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 Publishing educational publishing. Sowing: Distributing Workbooks, 1926-1931 In 1924, the founder of POPULAR – Mr Chou Sing Chu (1905-1986) – arrived in Singapore from Shanghai. In the same year, he established Cheng Hing Company, the predecessor to POPULAR, which primarily sold products such as Chinese New Year pictures, Western paintings, and folktale images, alongside casual reading books like comics. Despite only having received three years of formal education, Mr Chou understood the importance of education. Within the short span of two years, he published his first educational publication in 1926 – Conversational Malay, the Malay language workbook with phonetics in the Minnan dialect. Resembling the foreign-language workbooks of today, Mr Chou’s motivation for publishing Conversational Malay was to help the overseas Chinese speedily come to grips with the language for everyday use. This highly practical book became a vital tool for the overseas Chinese who did not know English to learn Malay and would also serve lay the foundation of POPULAR’s educational publishing business. Budding: Initial Forays into Publishing, 1931-1940 As the initial foray into educational publishing, Conversational Malay helped Mr Chou understand the thirst for knowledge among the overseas Chinese and planted the seeds of his future publishing endeavours. In 1931, he established Chung Hing to publish textbooks. Though it initially served as an agent for the import of Chinese edition textbooks from China, Chung Hing was actively recruiting talents in the publishing industry in preparation of publishing of its own textbooks, and eventually became one of the earliest companies publishing localised textbooks for the Singapore market. After eight years of meticulous work, Chung Hing released the “Chung Hing Edition” localised primary school Chinese textbooks in 1938. This set of textbooks were labelled as Nanyang textbooks that followed the newly revised curriculum standards, and covered subjects including letter-writing, abacus, arithmetic, civics, model compositions, nature, and general knowledge. The selection of materials emphasised functionality, with practical contents to help the overseas Chinese most effectively in their daily lives. This set of textbooks had epochal significance for both POPULAR and Singapore. Sprouting: Over 1,000 Publications, 1948-1980s In 1934, three years after establishing Chung Hing, Mr Chou set up World Book Company. Apart from being a well-known book company from its early years, it also became a leader in the Chinese textbook publishing industry. After World War II in 1948, World Book Company published the localised “World Edition” primary school textbooks. Subsequently, it also released preschool readers, teaching handbooks, and dictionaries. From the 1950s, World Book Company published secondary school, pre- university, and university textbooks and reference books, while also inviting notable scholars such as Kuo Shih-I, Hsu Yun Tsiao, and Zhang Shoushi to serve as editors. Mr Chou’s eldest son Mr Chou Cheng Tan and his second son Mr Chou Cheng Chuen 131 popularnews - 13 

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