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Navigating Singapore Schools: International Schools (part 2)

As a hub of international trade, Singapore has a very large and culturally diverse expatriate population.

Singapore’s educational system is world-renowned for its alignment of curriculum to instruction, incorporation of technology, transmission of factual and procedural knowledge, and impressive student performance. In this series, we’ll give expats and transferees an overview of the range of schooling options that await in their relocation journey.

As a hub of international trade, Singapore has a very large and culturally diverse expatriate population. To serve this population, Singapore offers some of the most well-known international schools in Asia (over 50 in total). The schools offer holistic curriculums in a variety of languages with an emphasis not just on academics, but also on languages, community service, multicultural studies, sports, and more. 

Admissions for international schools are competitive and the process can take up to a few months. The well-established schools typically accept applications a year in advance, so it’s important to do research and have a plan for children that are approaching school age. Also, despite repatriations of previous students and reductions of the foreign workforce in the last two years, top international schools have not seen their application pool and waitlist shrink much. Some of the more popular schools in Singapore currently have a waiting list as long as two years. 

The process for high school admissions can be more time consuming and complex because prospective students must determine subject availability after they’re offered a seat. Choices can be limited in the case of a last-minute enrollment because some classes may be full. Prioritizing subject groupings in advance can help parents decide as quickly as possible. Recent COVID-19 border restrictions have prompted administrators to conduct school tours and assessments online, so check the current policies of each institution periodically. 

While most international schools do not have entrance exams, students might need to take English and math assessments. These assessments can help school officials understand whether or not they’ll need to provide additional support if they offer a child a seat. For example, school administrators expect a basic level of fluency in the language they use to teach the curriculum. 

Shortlisting a school for the children is one of the biggest decisions for relocating families. Here are some points to consider:

  • Academic program or curriculum: Curriculums can influence the schooling options parents consider when relocating from Singapore to another country.
  • Academic calendar: Depending on the curriculum, school years can vary between January to December, August to June, and May/June to March. The school schedule should fit the requirements of the family. While it is not uncommon to have siblings enrolled in different schools, it's important travel commitments are easier to plan. 
  • Teaching method: Most international schools in Singapore apply holistic learning approaches to education. Parents may want to understand the school’s outlook on teaching to gauge which school is the best fit for children. 
  • Costs: International school fees can be a large monthly expense. Depending on the school and grade level, tuition can range anywhere between SGD 15k-48k per year.
  • Language options: Schools in Singapore teach in English apart from nationality-specific curriculums. Some schools also offer bilingual programs for English and Mandarin.
  • Extracurricular activities: International schools offer a wide range of extracurricular activities including athletics, martial arts, visual and performing arts and more. Parents can research their shortlisted schools online or contact them directly if a child is interested in participating. 
  • Learning support: The level of programs and support offered for learning disabilities varies from school to school, so parents can research a desired institution online or inquire directly to learn more.
  • Transport options: Door-to-door school bus service is quite common across all the schools in Singapore, but not all schools offer drop-off after the extracurricular activities end. Keep this in mind during a school search since location may influence housing options.
  • Diversity: Schools usually have a student body and faculty as diverse as the expatriate population in Singapore.
  • Cutoff dates and class placements: Some schools follow the academic calendar for class cutoff, while others set their dates in the middle of the year. The cutoff dates can impact the grade levels that children join.
  • Class size: The student-to-teacher and/or assistant ratio for each class is particularly relevant for the early years of schooling. 
  • Subject options for secondary school: For secondary school (high school) students, the choices and availability of subjects can vary from school to school. Prioritizing subjects is advisable for prospective students.
  • Support for university placements: Nearly all schools have some level of support for the university application process; some have extensive in-house teams dedicated to this purpose. 

For more information on talent mobility solutions and destination services – including assistance with school admissions – in Singapore and around the world, contact Relocity at contact@relocity.com or request a free demo at www.relocity.com/demo

To read part one, Navigating Singapore Schools: An Introduction, click HERE.

To read part three, Navigating Singapore Schools: Mainstream Schools, click HERE.

(Image: Source)

Seem Sing

Director Of Operations, APAC

Seem has 20 years of experience in the mobility industry, including supply chain management, account management, and regional destination services covering Asia and the Middle East.