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ITS EDUCATION ASIA ARTICLE


INTERNATIONAL PRIVATE EDUCATION: CHOOSING THE RIGHT SCHOOL IN SINGAPORE


Many families today are used to the culture of moving countries, jobs and schools. Many others are not, thus, the experience can be quite daunting for relocating families.

The first worry on a parent’s mind is of course schooling and which one is the ‘right fit’ for their child. Every parent is looking for a school that will fulfil their child’s needs both emotionally and academically and allow them to be recognized for their talents/skills and as well as this provide them with the exposure to new subjects.

There is a lot to consider, as the type of school you choose can impact your child's emotional, mental and social development. Here are some valuable tips which will help you navigate the private international schooling system in Singapore:

  • Research Singapore schools online and make a shortlist of the ones that appeal to you. Write to the schools and explain your situation. Make enquiries about spaces, the true reality of the waiting lists, the suitability of the school based on your child’s learning traits and personality and gauge from the response if you think it is the right school for your child.
  • Application timelines are critical. Ensure you submit your applications well in time for the next academic year. Some international schools in Singapore have priorities for certain types of passports, some strictly follow the date of application while others offer portions of their seats for the next academic year in stages or ‘waves’ while others do so based on withdrawals of existing students. Keep this in mind when applying.
  • Visit the schools on your shortlist and even those that might not be your preferred choice but have spaces - if you have time. A school tour is the only way you can possibly understand the true value of a school and discover first hand if it is everything you have read about. Most international schools offer individual school tours, while others only do group tours. Look closely at the engagement between teachers and students in the class, the activities the classroom is involved in, the smiles and interaction you get from the students. Examine the layout of the classes, the structure in the classroom, kids art or writing displayed. Many times, this is the deciding factor in choosing a suitable school from a not-so-suitable one.
  • Learn about things beyond classrooms and textbooks. Extra-curricular activities that may excite your child, language choices offered, a multi-cultural environment where they do not feel intimidated, the ethos of the school, etc. This will play a role in your child’s happy transition.
  • Shortlist three schools that you think really fit your needs and if they have long waitlists, visit another two that have a confirmed place for your child. You will have a good basis for comparison and will be able to take a more informed decision after visiting five schools. Consider location, pricing, application fee and refund policy in mind in case of multiple applications.
  • Compare the curriculum of the new school to the current curriculum your child is used to. While the adjustment process between different curricula is seamless in lower grades, high school children may struggle if faced with a challenging and more rigorous curriculum coupled with social integration. Ensure your child is placed in the grade appropriate to their learning as cut-off dates vary between schools. Most international schools in Singapore follow the 1st September cut -off date.
  • Enquire with colleagues and friends of friends for their personal experience. Query them carefully, as what works for one family does not necessarily work for another. Upon having a conversation with them, tick off points that they bring up that works for them but not for you. Query with an unbiased source about the school that would work best for your child – especially when you are on the fence with your decision.

 

 

Other key considerations:

  1. How Long Will You Stay In Singapore?

The length of your stay is a major factor to consider for the choice of school for your child.

If you are on a short term assignment and looking to stay in Singapore for less than three years, considering an international that mirrors the education system back in your home country would be ideal. This will help your child to easily integrate back into your home country's school system when the time comes to go back home and be ready for any major external exams.

  1. Do You Want To Expose Your Child To A Different Culture?

Putting your child in a local school can make going to school a frustrating experience, but it can also be very rewarding in helping them shape a stronger personality and making them more adaptive to change later on in life. Singapore follows a bilingual school system, and it can become a significant advantage for your child's future to be able to learn a second/third language.  However, Singapore's school system has high academic standards and a stringent testing system, a competitive environment and a relatively lower emphasis on arts and humanities.

 

  1. What is your budget?

The cost of tuition can definitely be a huge concern when choosing a school. International school fees for primary and secondary school can range from SG$25,000- SG$45,000 per year, compared to around SG$10,000 for non-ASEAN students in local schools.

So there is no doubt that the cost of sending your child to a private school will be a key factor if school fees are not part of an expat package. 

  1. What facilities are important?

While most international schools in Singapore have great facilities, you might want to look for schools with specific infrastructure to cater to your child's interests. For instance, if your child has been dancing competitively in your home country, you may want your child to continue doing this in Singapore. If your child loves swimming and is very sports-oriented, you might want your child to have access to a very extensive sports programme or if your child is talented in the Arts, you may want a school which focuses strongly on performing arts and music.

  1. What type of school life do you want for your child?

Do you want your child to be in a big school with students from all over the world or would you prefer one that provides a more intimate and familiar environment? Some schools also offer more emphasis on a counselling or support system for children, providing a close-knit community and outlet for new students.

 

APPLICATION PROCEDURES FOR PRIVATE INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS

 

Applications

Many northern hemisphere schools follow the 1st September birth date as a cut-off for entry. For example, a child born on 31st August 2006 will be eligible for Grade 5 in August 2016, while a child born on 1st September 2006 (just a day later), will be age appropriate for Grade 4 in August 2016. A few schools are flexible and may consider a younger child for an older class if they perform very well in their assessment or to maintain the grade if the child is moving from a school with a different cut-off date.  Almost always this is on a case-by-case basis and the decision is in the hands of the admissions committee.

Most schools accept applications throughout the calendar year and students are accepted as spaces become available. Some other schools, such as UWCSEA accept applications for a new academic year one year in advance and do not keep a rolling wait list. Applications generally open in September of the year prior to the commencement of the next academic year.

 

Overseas Candidates

In some selective schools, arrangements are usually made for the entrance assessments to be administered at a candidate’s current school. If a candidate cannot be interviewed, sometimes, a provisional place may be offered which can be withdrawn if a school later determines it cannot support a child’s needs or there is a concern raised that was not previously known. Some schools offer interviews via Skype while others arrange with the current school to administer supervised testing. Most times the results of these tests are confidential.


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