With new private school in Convent Light Street, operator says will be inclusive and open to all

Opalyn Mok
·4-min read
The new private international school setting up within the premises of Convent Light Street (CLS) will not be elitist and will have an affordable fee structure. ― Picture by KE Ooi
The new private international school setting up within the premises of Convent Light Street (CLS) will not be elitist and will have an affordable fee structure. ― Picture by KE Ooi

GEORGE TOWN, Nov 15 — The new private international school setting up within the premises of Convent Light Street (CLS) will not be elitist and will have an affordable fee structure, said ACE Edventure founder Anne Tham and co-founder, Melinda Lim.

The duo, who are also sisters, said they were working closely with landowner, the Infant Jesus Sisters, to provide quality education to as many as possible.

“We want to follow the ethos of the IJ Sisters and we want to represent the convent well to provide education in an inclusive manner, not in an exclusive way,” said Tham in an online interview with Malay Mail.

She said the IJ Sisters had specifically stressed that the private school must not charge fees so high as to be unaffordable to most.

CLS has always been an all-girls school since its inception but the new private school will be co-ed to fit with its goal of being inclusive.

Tham said it was not uncommon for convents to be co-ed as there were those in Singapore and elsewhere that were also attended by boys.

Both Tham and Lim said that as they were also CLS alumni, operating a school in their alma mater was a meaningful venture.

The sisters held many fond memories growing up within the expansive grounds of the heritage school, located in the heart of George Town world heritage site.

“We were so excited to do this the moment we signed the agreement with the IJ Sisters. In fact, our fellow alumni were equally excited about this,” they said.

Tham said she has fond memories of studying in CLS and remembered the sense of community with her fellow schoolmates.

“I had different groups of friends growing up and it was a big community, there were no cliques and we were all like sisters,” she said.

Lim said she also has many fond memories of the school and remembers spending a lot of time in school taking part in various extracurricular activities.

They both remember the kindness of the nuns, who lived on the school grounds and managed the school’s operations then.

“One of the biggest things we felt was the kindness of the sisters; they were gentle and patient,” Tham said.

They both remember Sister Francis de Sales, the CLS principal during their time, as someone who was firm and gentle.

Melinda at age eight receiving a prize from then CLS principal Sister Frances de Sales. — Picture courtesy of Melinda Lim
Melinda at age eight receiving a prize from then CLS principal Sister Frances de Sales. — Picture courtesy of Melinda Lim

Lim still keeps a photo of her receiving a prize from Sister Francis in school back when she was eight years old.

These fond memories helped shape their growing years and were responsible for spurring both Tham and Lim to take up this collaborative effort with the IJ Sisters.

They were introduced to the IJ Sisters by a fellow CLS alumni, who also happened to be an advisor to the IJ Sisters.

“When we met with them, we found out that one of the sisters already knew about us as one of her nephews studied in our school and currently a second nephew is completing his studies in our school,” Tham said.

ACE Edventure had submitted a proposed name for the new school to the Education Ministry but it was rejected.

“We came up with another name and it has to be agreeable with the sisters as they have a say in the name of the school,” Tham said.

She said the new proposed name will have “some form of the convent name” but this is pending approval by the IJ Sisters and the education ministry.

ACE Edventure’s aim is to open the new school early next year, also pending approval from the education ministry.

The new school will be offering a United Kingdom education syllabus for Year 1 to Year 10 classes leading to the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) with an entrepreneurial component.

The IGCSE qualification is equivalent to the GCSE in the United Kingdom and is globally recognised.

CLS was the first school the IJ Sisters set up in the then Malaya when they first arrived here from Paris in 1852.

The IJ Sisters decided to take back the CLS premises from the Education Ministry due to a steady decline in student enrolment over the last decade and escalating costs to maintain the heritage school buildings.

The Education Ministry approved the return of the premises to IJ Sisters in 2018 and the school has stopped enrolling students for its primary and secondary school since 2017.

The last of the CLS students, under the national education syllabus, will leave the school in 2024.

Both Tham and Lim have extensive teaching experience, with the former starting her teaching career in 1987 and founding ACE Edventure in 1995.

Lim joined ACE Edventure in 2007 to take charge of the Math and Science Programme after two decades of teaching in secondary schools in Singapore.

The sisters set up a private tutoring centre in 2009 and started the Sri Emas International School in 2012 due to increasing demands for an international school.