The SJI Milestones
1852: Six Brothers, in the footsteps of their founder, St John Baptist de La Salle, arrived from Europe to provide for the educational needs of the poor in Singapore. This was to be the first missionary establishment of the La Salle Brothers in the Far East.
It was Rev. Fr. J.M. Beurel, MEP who initiated the whole endeavour and offered a former chapel for the Brothers to run their school. Within a year an attap hut had to be erected to accommodate the overflow from the former chapel. On 22 July 1852, St. John's School, as SJI was called then, started as a free school at Bras Basah Road which depended on the support of the public.
1855: As the number of students wanting enrolment in St John’s School (as it was formerly known) increased, the cornerstone of the expansion was laid on the Feast of St Joseph which was on 19 March. From this date the School was named St Joseph’s Institution.
1865: A Central Classroom Block was built under the guiding hand of Bro Lothaire but the continuing years of expansion before World War I was largely the work of Bro Michael Noctor and Rev Fr Charles Nain (the assistant parish priest at the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd and also a gifted architect).
Father Nain designed two very imaginative classroom blocks. He curved the new wings outwards and at each end designed a monumental doorway. The whole work was reminiscent of Bernini’s Colonnade in front of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. The work was completed under Bro Michael in 1903.
Amongst the first visitors to the new building was Sir Frank Swettenham - the Governor of the Straits Colony and High Commissioner of the Federated Malay States. (Later visitors to SJI were to include Rabindranath Tagore in 1922 and Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in 1967).
1905: Perhaps, more impressive than the building was the fact that SJI was soon to groom some of the recipients of the most glittering academic prizes to be won in the colony. This was the coveted Queen’s Scholarship. Both awards were won by Josephians.
1906: The top award went to a Josephian, again, and the second to a boy from St Xavier’s Institution - a La Salle School in Penang.
1914: The enrolment of St Joseph’s had reached almost 1,200 in comparison with 426 in 1900.
1922: The enrolment figure increased to 1,600.
1933: The Brothers could foresee that the enrolment would continue to increase and hence opened a temporary Branch School that eventually led to the building of a new school, St Patrick’s. In World War II, just before the surrender to the Japanese the school was used as a Red Cross Hospital and also housed a unit of the Civil Defence Force, the A.R.F. (Air Raid Precautionary Group). The old building was blessed to remain unscratched despite heavy bombings preceding the surrender on 16 Feb 1942.
In fact, a bomb did hit the school courtyard, the crater of which was still discernible in 1992.
During the Japanese Occupation, the school was renamed Bras Basah Road Boys’ School. The Brothers were soon asked to ‘resign’. The school and hostel were run along military lines. However, after the Japanese Surrender, the Brothers returned and just three weeks later, St Joseph’s was re-opened and normal lessons resumed.
The years after World War II saw St Joseph’s consolidating herself and building upon the good she had done.
1952: "In due course, the Centenary arrived and the school celebrated it thoroughly. There were numerous events - a solemn Mass by the pupils of the combined Brothers Schools, at which the Celebrant and his assistants were all old boys; a solemn requiem mass for all departed teachers and pupils of SJI and the other Brothers Schools; a combined Sports Day, a combined Schools concert and a banquet given by the old boys." From Memories of SJI
1972: St Joseph’s celebrated her 120th Anniversary and was honoured with a visit from the 23rd Superior General of the La Salle Brothers, Bro Charles Henry.
1975: The Pre-University One classes together with some teachers were transferred to the newly opened Catholic Junior College.
1977: The school celebrated her 125th Anniversary. The highlight of the celebrations was a visit from Bro José Pablo Basterrechea, the 24th Superior General. Brother Kevin Byrne became Director one year before St Joseph’s celebrated the Tercentenary of the founding of the La Salle Brothers.
1985: The coveted President’s Scholarship was awarded to a Josephian.
1984: The historic decision was made to re-site the school at Malcolm Road; to provide for better conditions and facilities.
1985: Minister for Law, E. W. Barker, laid the Foundation Stone. A bottle with a commemorative note similar to that of 1855 was buried.
1986: SJI was invited by the then Minister for Education, Dr Tony Tan, a Josephian himself, to go independent.
1987: And again, thus continuing a tradition of scholarship from the days of the Queen’s Scholarship.
1988: SJI started functioning on its new campus at Malcolm Road.
1991: SJI became a single session school with all levels functioning in the morning, leaving the afternoons free for more comprehensive CCA, student and staff development programmes. Sadly, the end of 1991 also saw the retirement of Bro Kevin Byrne FSC, who had served as Principal for 13 years.
1992: On the 140th Anniversary of the arrival of the Brothers in Singapore and her founding, SJI received on loan from the Brothers’ District of Australia, a new principal, Bro. Paul Rogers. Under his dynamic leadership, the school underwent extensive redevelopment.
1997: Bro. Paul left SJI well poised for entry into the next millennium. It was during Bro Paul’s term of office in 1994 that SJI was honoured by the visit of Bro. John Johnston, the 25th Superior General of the La Salle Brothers.
1998: SJI celebrated the 10th Anniversary of its refounding at Malcolm Road. Mr Benjamin Lui became the first layman to head the school since 1885.
2002: SJI celebrated her 150th year of foundation. The Minister of Education, Mr Teo Chee Hean, a 4th generation Josephian, buried a time capsule under the portico.
2003: SJI welcomed the visit of Bro Alvaro Rodriguez Echeverria, the 26th Superior General and Bro Victor Franco, General Councillor for the Asia Pacific Region.
2007: During our 155th Anniversary, as part of our strategic repositioning, SJI adopted the Josephian Programme, renamed St Michael’s School as SJI Junior and established a privately funded school, SJI International.
2008: Mr Benjamin Lui stepped down as Principal in December. He is succeeded by Dr. Koh Thiam Seng, an old boy from the Class of 1976. He became the 30th Principal, our first SJI alumnus Principal.
2013: From 2013, SJI offers a dual track education comprising an Integrated Programme (IP) track and an O-level track. For the IP track, SJI as an IB World School, will offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme instead of the GCE 'A' levels. SJI started the IB Diploma programme for an intake of 80 students (boys and girls) in 2013.
SJI moved to its holding campus in Bishan in December, in preparation for the redevelopment of the Malcolm Road campus.
2014: SJI started offering the Integrated Programme (IP Year 3) for its Secondary 3 boys.
In July 2014, Rev Fr (Dr.) Adrian Augustus Danker, S.J. (Class of 1981), joined SJI as Deputy Principal.
2015: President Tony Tan Keng Yam unveiled the masterplan for the upgraded campus at the groundbreaking ceremony for the redevelopment of Malcolm Road campus.
2016: Rev Fr (Dr.) Adrian Augustus Danker, S.J. (Class of 1981), took over the stewardship of SJI from Dr Koh Thiam Seng who stepped down in December 2015.
2017: SJI returned to its redeveloped campus at Malcolm Road to start the new academic year on 9 January.
SJI celebrated 165 years of Lasallian education in Singapore.
2018: SJI celebrates 30 years at Malcolm Road campus.