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Bilingual Education at International Schools

By ITS Education Asia

Mandarin is becoming quite an important language to learn for expatriate families in Singapore. Moving to Singapore and having the opportunity to immerse your children in a bilingual (Chinese and English) learning environment has huge perks. Children as young as 18 months can begin learning both languages. The teaching approach and programmes differ, some offer immersion programmes while other schools offer co-teaching classes and daily Mandarin classes where students are streamed based on their competency. Let’s take a look at which schools offer these types of programmes.  



CIS has a strong reputation for being a dual-language school – and is in fact one of the first international schools in Singapore to offer a bilingual programme.  The school offers a bilingual Chinese-English programme from kindergarten through to Grade 6 and a French- English bilingual programme from Grade 1 to 3.

The curriculum for both bilingual programmes are fully aligned to the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme. Students attend classes in either English or Chinese/French on alternating days (about 10 hours a week (40%). This two-teacher (50:50) model makes sure that students communicate with their teachers in both languages and not just the one they are most comfortable in using. All new students to CIS who wish to enroll in the bilingual programmes, are required to take a language assessment in either French or Mandarin so the language specialists at CIS can ensure each child is placed in ‘best fit’ bilingual programme.

Classes are small, allowing teachers to focus on French or Mandarin as a metacognitive tool, not only as a communicative and linguistic tool. Students are encouraged to learn through hands-on, immersive activities and projects. The classrooms are well-resourced with state-of-the-art teaching tools (tablets and interactive whiteboards). The bilingual programmes are offered at CIS’ two campuses – Lakeside and Tanjong Katong.

To gain more insight into the CIS Bilingual Programme, visit: https://www.cis.edu.sg/learning/languages



Dulwich College (Singapore)

Children in the Early Years (DUCKS) aged two to seven (toddler to Year 2) are immersed in a dual language environment, and each class is taught by at least one native English-speaking teacher and one native Mandarin speaking assistant teacher. The teaching approach is based upon a range of recognised theory about how children learn language and has been developed through in-depth academic and action research by the leaders and teachers of Dulwich College. The programme exposes young learners to English and Mandarin in their natural learning context throughout the day rather than just through formal language opportunities.


As well as the dual language immersion programme, the timetable also includes daily Mandarin classes from the age of four with students streamed into ability groups. Furthermore, to meet the needs of the diverse community of students, the Dulwich Mandarin curriculum employs three pathways: Mandarin A: Chinese as a Native Language, Mandarin B: Mandarin as a Second Language and Mandarin C: Mandarin as a Foreign Language.


To gain more insight into bilingual programme at Dulwich College(Singapore), visit: https://singapore.dulwich.org/learning-at-dulwich/mandarin




In 2011, EtonHouse International School on Broadrick Road became the first international school in Singapore to start a fully immersive bilingual option in the primary years, aligned with the International Baccalaureate (IB) Primary Years programme.

The classroom setting is a dual-language learning environment where two qualified teachers (one native Mandarin speaker and one native English speaker) jointly plan and teach each lesson, taking turns to deliver different parts of the session in their native tongues. During the IB PYP classes, children work on hands-on projects and self-discovery tasks to acquire vocabulary through natural conversations and completion of varied, structured tasks. The classes are small which allows ample exposure to both languages through interactive games, role-plays and one-to-one tasks with teachers. EthonHouse integrates culture into the curriculum to build an appreciation and love for the languages.

To gain more insight into EtonHouse Bilingual Programme, visit: www.ehis.edu.sg/broadrick/learning/bilingual/



Stamford American International School (SAIS)

Through the World Language Programme at SAIS, children as young as 18 months can benefit from daily instruction in 3 of the world’s most widely spoken languages – Mandarin, Spanish and English. And along with the community-based Mother Tongue Programme, Stamford American’s language curriculum offers weekly lessons in many languages, including, French, Russian, Hindi, Hebrew and Dutch.

Students in the Early Learning Village and Elementary School receive daily Mandarin or Spanish lessons as part of the language curriculum. There is also the option of joining the Bilingual Programme. Classes are taught by bilingual teachers with every child being streamed into one of the seven ability groups for each language.

From Secondary School, the intensity of these classes rises, to 80-minute session every day. Progress is measured through 9 levels for Spanish and 7 levels for Mandarin. Students are given the scope to learn at their own pace and are assessed on Standards-Based Measurement of Proficiency (STAMP).

To gain more insight into the SAIS Bilingual Programme, visit: www.sais.edu.sg/curriculum/language-program/


Dulwich College Singapore

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