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1977 - 2006

Growing (1977 - 2006)
A Gloomy Start

Tao Nan’s story does not begin at the top. It is about how a school that was struggling to survive managed to make itself one of the best in Singapore.

The Government’s urban renewal project in the early 1970s meant that families began shifting out of the city centre, into new housing estates in the suburbs. Schools in the city centre, including Tao Nan, were gradually deserted.

By the time 38-year-old Mr Tan Yock Leng took over as school principal in 1977, at the Armenian Street premises, enrolment had dwindled to just 100 students taught by six teachers.

In 1976, the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan decided that Tao Nan should move to the suburbs as well, where there was a larger pool of students and more space for the school to expand and modernise.

Tao Nan would head east, to Marine Parade. In preparation for the shift, the school stopped taking in students.

As the foundations were laid for the new building, Tao Nan prepared to move into a temporary holding school in nearby Telok Kurau. The school then set about recruiting students through newspaper advertisements. The target was 240 students, to make up six Primary One classes.

However, only 80 children had enrolled by the end of registration. Tao Nan’s fate hung by a thread.

Mr Tan then took a bold gamble. He informed the Education Ministry that Tao Nan was willing to open its doors to the weakest students in the East Zone. Ultimately, Tao Nan managed to gather enough transfer students for four Primary Four classes. There were Monolingual classes, and one Extended. Together with the two new Primary One classes, a new and uncertain chapter of Tao Nan opened.

Classes started in 1981 at the holding school in Telok Kurau.

From then on, lessons, School Assemblies, announcements and letters were all in English. There was even a new school badge and school song to reflect the new emphasis on English. This was essential to reassure parents that Tao Nan was now a true English-medium school.

With the new system in place, Tao Nan began rebuilding its name and reputation. In those difficult early years, Tao Nan never lost focus on discipline and academic results. The school had to get those areas right before looking into other areas, such as enrichment and extra-curricular activities.

Teachers were encouraged to show more love and concern to the Primary One students. Children had to be won over through the heart rather than by fear.

Parents were updated on the children’s progress in school and joined school excursions as guardians – all this improved relations between parents and the school.

About 440 children signed up to study in Tao Nan in 1981, a 550 per cent jump from the year before.

When the time for registration came again in the middle of 1981, there were longer queues at the counter in the canteen of Tao Nan’s new school building in Marine Crescent. The new building was due to be completed by December that year, with $2.5 million of funding from the Hokkien Huay Kuan.

The future began to look brighter. On that positive note, Tao Nan welcomed 1982 at its new address: 49 Marine Crescent.
School Crest and Song (1981-)

When it moved to Marine Parade in 1982, Tao Nan redesigned its school crest and changed its school song to reflect its new beginning and conversion into an English-medium school.

The new design was created by an Art teacher. Its shield shape and school motto in English looked more modern. It also included a new lion symbol to represent Singapore.

The lion’s leaping stance symbolises bravery, continuous progress and advancement in the face of difficulties. Below it, the school’s full name in both English and Chinese runs in a strip across the shield. An open book lies below the school name, signifying an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. The crest as a whole represents the effort to acquire abundant knowledge and build up a strong and healthy body.

School Crest and Song (1981-)

The new school song was written first in English by the then Vice-Principal, Lui Jong Jit and translated into Mandarin by a Chinese Language teacher. It was the first time that Tao Nan had an English school song.

Official opening ceremony, 1983.
Mr Goh Chok Tong uneviling the plaque.

Mr Goh Chok Tong viewing the exhibits.
His Secrets to Success

Mr Tan Yock Leng played a key role in moulding Tao Nan. He joined the school in 1973 as a Chinese Language teacher and was promoted to Senior Assistant the following year. He became the Principal three years later.

His radical decision to absorb Monolingual and Extended stream students from other schools was the first of several steps that put Tao Nan on the path to success. Mr Tan also took pains to recruit teachers, whom he believes are the key to Tao Nan’s success.

He let teachers do what they do best – teach. To lighten teachers’ workload, he created first drafts of the school calendar, allocation of teaching subjects, examination schedules and so on, before consulting heads of departments for the finer details.

Before he retired at the end of 2001, Mr Tan interviewed several promising candidates together with the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan officials before passing the baton to Mr Tan Choon Kheng, Tony.
New Building, Bright New Beginning

After four years in Tao Nan, the first batch of Extended-stream students graduated with a 97% overall passing rate in the PSLE. By its 80th anniversary in 1986, Tao Nan had achieved a 100% PSLE pass rate. With its improving reputation, enrolment increased too, reaching 1,717 students in 41 classes that year. By the late 1980s, Tao Nan no longer needed transfer students to boost its numbers and phased out the last of its Extended and Monolingual classes.

The first official recognition for Tao Nan came in 1990, when it was designated one of only 10 primary schools in Singapore to launch the Special Assistance Programme (SAP). Six years later, Tao Nan was picked to host the Gifted Education Programme (GEP) as well.





New Extension Building

Teaching Aids and Facilities
      Celebrating 100 years (2006)

In 2006, Tao Nan celebrated its 100th year anniversary.
The school continues to strive for academic excellence and beyond. The mission to nurture innovative students of exemplary character with a love for learning remains. Tao Nan aspires to develop each student to become independent and self-directed learners; confident and resilient and imbued with sound values and love for the school and nation.