School History and Principals
Our Principals through the Years:
The school started in 1962 with about 200 pupils, housed at Raffles Institution at Bras Basah Road. In July 1963, students and staff moved into a new school premise at Swiss Cottage Estate (along Dunearn Road), which officially opened in November 1963, with an enrolment of about 870 pupils in two media, namely English and Malay.
The Swiss Spirit was formed since the founding of the school in 1963. Under the leadership of the first Principal, Mr R.D. Jansen, from 1963 to 1968, the Swiss Spirit originated as the spirit of national integration through sports. Swiss Cottage was born against the backdrop of the need for national survival and national integration. The school motto, Scientiae Patriaeque Gratia, ‘For the Sake of Learning and For the State’, challenges the students to strive to be educated for the good of the nation and for mankind. In 1966, the then Minister of Law and National Development, Mr E.W. Barker, described Swiss Cottage as one of the foremost integrated schools in Singapore.
It was the second Principal of Swiss, Mr Rudy Mosbergen, who brought Swiss Cottage to new peaks from 1969 to 1975. A distinguished sportsman himself, Mr Mosbergen was a strong believer of all-round education. Besides academic and sports pursuits, Mr Mosbergen mooted the idea of character building. He introduced the Swiss Code of Conduct and later emphasized on reading as a means for the inquisition of knowledge for one’s mastery of words and intellect. For the first time, there was an official articulation of the Swiss Spirit in 1969 when Mr Morsbergen defined it as a spirit of dedication and devotion to duty, a spirit of service and sacrifice, and the spirit of cooperation and pursuit of excellence.
The pursuit for excellence continued under the leadership of Mr Chow Kye Lock who was the principal of the school from 1976 to 1989. The Swiss Student would not be complete without a passion for the arts. It was Mr Chow Kye Lock who ignited the love for the arts in a national movement to make Singapore a gracious society. Under Mr Chow’s leadership, he instituted the Festival of the Performing Arts, Swiss Drama Nite and The Swiss Arts Centre, which led the GROW Magazine in 1980 to describe Swiss Cottage as a school ‘leading in the fields of artistic and cultural pursuits’.
The Swiss Spirit lived on when Mr Dorai Natarajan took over the school from 1991 to 1997 and the school relocated to its current Bukit Batok campus. Mr Natarajan further defined the Swiss Spirit as a commitment by both teachers and students to achieve excellence in both academic and non-academic pursuits, loyalty to school and nation, and care and concern for the less fortunate members of society. In preparation for the Swiss Student to live up to this call, the Pastoral Care and Career Guidance and the Leadership Training Camp were installed. In fact, the spirit of excellence continued through Mr Natarajan who believed that excellence in both the academic and non-academic domains was inter-related. When he retired in 1997, Swiss Cottage was at greater new heights and was ranked top 19 in Singapore.
Holistic Development was further exemplified when Mr Gan Chee Hau took over the school in 1997. Mr Gan envisioned the school to be ‘A Vibrant Learning Community’ where our community involvement programmes flourished with many collaborative projects. The Swiss Enrichment was conceived and students had the opportunity to be exposed to different art forms or sports. We had programmes ranging from Scuba diving to archery, and guitar to language classes.
Miss Tay Lai Ling brought Swiss Cottage to higher new peaks when she led the school from 2003 to 2007. Under her leadership, Swiss Cottage achieved its first Character Development Award and the first Lee Kuan Yew All-Round Excellence Award. In 2005, we broke the school record and achieved the best performance by the express stream at the ‘O’ Level. CCA also reached new heights. Our Science and Technology Club consistently swept away many prizes at national competitions and subsequently represented Singapore in robotics competitions in China and Turkey. The school also completed its PRIME Upgrading at the end of 2005.
The seventh Principal, Mr Liu Earnler led the school in the dream of a Swiss Student for the new century. Leadership development received a new boost when he led the whole school in the vision for Swiss Students to be ‘Thoughtful Leaders’ who think, care and lead with PRIDE. Under Mr Liu’s leadership, the school received its second Character Development Award and its second Lee Kuan Yew All-Round Excellence Award. In 2012, the express stream achieved results equal to that in 2005 and the Sec 5 normal academic stream achieved the best ‘O’ Level results in Swiss History.
The eighth Principal, Mr Heng Yew Seng brought the school to new peaks of excellence. He helped establish the school Total Curriculum, which included the academic curriculum, the school Character and Citizenship Education curriculum as well as the school’s three distinctive programmes, namely the Learning for Life Programme on Thoughtful Leadership, the Applied Learning Programme in Applied Sciences for Sustainable Development as well as the Enhanced Citizenship Education Programme. The Total Curriculum strengthened the holistic development of Swiss’ students and prepare them to be well-rounded individuals. It is therefore not a surprise that under Mr Heng’s leadership, the school received its third and fourth Lee Kuan Yew All-Round Excellence Awards.
To take the school to its next lap of greatness, Mr Sherwin Cheng, the ninth Principal, refreshed the school’s values and further clarified the school’s vision of Thoughtful Leadership. The twin values of Honour and Humility were adopted as the pivotal drivers that would bring the desired balance to the learning, character and leadership dispositions of the Thoughtful Leader. In turn, these dispositions were infused into all aspects of learning so that the Total Curriculum would be delivered in an intentional and coherent way. He also advocated that we extend care, choice and agency in designing student experiences. He emphasised that the essence of leadership (that of thoughtfulness) would be better instilled in students when the learning experiences that we provide model and extend care for our students. He also strongly believed that student voice and agency must be developed in an environment where students get opportunities to exercise choice to truly enjoy personal and collective ownership over decision-making. These ideals underpin the school’s Total Curriculum framework to make it future-ready.
The school is currently led by its tenth principal, Mdm Mandy Cheng, who took over the leadership of the school in Dec 2022.
Today Swiss Cottage is on its journey to develop Swiss Students to be Thoughtful Leaders and the school has the best conditions to do so. Its academic programmes are at the peak; its CCAs are well established; its character development programmes are well recognised. In addition, with its Student Leadership and Values-in-Action programmes well-anchored in strong school values, the school has what it takes to develop leaders for the 21st century.
The school has a strong School Advisory Committee, comprising successful people from different industries to advise the school. The Parents Support Group and Alumni are also very active and supportive. Above all, Swiss has one of the most dedicated teaching forces. So far two teachers from Swiss Cottage had been awarded the Outstanding Youth in Education Award. Swiss teachers are well-known among parents for being caring and dedicated and we are one of the most sought-after schools in this part of the country.
Mr Mosbergen said the following in his Annual Speech Day in 1975:
“If the minds of our pupils have been quickened,
If their bodies have been developed,
If their characters have been molded,
If the appreciation for the arts has been enhanced,
If their civic-consciousness and social-mindedness have been heightened,
Then we know that our pupils have received an all-rounded education which hopefully will fit them for adult life”
Each of the former Swiss principals has played a critical role in driving the vision of an all-rounded education in Swiss that Mr Mosbergen articulated in 1975. It is therefore the school’s conviction to build on the past good work to further enhance the quality of education offered at Swiss Cottage. It is the school’s commitment that every staff and student will be well cared for in Swiss Cottage, and its staff will ensure that every lesson is a good lesson, and every learning activity is purposeful.
Now, the school has a student population of about 1,200 and is one of the choice schools in the west. May the Swiss Spirit live on in the pursuit of excellence and for the sake of learning. May Swiss Thoughtful leaders continue to blaze a path of glory in this vibrant learning community so that they are fully prepared for the state.