90 years of History and Heritage
Katong Convent started out of a seaside bungalow with a few outhouses on the East Coast beach in Katong that was used by the Infant Jesus Sisters during weekends and holidays. The setting was idyllic, and memories of past students and Sisters of those times were often of the gentle sea breeze, coconut trees, the beach and a slower pace of life by the sea. Even after the school was set up, the Infant Jesus Sisters staying at the Town Convent continued to use the school premises on weekends or school holidays for rest or retreats by the sea and students were forbidden from visiting the school during those times.
Sister Theodora was put in charge of the new school. Beginning as a private school in 1930, it became a government-aided school in 1932. With its additional government funding as an aided-school, the school was able to build more classrooms and admit more students. The earliest enrolment record dates back to 1932. In that year, the school admitted 82 new pupils, of which 26 were boys, who were later moved to St Patrick’s school when it opened in 1933. The school grew quickly in the 1930s as Katong developed rapidly from coconut plantations and kampongs to middle-class residential neighbourhoods in Tanjong Katong, Joo Chiat, Telok Kurau and East Coast Road. In 1939, Sister St Vincent de Paul who succeeded Sister Theodora had eight additional classrooms built. By 1941, just before the outbreak of World War II, school enrolment had increased to 384 students.
When Mrs Marie Bong became principal in 1971, she set out to preserve the humanities and literary tradition of Katong Convent that had been developed during the years when Sister Finbarr and Sister Veronica were principals. Previously a teacher of Katong Convent in 1951, she taught various subjects but was best known as a teacher for English Literature. She was best remembered for her love and enthusiasm for English literature, its Shakespearean plays, poetry and dramatised readings from English Classics. She taught without giving copious notes and inspired a generation of Katong Convent students to love English literature. In addition to plays, singing and readings, Mrs Marie Bong incorporated other avenues for Katong Convent students to express themselves in the Arts, like creative writing, dramatised readings, choral speaking and full-length Shakespearean plays. This was counter to what the Ministry of Education was promoting in the 1970s, where Science and Mathematics were prioritised over the Arts and Humanities subjects taught at school. Katong Convent adhered to the changing curriculum of the MOE whilst promoting the Arts as a counter balance to science and mathematics to ensure that its students would receive a more well-rounded education.
She also started a pioneer literary magazine ‘Saya’ in the 1970s. During this period, Book and Music Week, which has since become a KC tradition, was also started as a yearly affair to give all students an opportunity to showcase their creative talents. BMW is a tradition closely associated with KC, establishing its special place within the larger CHIJ family. Partly as a result of this, cultural history, alumni who are theatre, literary, and media personalities, have continued to inspire current students to use their talents to excel in the literary and creative fields.
Today, KC is dramatically different from the ‘little Convent by the Sea’ it first started out as in1930. It has changed as Katong and the rest of Singapore has developed into a first world economy. Today, it faces very different challenges from the ones faced during earlier stages of the school’s history. Today, both staff and students are faced with an increasingly competitive world, globalisation and the constant need to remain relevant in an ever-changing world. KC has grown into its place in the public housing estate of Marine Parade but still continues to remain an integral part of the community of Katong and the eastern districts of Singapore, with its students still largely from these communities. The school remains true to its deep roots in the community, caring for the less fortunate and its Mission of educating well-rounded girls of character in the East of Singapore.
For more information, please visit here at the History and Milestones page.