The school was founded in January 1920 by Mr Shi Su. The running of the school was financed by Mr Lin Zeyang and his fellow supporters.
It began as a night school at 267 Tanjong Pagar Road - a place on loan from Yinbin Club. The school catered to the needs of the young migrants from China. On 1 March 1920, the school moved to 30 Enggor Street and a day school was initiated. It helped to provide education to the children of the migrants.
The Troubled Years
In August 1920, Mr Shi Su returned to China. In February the following year, Mr Lin Zeyang succeeded him as the principal. In July the same year, however, the school was closed by the landlord for default in rent payment. Led by night class students Messrs Lin Muqun, Kang Zhen-Bo, Zhuang Huiquan and Li Tienmin, the students raised enough funds to clear the debt.
More obstacles cropped up. In September, new rules were laid down for the registration of schools. The Board of Directors voted for the closure of the school. Mr Lin Muqun again came to the rescue. He reorganised the school, formed a new Board of Directors and applied for registration. It was then officially registered.
The school again ran into financial difficulty in 1922. And it was again Mr Lin Muqun and other night class students who saved the school. As Gongshang was a privately run Chinese school, it was unable to secure any grant from the British Government. All expenses were met by donations received mainly from the Chinese community. Times were hard.
Under the capable and innovative leadership of Mr Lin Zeyang, the school was able to forge ahead. The Old Boys’ Association was set up in 1923 - a move that proved to be of great help to the school.
The Association organised activities not only to raise funds for the school but also to promote cultural activities and sports among its members. It put up shows like the ‘Choir’s Night’, renowned plays like ‘Home’, ‘Spring’ and ‘Autumn’. All were critically acclaimed. The winning feats of its basketball team spread far and wide.
Mr Lin looked beyond the needs of basic education. His far-sightedness was reflected clearly in his incorporation of vocational training into the school curriculum - a move unheard of then.
The school enrolment increased rapidly and Mr Lin anticipated the need for expansion. In 1926, with the support of the Old Boys’ Association, the Board of Directors and the migrant Chinese society, Mr Lin set up a committee for the school building fund. A piece of land at Outram Road, the York Hill was acquired. The school moved into its new building in June 1929, a place it could call its own. It was a pride of the time - a spacious, ultra-modern and well-equipped building.
Mr Lin’s dedication to the school and education was hard to match. He oversaw all aspects of the school administration, teaching methodology, building maintenance and even gardening. Nothing was too big or too small for him. Under his guidance, the school expanded and its enrolment hit 3,800 in the 50’s - a great feat for a Chinese school. The school could proudly claim to have played an important role in nation building.
Mr Lin Zeyang, a bachelor, passed away of ill health on 16 July 1948. He had lived in the school quarters and spent all his time tending to the needs of the school. He left behind neither property nor money to his name. He can be deservedly called “FATHER OF GONGSHANG”. Mr Chen Guoxiang succeeded him as principal. A new hall was built and named after Mr Lin Zeyang to commemorate his contributions to the school.
After the demise of Mr Lin Zeyang, the principals succeeding him were :
Chen Guoxiang 1949 - 1964
Yu Songnian 1964 - 1970
Chen Dexiao 1971 - 1975
Yang Mazhu 1975 - 1984
In the late seventies, the school faced the problems of urban redevelopment and an ageing population in the vicinity. The school enrolment plummeted. It was time to move to a new location. In a series of meetings in 1984 between the school management and the Ministry of Education officials, it was agreed that the school be moved to Tampines New Town. It was renamed Gongshang Primary School in place of The Chinese Industrial and Commercial Continuation School (N.B. Gongshang means industrial and commercial).
Then Mr Yang Mazhu retired at the end of 1984. He was succeeded by Mr Wee Fui Twee, our incumbent principal (1984-2001). The school was temporarily housed in Tampines Primary School building until 1987 when our own premises at Tampines Street 42 were completed. It was declared open by the late Dr Tay Eng Soon, former Senior Minister of State for Education, two years later. Now the school has a pupil population of more than 2000.
Lin Mu Qun - An Old Gongshang Boy
Gongshang Primary School was plagued by financial difficulties in the early stage of its development. Many a time, it faced the threat of closure. And each time it was Mr Lin Muqun’s resourcefulness, perseverance and commitment to the cause that saved the day.
Mr Lin was born in the Hokkien Province of China. He migrated to Singapore when he was very young. He enrolled in Gongshang to better himself. In 1921, when the school was served with the notice of closure for falling behind in rent, he and his schoolmates raised enough funds from donation to tide the school over.
When the Board of Directors decided to close the school because of stringent regulations introduced by the British Colonial Government for the registration of non-English schools, Mr Lin Muqun worked hand in hand with the principal Mr Lin Zeyang to revamp the school set up in order to meet the requirements for registration.
He was also instrumental in the setting up of the Old Boys’ Association. The Association later played an important role in promoting cultural and social activities for the then Chinese Community.
He did all these during his spare time in the name of education. He was then a manager of a company. When he passed away in 1929, the school erected a pavilion in the school compound to commemorate his contributions to the school.
Father of Gongshang
Mr. Lin Zeyang was born in the Hokkien Province of China. His surname was actually Yang. His mother’s family name was Lin. Since there was no male offspring in her family to succeed the family line, her husband consented to let his second son adopt the surname Lin. Thus he was named Lin Zeyang. His intelligence was seen at an early age of 4. He learned to read and write first from his mother.
When he went to school at the age of 7, his teachers were taken aback by his brilliance. Unfortunately, his father passed away when Zeyang was thirteen. The family ran into financial hardship. Nevertheless, his mother toiled to provide him an education. Eventually, he graduated from the Hokkien Teachers’ College. He served in a few primary schools before he came to Southeast Asia in 1911. He taught in Malaya and Indonesia. He was well-loved by the people wherever he served.
He was one of the founder members of the school. He began his career as a principal of Gongshang from 1911. He remained as one until 1948 when he died of ill health.
When Mr Lin took over the school, it was facing a crisis. The school was behind in rent. It was closed by the landlord. Together with the help of the night class students and the Board of Directors, he was able to raise enough cash to tide over the difficulty.
Next the British Governor laid down rules for the registration of all schools in Singapore. Mr Lin had to revamp the set up in order to comply with the rules. The school was fully registered. There were more financial problems to come. Mr Lin appealed to the Old Boys’ Association for help.
Under his able leadership, the school enrolment increased steadily and before long it was clear that expansion was necessary. A piece of land along Outram Road, known as York Hill, was acquired. The new premises were completed in 1929. The reputation of the school spread and the enrolment increased every year.
The Second World War broke out and the school stopped functioning temporarily. In 1945, the school resumed operation. There was an unusually large number of overaged pupils seeking admission as they were deprived of it during the War. The school bought over another 180 000 square feet of land adjacent to it for a new school building. Unfortunately, before Mr Lin could realise his plan, he was struck down with illness. Even on his sick bed, he showed concern for the school. He planned and guided his subordinates until his last days. He passed away at the age of 60 on 16 July 1948. It was a great loss, not only to Gongshang but also to education in Singapore. Such an educationist is rare. He helped the school through its difficult years. He had helped bond the school management, Old Boys’ Association and the migrant Chinese society into a single force for the furtherance of education.
We are fortunate to have him.