A tribute to an education pioneer

Book cover: Remembering Elias Pereira, An Education Icon by Lawrence Thomas.

A book tracing the life and times of a pioneer in private education here, Mr Elias Pereira, was launched last Friday.

The 192-page publication, Remembering Elias Pereira, An Education Icon, was written by former teacher Lawrence Thomas, who wanted to acknowledge his friend and colleague's contribution to education.

It covers Mr Pereira's early years in his hometown of Kerala, India and in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before moving to Singapore, where he set up the now-defunct Stamford College.

Mr Thomas got to know Mr Pereira when he joined Stamford College in 1970 to do administrative work as an assistant registrar.

"He was a visionary," Mr Thomas, 75, told The Straits Times at the book launch held in The Old Parliament Chamber at The Arts House.

"His entire life was focused on education, even at the expense of neglecting his family," he said.

Mr Pereira, who died aged 63 in 1980, started his first school in 1950 in a rented one-room space at Bras Basah Road. He used his own savings to purchase desks, tables, chairs and a blackboard.

He came up with his own syllabus, notes and study methods to prepare his students for international examinations and the equivalent of the O- and A-level examinations then.

It was the first institution to offer private education services in Singapore.

From its humble beginnings - there were only 10 students on the first day of operations - he grew the school into an institution with its own 10-storey campus and operations in Singapore, Malaysia and London.

Stamford College's Singapore campus closed in 1990 because Mr Pereira's family "were not in favour of continuing operations", said Mr Thomas. The London operations also shut down, while the Malaysia branch was sold off.

Attendees at the launch included former staff of the college, descendants of Mr Pereira, and president of the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants, Mr Gerard Ee.

Mr Ee recalled in a short speech how he used to chauffeur his late father Ee Peng Liang - a philanthropist and good friend of Mr Pereira - to the college to meet the latter.

"The measure of success is the difference you make in people's lives," he said. "I grew up listening to my father being full of praise for Mr Pereira."

Publisher Marshall Cavendish has printed 1,200 copies of the paperback, which retails at major bookstores for S$23.35 before GST.

This article was first published on July 22, 2014. Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.