Penang Happenings | The Schools of George Town – A Lesson in Heritage
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The Schools of George Town – A Lesson in Heritage

The earlier citizens of George Town, Penang found their footings through the sophisticated British education system laid there by the British Empire during the colonial years. As Malaysia as a whole retained most of the system in their current educational scheme, a few buildings from that nostalgic period still function to this very day, keeping in line with the George Town belief of bringing modern sensibilities and vintage heritages together.

Wellesley Primary School

  • Situated on Northam Road (a.k.a. Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah), Wellesley Primary School was constructed around 1936, named after Richard Colley Wesley, the Marquess Wellesley who was the Governor-General of India amid the period when Province Wellesley (now Butterworth and Seberang Prai) was surrendered to the British East India Company. The colonial-styled school still functions today, being one of the fundamental feeder schools to some of the most renowned secondary school in Penang, and was once reputable for its distinctly Eurasian faculty that specialized in the English language in the past.

Francis Light School

  • Located on Perak Road, the 1930-established primary school was named to pay tribute to George Town’s founder Captain Francis Light. Alongside Wellesley Primary School, it is considered to be one of the more renowned primary schools on the island. Light Street in George Town, which is within the UNESCO Heritage site is also name after him.

Pykett Methodist School

  • Established in 1891 by the adjacent Wesley Methodist Church on Burmah Road, Pykett Methodist School was spun-off from the Anglo-Chinese school, and was named after Methodist missionary G.F. Pykett, who was key during the fundamental growth of education in Penang at the time. It was declared in late 2014 that the school would cease all educational functions in 2019 due to dwindling intakes. The school building is prominently featured in the 2017 feature film You Mean the World to Me.

Convent Light Street

  • Sometimes alluded to as the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus, Convent Light Street is the oldest girl’s school in Penang, Malaysia and South East Asia; having been established in the year 1852 by French Catholic nuns. During the late 20th century and earlier 21st century, the school educated daughters of the wealthy and the eminences from abroad, before adhering to the institutionalized Malaysian education system in place today.

St Xavier’s Institution

  • The oldest Roman Catholic school in Malaysia, and perhaps possibly the oldest school on Penang Island, St. Xavier’s Institution was named as such by the Catholic La Salle Brothers in 1852 though French Catholic priest Father Arnaud-Antoine Garnault established it in the year 1786. Located on Farquhar Street at the heart of George Town’s historic Heritage Zone, the school used to house an impressive three-storey Baroque European-influenced building erected in 1901; however the grand colonial building was destroyed by bombings carried out by Allied forces in 1944 during World War II when the building was used as an Imperial Japanese Navy base during the Japanese invasion. After schooling continued in rickety attap huts built in the school fields in the seven years that followed, the current school building completed construction in 1954, where it continues to function to this day. In 2009, St. Xavier’s last La Sallian Brother principal retired, marking the end of an era as St. Xavier’s Institution was the last school on Penang Island, as well as one of the last in Malaysia, to be led by the missionaries.