Methodist Girls' School

Singapore Infopedia


Located at 11 Blackmore Drive, the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS)1 was founded by Sophia Blackmore on 15 August 1887.2 It was the first educational institution for girls established in Singapore by the Methodists.Its earlier names were Tamil Girls’ School (1887), Methodist Mission Girls’ School (1890s) and Mount Sophia Girls’ School (1942).4

Early history
The American Methodist Mission was founded in Singapore in early 1885. Two-and-a-half years after its founding, Australian missionary Sophia Blackmore founded the Methodist Girls’ School on 15 August 1887. She was the answer to a request made by Reverend William F. Oldham to the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society in America for a female staff in Singapore.5

Oldham was tutoring a few Indian gentlemen who had expressed a desire for their daughters to be educated.6 This sparked the vision for a girls’ school, which materialised with the aid of Blackmore’s tireless spirit. The school first started out in 1887 in a shophouse on Short Street7 with the help of an Indian gentleman, Rama Krishna Rao, who offered the premises for free. His counterparts pooled a sum of 60 dollars for the teacher’s remuneration.8

The school began as the Tamil Girls’ School, with just nine Indian girls who were taught by Alexandra Hagdorn.9 Classes were held from seven in the morning to one in the afternoon. The girls arrived before classes to clean the premises, as there was no paid caretaker.10 By 1891, student enrolment had increased steadily.11
In 1891, the school moved to the Christian Institute located on Middle Road when it had outgrown the shophouse at Short Street. By this time, girls from other ethnicities had also enrolled in the school. Some boys were also known to have attended the girls’ school with their sisters amid strict parental guidance. The school eventually changed its name to the Methodist Mission Girls’ School. By 1894, the enrolment comprised almost 100 students.12  

The year 1897 saw the merger of the Methodist Mission Girls’ School with another school on Mount Sophia for English-speaking girls. The merged school was known as the Methodist Girls’ School (MGS).13 The Middle Road premises were unable to accommodate the expanded student population and soon the authorities had to seek a new building. The land at the corner of Short Street and Selegie Road on a 99-year lease, of which 60 years had already passed, was purchased for the new building.14

The new building on Short Street opened in 1900 with a kindergarten to cater to the preschool community. In 1908, the school had its first secondary class,15 and in 1922 the girls donned the school’s trademark blue-and-white uniform dubbed the “sailor suit”.16 MGS continued to develop into a school offering both primary and secondary education. The burgeoning student population resulted in the secondary school girls moving to Mount Sophia.17 

In 1935, MGS had a student population of about 800 and 27 to 29 staff.18 The desperate need for a larger building that could house all the students was matched by an equally desperate need for funds. Development plans were continually being made from the late 1930s to the early ’40s. However, the Japanese occupation of Singapore (1942–45) stalled these plans. MGS was renamed Mount Sophia Girls’ School. For the next three and a half years, the student population dwindled to 15 or fewer girls in 1944.19

With the end of the occupation came renewed enthusiasm. The teachers had to grapple with insufficient funds, lack of equipment, shortage of books and over-aged girls. Under then principal Ellice Handy, these problems were soon overcome; by October 1945, MGS was functioning as a school again, providing classes up to Standard V, with an enrolment of 550 and a staff of 17.20 

In the following years, MGS established itself as a reputable girls’ school, and in 1989, MGS (Secondary) became independent.21 Three years later, in 1992, the school moved from its Mount Sophia premises to Blackmore Drive.22

In 2010, six years after the Integrated Programme (IP) was introduced in Singapore, MGS began offering the programme.23 It partnered fellow Methodist school, Anglo-Chinese School, which was already offering the IP. MGS secondary girls now do their International Baccalaureate diploma at ACS (Independent) in Years Five and Six.24

To Master, to Grow, to Serve.25


Renuka M.

1. Juliana June Rasul, “Old MGS May Be New Arts Haven,” Today, 15 May 2007, 30. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “Look into the Past,” New Nation, 26 July 1977, 3 (From NewspaperSG); Lena U Wen Lim, et al. eds., Memories, Gems and Sentiments: 100 Years of Methodist Girls' School (Singapore: Methodist Girls' School, 1987), 2. (Call no. RSING 373.5957 MEM)
3. “Methodist Girls’ School Celebrates,” Straits Times, 11 June 1939, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
4. “Singapore School Aged 60,” Straits Times, 15 October 1947, 5 (From NewspaperSG); Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3, 8.
5. “Our Heritage,” Methodist Girls’ School, accessed 29 September 2017; Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
6. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
7. “Singapore School Aged 60”; Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
8. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
9. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
10. Singapore Chronicles: A Special Commemorative History of Singapore (Hong Kong: Illustrated Magazine, 1995), 197 (Call no. RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS]); Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 2.
11. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3.
12. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3.
13. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3; Singapore Chronicles, 197.
14. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3.
15. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 3.
16. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 8.
17. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 4.
18. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 5.
19. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 8.
20. Lim, et al., Memories, Gems and Sentiments, 11.
21. Geneieve Kwek, “Two School Offering Privilege of Non-Examination Subjects,” New Paper, 5 January 1989, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
22. Rasul, “Old MGS May Be New Arts Haven.”
23. Alicia Wong, “Seven More IP Schools and a New Junior College,” Today, 2 September 2010, 3 (From NewspaperSG); “Frequently Asked Questions,” Methodist Girls’ School, accessed 8 April 2019.
24. “The New Programmes: Six More Schools to Admit Sec 1 Students,” Straits Times, 7 October 2012, 2–3 (From NewspaperSG); “Integrated Programme,” Methodist Girls’ School, accessed 1 December 2017.
25. “The School That Sophia Built,” Straits Times, 15 July 1987, 1 (From NewspaperSG); “Our School Identity,” Methodist Girls’ School, accessed 29 September 2017.

The information in this article is valid as at 19 January 2018 and correct as far as we can ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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