Finding the right school for your child is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. But it’s not always an easy one, especially when you are preparing to relocate to another country. Because there is limited space in Singapore’s public schools for students who are not citizens or permanent residents, many expat families send their children to international schools.
There are a wide variety of options here, so the selection of choices can seem overwhelming. Knowing what to look for can help you make the decision that’s best for your family. Here are seven factors to consider as you explore international schools in Singapore.
Key Factors to Consider When Choosing an International School for Your Child in Singapore
Some international schools follow country-specific curricula, such as German, Australian or Canadian. Such schools are popular choices for expat parents who plan to return to their home country while their children are still school-age. Upon their return home, children can make a relatively seamless transition since they’re already familiar with the curriculum.
For some families, however, their next move may be to another country altogether. Parents also recognise that, when they reach adulthood, their children may want to live outside their home country.
These families look for a school that follows rigorous, student-centred, globally recognised curricula such as the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme and the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE), such as One World International School.
Moving from one international school to another when both follow globally recognised curricula allows students to continue their education right where they left off.
Besides helping children acquire academic knowledge and concepts, the school should encourage the development of soft skills such as creativity and teamwork. Teaching life skills equips students to thrive in higher education and beyond.
Additionally, if the language of instruction at the school is not your child’s first language, find out if support is available to help your child overcome language barriers.
Many international schools offer additional instruction to help children become fluent in the school’s primary language to minimise disruptions to their learning.
2. Value System
The goal of international schools is to prepare children to become global citizens and leaders. Toward that end, the school should emphasise universal values that create a warm, welcoming atmosphere within the school community and prepare children to successfully handle the challenges of higher education, careers, relationships and other areas of life.
Consider which values are most important to you and choose a school that aligns with them. International schools in Singapore, such as OWIS, focus on teaching core principles such as respect for self and others, integrity and kindness.
Teachers achieve this by modelling these values in the classroom and providing opportunities to demonstrate caring through service projects for local and global organisations.
3. School Culture
As you weigh your options, consider the culture of a particular school. Ideally, an international school should support the development — academic, physical, social and emotional — of the whole child.
When children feel accepted and valued as individuals, they’re encouraged to set goals and take healthy risks. Smaller classes give children more opportunities to ask questions, voice their ideas and interact with their teachers. A supportive environment sets the stage for building self-confidence and a love of learning.
Extracurricular and co-curricular activities are a crucial component of a well-rounded, student-centric international education. For an hour or so after school, children can participate in student groups and clubs dedicated to sports, crafts, music and other areas of interest.
Extracurricular and co-curricular activities enable children to explore their interests and gain skills beyond the traditional classroom. They also have fun opportunities to interact with their teachers and peers in a more laid-back setting.
Another important aspect of school culture is the extent to which it promotes a multicultural environment. When schools recruit teachers and students of many different nationalities, students learn to respect cultural differences.
This is an especially important quality to have in our increasingly global society. When they reach adulthood, students are likely to find themselves living, working and studying alongside those of other nationalities. Learning about different cultures and perspectives at an early age encourages students to be adaptable and open-minded in diverse environments.
4. Teacher Qualifications
When comparing international schools in Singapore, be sure to ask about the qualifications teachers bring to the table. A high-quality school seeks to recruit highly experienced teachers, including teachers who have worked outside their home countries. These teachers bring unique perspectives to the classroom that allow them to relate well to their students.
Of course, educators should also be highly knowledgeable about the subjects they teach so they can give students a solid foundation in academics.
It’s imperative, too, that teachers are fluent in the primary language used by the school, as well as any foreign languages offered there. The school should provide on-going professional development opportunities to keep teachers up-to-date on the latest best practices in international education.
5. Parent Involvement
Teachers and administrators recognise that parents play a critical role in supporting their children’s learning. Building rapport with parents’ builds trust.
Parents are more likely to recommend an international school to their friends when teachers communicate with them regularly, welcome their feedback and encourage them to get involved in the school community.
When inquiring about a school, ask if there are opportunities for parents to volunteer in the classroom and help with fundraising and planning special events.
No two international schools are exactly alike when it comes to the facilities they offer. A school should provide an inviting classroom environment with flexible learning spaces that can be used for individual research and group work.
Students should also have access to technology so they can learn how to engage with it effectively and responsibly. Classrooms should be equipped with laptops, tablets and other devices so students can participate in interactive activities and complete assignments.
Also, consider whether the school has on-site athletic facilities. Some international schools do not, so students have to travel to another location for physical education and team sports. It’s certainly more convenient when outdoor athletic facilities and spaces for performing arts are part of the campus.
7. Fee Structure
Fees at international schools in Singapore vary considerably. While it’s possible to pay as much as S$50,000 per annum for international school tuition, your child can receive a world-class education for a moderate fee.
As you research different schools, learn all you can about their fee structures. Tuition can vary depending on grade level. Some schools offer such a large number of language courses, extracurricular activities and electives that they have to retain a considerable number of staff, driving up costs. Sometimes, parents are required to pay for these add-ons even if their children do not participate in the programmes.
Other schools give you the option to pay only for the activities your child is involved in. The school should be up-front about fees and be able to give you a breakdown of costs, so you know where your money is going.
As you weigh your options, consider what is most important to you and your child. To determine whether a school is a good fit for your family, talk to the admissions team and teachers to learn more about the curriculum.
Whenever possible, take a tour to see what the school culture and facilities are like. Find out about application requirements and deadlines, and whether the school accepts students’ mid-year. Taking time to research and plan ahead will help you make an informed decision and give you peace of mind that you’re providing your child with the best education possible.
For more information about choosing an international school in Singapore and learn more the options that your child will have at OWIS, contact us today to set up a virtual tour.
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