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200-year-old Penang school helps lift S'pore

A TRULY CLASS ACT: Prof Lee said that much of his success came from what he learnt at Penang Free School.


    Sep 13, 2016

    200-year-old Penang school helps lift S'pore

    IN 1997, when KK Women's and Children's Hospital (KKH) was set up at its current premises, Lee Eng Hin was sought out to start the orthopaedic department.

    The paediatric orthopaedic surgeon, now 69, had also started and was developing paediatric orthopaedics as a sub-speciality in the National University Hospital.

    Prof Lee, who helped develop Singapore as the centre for paediatric orthopaedics, is one of a select group of people who have contributed to Singapore's development.

    They call themselves Old Frees, and are alumni of Malaysia's Penang Free School (PFS), said to be the first English-language school in South-east Asia.

    Those who have made significant contributions to the Republic's development include: Yeoh Ghim Seng, Singapore's first Speaker of Parliament, former Chief Justice Tan Ah Tah and Lim Chong Keat, who was the architect behind notable buildings such as the Singapore Conference Hall and Jurong Town Hall, which are national monuments.

    PFS, whose founder Reverend Robert Sparke Hutchings had a role in the founding of what was later to be Raffles Institution, turns 200 on Oct 21.

    In a commemorative book - Live Free, In The Spirit Of Serving - released by alumni group The Old Frees' Association, Singapore, Prof Lee attributes "much of his success to (his) early formative years in PFS".

    The book, which is being sold among Old Frees, will be distributed for free to libraries and other organisations here after its launch on Sept 21.

    Prof Lee told My Paper that he was proud to be "a product of a school which is 200 years old this year and which has consistently produced leaders not only in Penang and Malaysia but also in Singapore and many other countries".

    Prof Lee, who also started multidisciplinary clinics for disabled children in both NUH and KKH, said PFS provided a "very nurturing environment" where "extremely dedicated teachers" focused not only on academic excellence but also on "cultivating EQ and building character".

    The senior consultant to the Ministry of Health added that he was also "taught to be civic-minded and to contribute to society".

    Prof Lee, who is still practising as a paediatric orthopaedic surgeon at both NUH and KKH, said Penang and Singapore have much to learn from each other.

    "Penang can learn a lot from Singapore in terms of how to go from third world to first in a short period of time through good governance, strategic planning, hard work, technological development and efficiency," he said.

    "Singapore can benefit from Penang in terms of developing more soft skills and people skills. Penangites are a gentle and friendly people who speak Hokkien in a lilting sing-song manner. Quite different from Singapore Hokkien."

    Prof Lee, who said he settled in Singapore quickly as his bosses and colleagues were "extremely supportive", is now a Singaporean.

    However, he added that he does miss Penang hawker food.

    "Singapore has treated me well even when I was a PR in terms of employment and promotion prospects. It is a true meritocracy," he said.