In an organised, orderly place like Singapore, you’d expect schools to all be standardised, even their names; however, many of the schools that Singaporeans are familiar with are all named high schools instead of secondary school. Before the conspiracy theory in you postulates that high schools are only for the elite, you should first get your historical facts right.
The term “high school” was first used in Scotland – the world’s oldest high school is Edinburgh’s Royal High School established in 1505. From then on, countries all over the world started to name their schools using the term “high school”, but they were not all the same.
Fast forward to the East Asian region, and you will find that high schools in China are for students who have completed 6 years of primary school and 3 years of middle school, while ex-British colonies adopted the British school system after their independence; 4 years of secondary school after 6 years of primary school before moving on to tertiary education.
This is the reason why there are still schools that are named high schools – their history stretches way beyond Singapore’s independence, and they were established as high schools in the first place. Before our independence, these schools ran on their own and were free to decide how they offered their education, which may have been different from the standardized system we know of today.
So now you know that they’re not called high schools because they’re high up there. It’s nice to see the Singapore government allowing schools to keep their names because of their history and heritage…especially when they’ve shown that they have the power to change it if they wanted to (think Nanyang Technological University).
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