In 1946, Rev. Chee Hong of Leng Feng Bodhi Institute, an ardent promoter of Buddhist education,
delegated Miss Pitt Chin Hui and others, aided by Buddhist believers, to undertake the
establishing of Maha Bodhi School. A shophouse at No. 743, Geylang Road became a temporary
school building with about 40 pupils. On 12 January 1948, the school was officially declared
open. The first principal was Sister Wong Loon Soo.
1950, Sister Wong left Singapore and went back to Penang. Miss Pitt then took over as principal. Though the school had no proper facilities, the school management committee worked hard to keep it running. The pupil enrolment increased and the school progressed steadily. Subsequently, the school management committee, decided to place the sponsorship of the school under the Singapore Buddhist Federation for further development. Mr Lee Choon Seng, Chairman of the Singapore Buddhist Federation formed a school building committee to raise funds for the development of the school.
The Original School
In the same year, the site at 50, Lorong 34, Geylang, was acquired. On 21 January 1951, Rev. Yin Poon laid the foundation stone and construction work started. In July 1951, the pupils moved from the shophouse into the new building. The new school was officially declared open by the then British High Commissioner, Mr Malcolm MacDonald, on 1 December 1951. In 1957, the school was given grant-in-aid and it became a Government-aided school.
Over the years, the enrolment of pupils increased tremendously from a mere 40 to 1300 and the teaching staff from 4 to 40 by 1966. The increasing enrolment soon made the number of classrooms insufficient. Rev. Hong Choon, Chairman of the Singapore Buddhist Federation, Rev. Chan Khye, Secretary-General, and members of the school management committee undertook to extend the school building. The middle part of the school building was developed into a five-storey building, which included a spacious hall and more rooms. The extension cost amounted to $800,000.
The Modern Building
On 20 December 1970, the extension was officially declared open by the then Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of National Development, Mr Ho Cheng Choon. In the same year, the school became an integrated school, with classes for Chinese and English streams.
The First Principal
In 1971, Miss Pitt Chin Hui, the principal, retired after a successful term in office for 20 years. Mr Foo Soo Luang took over as principal. Mr Foo, like his predecessor, put special emphasis on bilingualism. In 1973, he encouraged the first batch of 50 Primary 6 Chinese- medium pupils to take the PSLE in the English-medium. All of them passed with very good grades.
In 1974, the Ministry of Education specially commended the school on this achievement. Maha Bodhi School was then named as one of the top ten schools which scored the highest marks in the English Language. The attempt proved that the pupils could do well in both languages, i.e. Chinese and English. At the same time, the school also started a wide range of extra curricular activities such as the brass band, lion dance, choir and art classes. These were aimed at enhancing the development of the physical well-being and nurturing the artistic talents of the pupils.
In 1985, the school became a full English-medium school. In 1990, it became a Special Assistance Plan (SAP) school which laid emphasis on the learning of English and Chinese and the inculcation of Asian moral values in the pupils. The school continued to perform well. From 1977 to 2015, the school produced eleven Prime Minister’s Book Prize winners, an annual award for outstanding bilingual pupils on the basis of excellent PSLE results.
The Next Millennium
In 1991, the Singapore Buddhist Federation, under the chairmanship of Ven Sek Yiu Torn, passed a resolution at the Annual General Meeting accepting the Government’s offer of a new site of 1.8 ha, at Ubi Avenue 1, in exchange for the land at Lorong 34, Geylang, under the “Quid Pro Quo Exchange” Scheme. The Singapore Buddhist Federation undertook to construct a new building to provide pupils with the latest equipment and facilities.
The cost of the new school building, together with its facilities, came to almost 20 million Singapore dollars. The pupils and staff moved into the new building in November 1995. It is well equipped with modern facilities such as an innovation centre, two music rooms, a band room, two computer laboratories, an audio-visual theatre and a state of the art video editing studio.
Today, Maha Bodhi School is one of the more well-known schools in Singapore.
With the start of the PERI (Primary School Education Review and Implementation) upgrading works in 2015, the school will enter a new phase of development, with the addition of enhanced infrastructure that supports the delivery of holistic education. The new school facilities will support differentiated teaching approaches, enabling our students to benefit from an enhanced learning environment.
Mr Foo Soo Luang retired in October 1996 after serving the school for 25 years as its principal. Taking on the task of the principalship was Mr Chew Chong Theng who left the school at the end of 2002. Mr Foo Chee Meng then became the next principal of the school from end 2002 to 2004. Mrs Lim Bee Lay who was then the vice-principal assumed duties as Principal from 2005-2013. Mrs Elaine Quek took over the reins as the Principal in 2014.
Under the current leadership of Mrs Elaine Quek, the school will continue to strive for excellence in both the academic as well as the non-academic, particularly focusing on the school’s distinctive Aesthetics niche area.