The Sun Rises on Jit Sin

loading Jit Sin Independent School.

Jit Sin High School celebrates its centennial in March. Penang Monthly explores the beginnings of one of the greatest educational establishments in Penang and Malaysia.

It was not until the nineteenth century that the northern part of Bukit Mertajam was gradually dominated by Fui Chiu Hakka settlers making a living planting pepper, cloves and fruits.1 They travelled daily to town to sell their produce at the compound of the Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple, which was constructed in 1886 through the collective efforts of the community.2 The temple thus became the meeting place for the local population.

Soon, awareness for the need of a public school in the vicinity grew. With rental collected from the vendors, the Bukit Mertajam Free School was built in 1895 by the temple at one of its properties along Jalan Pasar.

In 1914 another school was initiated by the local Kuomintang-inspired Chinese Reading Club with the aim of equipping the public with a wholesome education experience.

Hand-painted picture of Jit Sin School at Jalan Pasar.

It was these two schools that paved the foundation for Jit Sin’s development, with a donation of 1,000 Straits dollars from the temple and 2,000 Straits dollars from the club.3

Thus, on March 2, 1918, Jit Sin Primary School was born – the combined effort of locals who were mostly merchants involved in commerce, planting, medicine and tin mining.4

Zhu Buyun (朱步云1863-1947) was one of them. Coming to Bukit Mertajam as a merchant at the age of 20 from Guangdong Province, he was devoted to revolutionary affairs and local development, including cofounding the Reading Club and presiding over St. Anne’s Church. In 1918 he was elected the first principal director of Jit Sin Primary School.

Yang Zixiu (杨自修1882-1929) was the first headmaster. He came from an educated family in Guangdong Province. Before coming to Jit Sin, he had rich experiences in education in his hometown and he taught at the Khee Fatt Study Institution in Singapore and Chung Hwa Confucian School in Penang.5 He served at Jit Sin from 1918 until 1922.

From Primary School to High School

By 1931 Jit Sin’s enrolment had increased from 80 pupils to around 300. More space was required, and the school was moved to the third floor and the back area of 41, Jalan Arumugam Pillai in 1931 – a premise still owned by the temple.6

Jit Sin Middle and Primary School.

Before the war, Jit Sin Primary School emerged as an important school in Province Wellesley. Staffed with 16 teachers and having 376 pupils in 1938, Jit Sin had double its number of students compared to any other school at Province Wellesley.7 It served as the sole examination venue in Province Wellesley for the unified examination held by the Chinese Consulate and Chinese branch of the Education Department of the Straits Settlements and the Federated Malay States from 1935 until 1940.8

The end of the Japanese Occupation in 1945 saw the rapid development of the school. In order to combine limited educational resources, the idea of integrating two nearby schools came up, and in 1949 Jit Sin merged with two schools that then served as its branches.9 Jit Sin Middle and Primary School started to offer secondary education the following year, the first to do so in Bukit Mertajam. This lessened the burden on Jit Sin primary graduates, who could now receive further studies without travelling to other parts of the mainland or to the island for further studies.

For the purpose, a new campus was opened in 1952 at Jalan Aston with the donation of a piece of land worth 12,000 Straits dollars from Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple as well as contributions from the public.10 Now with more than 1,000 students, Jit Sin had the highest number of student enrolment and twice as many students compared to other schools at Province Wellesley.11 In 1958 Jit Sin finally started its first high school scheme, which gradually earned it the status of a high school by the 1970s.

Jit Sin Independent School.

The Birth of Jit Sin National School and Independent School

The independence of Malaya in 1957 witnessed the emphasis on national unity in government policies, including education. Following several enactments, Chinese secondary schools were faced with the decision to either receive full government aid but with English and Malay as the language in public examinations, or retain independent status without any form of aid.12 In 1962 the decision led to the birth of two Jit Sin high schools.

Song Ban Kheng.

While Jit Sin High School received sufficient educational resources, Jit Sin Independent continued its policy of enrolling over-aged students which had been in place since 1959.13 At that time, over-aged students were common as many failed their primary school exams or lacked the resources to receive education in time. From 1957 to 1960, there were at least 3,264 over-aged students in Province Wellesley.14

While the two schools shared the same campus at Jalan Aston in the early years, the increase of students paved the way for a new campus to house its national school in the 1980s. Thanks to generous public contributions raised through temple donations, associations and drama performances, Jit Sin High School moved into its current premise at Taman Sri Rambai in 1992.

Rooted in Community and Society

Since its beginning, Jit Sin’s growth has been the result of substantial support from the local communities, especially Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple. Established as a place of worship since the post-war era, the temple extended, over time, its influence and contributions in educational and social welfare. As one of its most important patrons, the temple played a significant role at every stage of Jit Sin’s expansion and development.

In return, Jit Sin has wholesomely contributed back to society and educated generations of its young and not-so-young people. A famous personality from Jit Sin was Song Ban Kheng, who taught at Jit Sin National School in 1960 and served as its first headmaster from 1963 to 1980. He led the school through periods of limited resources, during which time it nevertheless recorded more than 3,000 students.15

Jit Sin High School.

Song was dedicated in directing his students on the right path and was especially noted for taking extra care of disadvantaged students. He would personally buy them school bags, uniforms and even breakfast. His dedication to education was far-reaching and he was so widely respected by the community that after his retirement in 1983 he was elected state assemblyman. In 1999 Jalan Song Ban Kheng was built in his name to commemorate the contributions he made to education and to his community.

Jit Sin High School and Jit Sin Independent’s outstanding academic performances and reputations have brought them widespread recognition as the two top local education centres in Province Wellesley. Its name, “Jit Sin”, literally meaning “new day”, symbolises constant improvement. Long may it continue to do this worthy task.

The author would like to convey her gratitude and heartfelt thanks to Jit Sin High School and Jit Sin Independent High School, and to Loh Yong Seah and Ooi Sing Ee for their kind assistance and contributions towards this article.

Pan Yi Chieh is a research analyst at Penang Institute. She graduated from Taiwan National Tsing Hua University in Anthropology. She loves to explore the hidden history of Penang through documents and interviews.
1 Nicholas Chan, “The History of Bukit Mertajam Part 1- From Agrarian Village to Economic Hub” (Penang Monthly 2015 June Issue); 伍百洽, “本 庙历史及建设发展 (Ben Miao Li Shi Ji Jian She Fa Zhan)” in 大山脚福德正神庙成立百周年纪念特刊 (Da Shan Jiao Fu De Zheng Shen Miao Cheng Li Bai Zhou Nian Ji Nian Te Kan) (大山脚:福德正神 庙理事会, 1986), 64-65.

2 Ibid: 64-65; 黄欣怡,”日新创校根源考—从《大 山脚义学堂》碑记谈起 (Ri Xin Chuang Xiao Gen Yuan Kao- Cong 《Da Shan Jiao Yi Xue Tang 》 Bei Ji Tan Qi)” in 日新时代 第51期 (Jit Sin Times No.51) (大山脚日新独立中学Jit Sin Independent High School, 2017), 5.

3 “日新小學史略” (Ri Xin Xiao Xue Shi Lue) in 大 山腳福德正神廟成立百周年紀念特刊 (Da Shan Jiao Fu De Zheng Shen Miao Cheng Li Bai Zhou Nian Ji Nian Te Kan) (大山脚:福德正神庙理事会, 1986), 130.

4 黃欣怡、盧榮成,” 日新建校十年记事 (Ri Xin Jian Xiao Shi Nian Ji Shi)” in 日新時代 第51期 (Jit Sin Times No.51) (大山脚日新独立中学Jit Sin Independent High School, 2017), 18-19.

5 黃欣怡、盧榮成,” 日新建校十年记事 (Ri Xin Jian Xiao Shi Nian Ji Shi)” in 日新時代 第51期 (Jit Sin Times No.51) (大山脚日新独立中学Jit Sin Independent High School, 2017), 23.

6 何启智,”校舍迁移史(上):日新学校 (1918—1949) (Xiao She Qian Yi Shi (Shang) : Ri Xin Xue Xiao (1918—1949))” in 日新时代 第51 期 (Jit Sin Times No.51) (大山脚日新独立中学Jit Sin Independent High School, 2017), 12.

7 Ibid: 12.

8 “马来亚华校会考槟区学生开始考试”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), December 5, 1935. P.9; “七州府各区同日举行华校会考”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), December 7, 1936. P. 9; “全 马第四届华校总会考昨吉梹怡同时举行”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), November 29, 1938. P.14; “第五届全马华校会考梹城会考地点决定”, 南洋商 报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), November 18, 1939. P. 15; / ”第六届华校会考”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), October 31, 1940. P.13.

9 何启智,”校舍迁移史(上):日新学校 (1918—1949) (Xiao She Qian Yi Shi (Shang) : Ri Xin Xue Xiao (1918—1949))” in 日新时代 第51 期 (Jit Sin Times No.51) (大山脚日新独立中学Jit Sin Independent High School, 2017), 14.

10 “日新九期创校发展计画 (Ri Xin Jiu Qi Chuang Xiao Fa Zhan Ji Hua) ”, 日新创校90周年特刊 (Ri Xin Chuang Xiao 90 Zhou Nian Te Kan) (大山腳日 新中學 2008)

11 大山脚日新小學建新校舍需款孔亟决向各界人 士捐助 (Da Shan Jiao Ri Xin Xiao Xue Jian Xin Xiao She Xu Kuan Kong Ji Jue Xiang Ge Jie Ren Shi Juan Zhu)”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), September 21, 1951. P7.

12 Kua Kia Soong, “Introduction”, The Chinese Schools of Malaysia: A Protean Saga, (Petaling Jaya: United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia, 1985) 13-14.

13 叶清山, “独中史略(Du Zhong Shi Lue)” in 威省大 山脚日新中学家政工艺楼落成特刊 (Wei Sheng Da Shan Jiao Ri Xin Zhong Xue Jia Zheng Gong Yi Lou Luo Cheng Te Kan) (日新中学, 1970) 。

14 “梹威华校超龄生统计三千二百名尚有许多学校未 呈报 (Bing Wei Hua Xiao Chao Ling Sheng Tong Ji San Qian Er Bai Ming Shang You Xu Duo Xue Xiao Wei Cheng Bao)”, 南洋商报 (Nanyang Siang Pau), September 22, 1957. P 12.

15 “以校为家,春风化雨二十一载的日新功臣:宋万庆校长 (Yi Xiao Wei Jia , Chun Feng Hua Yu Er Shi Yi Zai De Ri Xin Gong Chen: Song Ban Kheng Xiao Zhang)”, 2016年日新国民型中学校刊 (2016日新中学校刊编 辑委员会, 2016), 27.

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