ON THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE CHINESE-EDUCATED AND ENGLISH-EDUCATED
'I had a high regard for the discipline and seriousness of purpose in life Chinese school students displayed compared to English school students. One of my most unforgettable memories was when the Chinese High School was having a sit-in led by my left wing pro-communist activists in October 1956 to protest the arrests of student leaders and closure of Chinese High School and Chung Cheng High School. The Chinese school students camped inside the school. After watching this drama of the sit-in at Chinese High School, I passed by the University of Singapore's student hostels on Dunearn Road, just around the corner from Chinese High. The contrast was stark. I could see the students - the English-educated students - enjoying themselves. They were laughing and blowing whistles, regarding the clash between the Chinese students and the police as a big joke. I thought to myself that if Singapore students all turned out like those in the university hostel, Singapore would fail. I vowed then to change this state of affairs.
This was why I decided to save the good Chinese language schools as Chinese schools switched into English as the main medium of instruction. The Chinese schools taught students to be bilingual, disciplined, and have self-confidence. The best Chinese schools thus became Special Assistance Programme schools. Over time, the English language schools like Raffles Institution, Victoria School and others have also become effective in teaching Chinese to its students. We have unified the system but in the process, also preserved some of the values and virtues of the old Chinese school system.'