CONVENT schools in Malaysia have a distinguished history dating back to the 19th century. They have iconic heritage buildings and have produced many prominent personalities over the decades.
The 170-year-old Convent Light Street (CLS) in Penang is the oldest girls’ school in South-East Asia and is located in a heritage zone.
Founded by French Catholic nuns in 1852, it is one of the most highly regarded missionary schools in the state. However, in the past decade, CLS has been hit by declining enrolment thanks to competition from international and Chinese schools.
Convent schools were once premier schools that used the English language as the medium of education, and were known for producing well-rounded students who excelled academically as well as in sports and music.
The three founding nuns were part of a group of five who managed to make it to Penang alive after the arduous journey from France via Singapore.
The sprawling CLS grounds were also home to the administrative offices of Captain Francis Light after he founded George Town in 1786. Stamford Raffles, the founder of Singapore, also worked at Govern-ment House in the CLS grounds. Penang, then known as the Prince of Wales Island, was his first overseas posting.
Convent Bukit Nanas (CBN) in Kuala Lumpur is also one of the oldest schools in Malaysia – established in 1899 – and is one of the first schools to be distinguished as a Cluster School of Excellence by the Education Ministry
Its alumni includes former minister Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, Tengku Permaisuri Norashikin Abdul Rahman of Selangor, Bank Negara governor Tan Sri Nor Shamsiah Mohd Yunus, prominent lawyers Raja Eleena Almarhum Sultan Azlan Muhibbuddin Shah Al-Maghfur-lah and Ambiga Sreenevenan and the late singer Adibah Noor.
CLS has its list of famous alumni too, such as Datuk Ooi Chean See, Malaysia’s first woman orchestra conductor; Datuk Ng Poh Tip ,The Star’s first woman group chief editor; and Datin Paduka Tunku Khadijah Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, our first prime minister’s daughter, who studied as a full-time boarder in CLS.