St. Xavier's Institution

St. Xavier's Institution, at Farquhar Street in George Town, Penang, Malaysia, is the oldest Lasallian school in Southeast Asia and one of the Catholic Lasallian schools in Malaysia.[3] While it has a history dating back to 1787, the present-day institution, named after St. Francis Xavier, was only established in 1852.[4][5][6][7]

St. Xavier's Institution
Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan St. Xavier (Malay)
圣方济中学 (Simplified Chinese)
சைன்ட் சவேரியார் உயர்நிலை பள்ளி (Tamil)
Front entrance of St. Xavier's Institution

, ,

Coordinates5°25′16″N 100°20′13″E / 5.420978°N 100.336884°E / 5.420978; 100.336884Coordinates: 5°25′16″N 100°20′13″E / 5.420978°N 100.336884°E / 5.420978; 100.336884
TypeCo-educational secondary school
MottoLatin: Labor Omnia Vincit
(Labour Conquers All)
Religious affiliation(s)Christian
DenominationRoman Catholic
Patron saint(s)St. Francis Xavier
Established1852; 170 years ago (1852)
FounderDe La Salle Brothers
PrincipalGoh Hong Peng[1]
Brother DirectorJason Blaikie
GradesForms 1 - 6
GenderHistorically an all-boys school, now co-educational since 2022[2]
Colour(s)Green and gold
Feeder schools
AffiliationsLasallian educational institutions

This secondary school has been an all-boys school since its establishment, although girls have been admitted in Form 6 since the 1950s (but as of 2022, it is now a co-educational secondary school ever since female students were admitted for the first time beginning in Form 1 of the batch born in 2009 for the 2022-2023 Malaysian school academic year). In addition, the school is renowned for producing several notable Malaysian and Singaporean personalities, including Wong Pow Nee, Karpal Singh, Cecil Rajendra and Hon Sui Sen. Students of the school are colloquially known as 'Xaverians' or 'Lasallians'.[8][9]

To this day, St. Xavier's Institution maintains its historical rivalry with Penang Free School, another premier school in George Town which holds the honour of being Malaysia's oldest school.[10] The school has two suburban feeder primary schools at Pulau Tikus and Air Itam.[5][11]


The history of St. Xavier's Institution stretches all the way back to 1787, soon after the founding of George Town by Captain Francis Light. Light invited Bishop Arnaud-Antoine Garnault, a French Catholic priest, to George Town as Bishop Garnault and his Eurasian followers were fleeing political persecution in Siam.[12] After arriving in George Town, Bishop Garnault who was proficient in Malay, set up a Malay school at Church Street.[12][13]

The Malay school was subsequently relocated into a brick house built by Jean-Baptiste Boucho of the Paris Foreign Missions in 1825 and converted into an English school.[8][12] It was called the Catholic Free School, in opposition to Penang Free School which had been established by Protestants in 1816.

In 1852, three members of the De La Salle Brothers took over the administration of Catholic Free School upon invitation by Jean-Baptiste Boucho. The school was renamed as St. Francis Xavier's Free School after St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Catholic missionary who is revered to this day for his extensive missions in Asia in the 16th century.

St Xavier's Institution in 1857

St. Francis Xavier's Free School was moved to its present grounds at Farquhar Street with the completion of a new school building in 1858. With this relocation, the school was finally renamed as St. Xavier's Institution.[14] This building was expanded several times over the years, before it was replaced by a grander Baroque-style double-storey building in 1895. A third storey was added in 1901 and a wing was constructed in 1908.

During the Japanese occupation in World War II, the Imperial Japanese Navy used the school building as a Marine barracks.[8][14] As a result, the school building was completely destroyed by American bombers in the later years of the war.

With the main building wiped out, school sessions resumed after the war at the adjacent school field, with temporary attap sheds serving as classrooms. In 1954, the current school building was completed at a cost of about $2 million (Malaya and British Borneo dollar).

Brother Paul Ho was the last Le Salle Brother Principal in SXI to serve as a school principal.[15][16] His retirement in 2009 marked the end of a long-standing era of Le Salle Brother principals in Malaysia.


To this day, St. Xavier's Institution maintains its association as part of the network of Lasallian schools throughout Asia.[17] Lasallian schools in Southeast Asia include St. John's Institution in Kuala Lumpur, St. Michael's Institution in Ipoh, St. Francis's Institution, Melaka, St. George's Institution, Taiping and St. Joseph's Institution in Singapore.

Feeder schoolsEdit

St Xavier's Institution operates two feeder primary schools in the suburbs of George Town. St. Xavier's Primary Branch School at Pulau Tikus was opened in 1962, while St. Xavier's Primary School at Air Itam was launched much later.[18] While the schools are not closely associated with each other, most pupils go on to continue their secondary studies in St. Xavier's Institution. Regular annual tours are also organised by the schools which usually bring the students of the two primary schools on a "day tour" in St. Xavier's Institution.[5]

St Xavier's Institution viewed from Farquhar Street in January 2020

Notable alumniEdit


  1. ^ "Saint Xavier's Institution". 9 April 2017. Archived from the original on 30 July 2017. Retrieved 14 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Penang: Historic St Xavier's sees co-ed secondary classes for first time". 4 April 2022.
  3. ^ Hong, Ng Soon. "e-Lasallian Network - Bro. Anthony Rogers speaks with BFM Radio on La Salle Legacy". Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  4. ^ Story, Penang's History-My. "Alma mater right smack in the centre of historical George Town - Community | The Star Online". Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  5. ^ a b c "About SXI". Saint Xavier's Institution. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  6. ^ "Koay A. (2012) 'Legacy of learning' in The Star 13 February 2012". Archived from the original on 23 April 2014. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  7. ^ Siebert, Dr. A. E. (2002) 'Early Catholic Church, La Salle Education and The Penang Story' in The Penang Story – International Conference 2002 18-21 April 2002, The City Bayview Hotel, Penang, Malaysia Organisers: The Penang Heritage Trust & STAR Publications
  8. ^ a b c "Old Penang: St Xavier's Institution -". 10 June 2011. Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  9. ^ "Xaverians aim for largest reunion bash - Community | The Star Online". Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  10. ^ "Penang Free School has a long history with St Xavier's Institution - Community | The Star Online". Retrieved 3 May 2017.
  11. ^ "St Xavier's Branch School". Time Out Penang. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  12. ^ a b c "The bishop and the French connection | Wong Chun Wai". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  13. ^ "::Alliance Française of Penang, Universiti Sains Malaysia::". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  14. ^ a b Langdon, Marcus (2014). A Guide to George Town's Historic Commercial and Civic Precincts. George Town: George Town World Heritage incorporated.
  15. ^ "Raise retirement age of La Sallian brothers". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  16. ^ "SXI brother-principal's retirement marks end of era -". 22 June 2009. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  17. ^ Voon, CM. "e-Lasallian Network - Lasallian Education in Malaysia". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  18. ^ The Straits Times, 28 February 1962, Page 5
  19. ^ "Penang's Kelawi Road where the Eurasians set words to music - Community | The Star Online". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  20. ^ "Mayor Guru a Penangite at heart | Buletin Mutiara". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Former Penang journalist elected mayor of NZ town - Nation | The Star Online". Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  22. ^ More than just a school: A new book illustrates the Xaverian journey - Herald Malaysia
  23. ^ "Projects of conscience". The Edge Markets. 9 July 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  24. ^ Jacob Termansen, Pia Marie Molbech (2012). Asian Style Hotels: Bali, Java, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand. Tuttle Publishing. ISBN 9781462909070.
  25. ^ hermes (15 July 2015). "Founders, keepers". The Straits Times. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  26. ^ "A goat chased me in court". NST Online. 18 September 2016. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  27. ^ More than merchants: a history of the German-speaking community in Penang, 1800s-1940s, Salma Nasution Khoo, Areca Books, 2006, ISBN 983-42834-1-5, ISBN 978-983-42834-1-4, P59
  28. ^ "Ooi Kee Beng". Wikibeng. Retrieved 5 May 2017.
  29. ^ Ooi, Kee Beng (2010). In Lieu of Ideology: An Intellectual Biography of Goh Keng Swee. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. ISBN 9789814311311.
  30. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2012. Retrieved 5 May 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  31. ^ "Robust Growth: Sydney Quays". Retrieved 15 August 2022.

External linksEdit