highly oversubscribed.
||Following the MOE guidelines, Ai Tong became an English school with Chinese as a second language.
||With consistently good results, both academics and extra-curricular, Ai Tong was selected as a Special Assisted Plan (SAP) school where pupils offer both English and Chinese as first language. The SAP programme as well as a record number of 2025 pupils created a need for more facilities and plans were made to move the school to a bigger location.
||Ai Tong introduced preparatory classes for pre-primary students.
||The Hokkien Huay Kuan exchanged the Ang Mo Kio location with MOE for a plot of land at 100 Bright Hill Drive and with the completion of the school building on 9 July, Ai Tong moved to the new premises.
||In addition to MOE's PRIME fund, the Hokkien Huay Kuan contributed another $1 million that not only upgraded buildings but also added a new extension block with bigger classrooms.