The Maris Stella Spirit Prevails
From its founding in 1958, where it was “a school without a home”, Maris Stella High School has flourished into a large, modern school constantly improving and renewing itself while keeping faith with the dream of its founder, Brother Joche Chanel Soon.
The current school site expanded to cater to the learning needs of more students through the building of the Primary Section 1976. As one of the pioneer SAP schools since 1979, Maris Stella High School prides itself on providing a holistic and interesting programme for students to be culturally sensitive and effectively bilingual. The hallmark of the Marist education is the dedication to holistic development and excellence as well as the effective enculturation of bilingual students who are ready for the 21st century.
Brother Chanel founded Maris Stella High School in 1958 in response to the need for another school because of overwhelming applications for admission to Catholic High School that was run by the Marist Brothers.
The school started with four Primary One classes (163 pupils) and four Secondary One classes (124 pupils) and a staff of ten including the Principal, Brother Chanel. Classes functioned in the afternoon at St. Stephen’s Primary School in Siglap.
Soon the school expanded and more classrooms were needed. As St. Stephen's Primary School could no longer accommodate the growing student population, other schools were approached for assistance and subsequently, Maris Stella functioned concurrently at different premises. Among them were Silat Road Government Integrated Primary School, St. Patrick’s School, Opera Estate Convent, Tung Ling English School, Jalan Kembangan Integrated Primary School. The school occupied these premises at various times from 2nd January 1963 to 22nd October 1966, which resulted in numerous problems in administration and in conducting lessons.
In the pursuit of having our own school premises, Brother Chanel worked tirelessly to raise funds from various people such as the businessmen from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. His dogged determination to raise sufficient funds and the staff’s dedication and loyalty to educating Marists made those difficult years memorable ones. It brought out the best in the staff who together with the Principal, overcame many problems. Needless to say, the students contributed no less to the success story of the school with their consistent 100% passes in the Government Examinations.
A new phase in the history of Maris Stella High School began in 1967 when we moved to our own school compound at Mount Vernon Road. A grand celebration was held to mark the official opening of the new school that had fifteen classrooms and a four-storey science block. Development now came swiftly. 1968 saw the completion of the second phase, an adjoining block consisting of the Lee Kuo Chuan Hall, a canteen, a library and administration offices.
The second decade saw the gradual but steady development of Maris Stella High School. With the completion of the second phase of development, Brother Chanel decided to proceed with the next project – a 5-storey building for the primary section. This marked the third phase of Brother Chanel’s development plan for the school. However, it was not until the end of 1974 that permission was granted by the government to launch this project. Construction began soon after and the building was completed by the end of October 1975. It was built at a cost of about $1.1 million. This new building was officially declared open on 11 September 1976.
A very significant milestone in the school’s history was the fourth phase of development with the building of a separate building for the primary section due to the overwhelming demand from parents and students. After some initial difficulties in selecting a suitable site for the school, it was finally decided that the primary section be situated on the piece of land adjacent to the secondary section in 1982. This was also made possible due to the help provided by the philanthropist, Mr Tan Keong Choon.
The original plan for a four-storey building was changed to a three-storey one in order to cut costs. With the approval of our new plan and a generous grant from the Government, we set out to raise more funds to meet the escalating building cost. At the helm of this massive fund-raising project were Brother John Lek, Brother Anthony Tan, and Brother Chanel who although having retired in 1981 due to poor health, continued to be actively involved in raising funds for the school.
The primary section has been functioning at its present premises since 1987. In 1996, our school became an Autonomous School with additional funds to provide extra programmes and facilities for Marists. Since 1997, the primary section has been functioning as a single-session school. Minor improvements were made to the building with the conversion of the library to a media resource library, an improved administration office and staff room with system furniture and the inclusion of two computer laboratories. All classrooms are now IT-enabled and the school is fully networked.
In 2002, the school was designated the N4 Centre of Excellence for Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Other noteworthy awards include the School Distinction Award, Singapore Quality Class, Best Practice Award for Teaching and Learning, and Sustained Achievement Awards.
The school leadership baton was passed from Brother Anthony Tan to Mr Joseph Lim who was the Principal from 2009 to 2015. His leadership continued the spirit of excellence in our school culture and ethos. Staff competency was developed to create the joy of learning among students. Teaching and learning continued to be our pride and glory as the school received Best Practice in Teaching and Learning, Character and Citizenship Education, Staff Well-being and Development, and Student All-Round Development in 2014.
As the Principal from 2016 onwards, Mrs Woo Soo Min galvanised the school to carry out a staff envisioning exercise to bring the school closer to our mission of inculcating young men with values and faith. Through the year-long envisioning exercise, Marist educators, in consultation with the Marist Brothers, Alumni and School Management Committee, crafted the new school vision: Every Marist, a Gentleman of Faith, Vision and Service. With this vision in mind, we hope to offer a coherent and holistic 10-year Marist Education to all Marists anchored in the Catholic faith, biculturalism and school tradition.
In 2018, Maris Stella High School celebrated the 60th anniversary of its founding. The theme for the celebration was Rejoice . Reunion . Rejuvenate. Over the past 60 years, the school has done very well in nurturing Marists to their potential and won many accolades. The success of Marists whilst in school and the contributions of Marists in society after they have graduated bears testimony to strong inculcation of Marist values and school motto in our students. We rejoice and give thanks to God for His many blessings on the school and Marists. The past 60 years witnessed the forging of strong bonds of brotherhood amongst Marists amidst an environment where family spirit immensely fills the school atmosphere. Marists from the various generations returned to their Alma Mater to reunite with their brothers and pay tribute to their teachers for moulding them to become who they are today. As we look forward to the next 60 years of school development, we are inspired by the many stories told by Marists of how their teachers have made a difference in their lives and we seek to rejuvenate the school to nurture every Marist to become a gentleman of faith, vision and service.