Diocesan Old Girls’ Association Ltd
拔萃女書院舊生會
Dr. Catherine Joyce Symons

Dr. Symons in her office

The following is excerpted from 'A Tribute to Dr. C. J. Symons C.B.E., J.P. (14 March 1985)':


Dr. C.J. Symons was appointed headmistress in 1953, having served twice before as Acting Headmistress. She was the first local headmistress following a long line of expatriates including Miss Betty Gibbons, her predecessor.


The school has played such a major role in her life that to many of us the letters "DGS" and "CJ" have come to mean one and the same thing.


"CJ" stands, of course, for Catherine Joyce.


Born in Shanghai in 1918, Joyce Anderson (as she then was) came with her family to Hongkong in the early 1920s and was educated at the school she would later serve as headmistress.


Dr. Symons joined the staff in 1939 as a geography teacher after graduating from the University of Hongkong and rejoined it after the Japanese occupation in 1948 after returning from London with her husband, Dr. Robert Symons. She served twice as Acting Headmistress before being appointed as headmistress.


In the past three decades she has come to be regarded as one of Hongkong's most distinguished educationalists, doyenne of school heads, and much else.


A respected commentator on social and educational issues, Dr. Symons has served in the Urban, Legislative and Executive Councils under Sir David Trench and Sir Murray MacLehose.


She was the first woman appointed to the Executive Council.


In addition, Dr. Symons has served on many Government committees, including the Board of Education, the target committee of the Independent Commission Against Corruption, the Transport Advisory Committee and the University and Polytechnic Grants Committee.


In Dr. Symons' leadership, as an educationalist, there has always been a wholeness of approach. This is first to be seen in what she conceives of as the cultural heritage to be transmitted by the school.


Through the years, she has encouraged the girls to see themselves as part of a historical tradition beginning from "the gallant women since 1860".


She described in the following way the aim in the education of this select group:

"..... to give ..... some insight into the treasures of Western culture based on Christian/Classical Graeco Roman concepts, comparing and contrasting these with the traditions of Chinese civilization."


She had in mind particular qualities of an educated woman, of being ....." patient listeners, relaxed conversationalist, trenchant debaters, lucid speakers, convincing writers, and people who know themselves....."


The following events and changes took place in the school under the leadership of Dr. Symons :

 

1954 Upper Sixth opened with the introduction of a two-year Advanced Level course leading to matriculation to the University of Hong Kong.

 

1956 Physics and Chemistry were introduced into Forms V and VI, full Mathematics to Form I and General Science to Primary 5.

 

1959 The 1913 Hall was replaced by the Centenary Hall.

September : The Junior School became private.

September : The Senior School was re-organized, but only on the academic side. There were now three Form I's with the new third stream set aside for girls from all over Hong Kong who were sent to us by the Education Department upon their successful participation in the Joint Primary Six Examination.

September : Examination positions were dropped. Promotion was based on the assessment (with grace marks) of examinations term-work, with supplementary examinations for border-line cases. The aim was to encourage a girl to work more consistently at her own level with less exaggerated emphasis on marks and positions. Transfer from stream to stream would be made annually after the summer examinations.

A new Library was opened with a total of 2,200 books. (In 1977 there were 12,250 books).

With a new Gymnasium an expatriate teacher of Physical Education was appointed.

 

1960 The Governor Sir Robert Black and Lady Black, together with 3 past headmistresses Miss H.D. Sawyer, Miss A.W. Hurrell and Miss E.M. Gibbons were guests of honour at the Centenary Speech Day on 10th January.

 

1961 - 1967 Years of settling in, consolidating all the resources as a three-stream grammar school with two Upper Sixes and a Form VI General fot those leaving after a sixth year for studies abroad or vocational training in Hong Kong.

 

1965 May : The Parent Teacher Association under the chairmanship of Mr. K.C. Pang donated a large 25m swimming pool to the School.

 

1966 The Rt. Rev. Gilbert Baker became Chairman of the School Council.

 

1967 The riots in the summer months were difficult times. For the first time since the War there was no Bazaar, and permission was given to launch an Annual Appeal for educational necessities not covered by grant. These include library expenses, swimming pool expenses, orchestra expenses and the non-grant of major repairs and refurbishing.

Sex education was introduced and some form of political education was started in the senior forms.

The boarding school had to be partially closed.

 

1968 A very successful Chinese play made a handsome contribution of over $16,000 for the improvement of facilities in th Hall.

September : New liberal studies were planned for the sixth forms, and in the junior secondary forms of I, II and III core curricula were introduced with studies in Scripture, History and Literature focusing on Geography.

 

1973 In the Junior School examination positions were abolished.

With the introduction of reponsibility allowances for Senior Graduates and Senior Assistant Mistresses, Dr. Symons was able to diversify various chains of command and thus to decentralise the administration of the School.

The Boarding School was closed in July.

 

1974 After further correspondence with the Education Department, the School Council finally decided to rebuild the Junior School.

A twelve-classroom Junior School with two additional rooms (to be donated later by The Welfare League) was planned. The design of a school building of two floors was highly recommended in an architectural competition.

September : The Junior School building was demolished. The whole Junior School (Primary 3-6) came over to the Senior School for a year.

The old Hall, former dormitory renovated from the pre-war playshed was vastly improved in memory of the late Bishop R.O. Hall who had retired in 1966.

 

1975 January : Ngo Kee Co. was invited to build the Junior School in 150 days at an initial cost of about $1,419,257.76.

September : Mrs. Rachel Benton was appointed Headmistress of the Junior School. Mrs. Symons was invited to remain as Supervisor. The new Junior School building was occupied on the first day of term.

 

1976 September : A new Form I for girls sent by the Education Department for a three-year course was opened.

Lower secondary forms have been reorganised as mixed-ability forms.

 

1978 January : Sir Murray and Lady MacLehose headed a gathering of about a thousand guests to visit the School's Exhibition on the theme of "Change and Challenge", to celebrate the centenary of DGS as a grant school.


Dr. Symons retired in March 1985, marking the end of 32 years as head and the end of 60 years' association with the school which began with her entry into class nine.


Dr. Symons passed away peacefully at the age of 85 on 11 June 2004 in England.

 

Relaxing

A recent visit

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