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6 helpful tips for starting and changing schools

Starting school for the first time, or changing schools is a big deal for both parents and children. They are faced with a new environment, new classrooms, new classmates, new teachers, different responsibilities and new challenges. Dr Vanessa Von Auer, Principal at Integrated International School, recommends this six-step approach to prepare yourself and your child.

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Having a blast on an overseas field trip

Tips for making a smooth transition

  1. Most of us feel better about change and new experiences when we know what to expect. Before the first day, visit the school and go on a tour to familiarise your child and yourself with the place. If this isn’t possible, look at the school website.
  2. Speak with enthusiasm to your children about the transition, but don’t “over-discuss” the topic as this could provoke more anxiety. Let them approach you if they need to run their thoughts and feelings by you.
  3. Set aside a day for you and your child to go on a special trip to purchase school essentials such as uniforms, stationery and a lunch box.
  4. Put aside some regular “chat time” with your child, especially during the first week of school, for them to report their exciting experiences but also to discuss any doubts or concerns. It’s important not to force these chats, however.
  5. Troubleshoot any potential issues your child may have prior to the first day of school. Let them raise these concerns independently; don’t bring them up yourself.
  6. Keep your own feelings, worries and anxieties in check. You are your child’s pillar of strength. On the first day, give them a hug and a kiss and confirm the arrangements for picking them up after school.

Helpful terminology

How to choose a school, international school guide, international schools in singapore
Fun with learning

International schools

Examples include UWCSEA, St Joseph’s Institution International and GEMS World Academy. These schools typically cater to dozens of cultures, all on an equal footing, and each one represented by an annual global celebration day. For expats who are on the move, the mix of international curriculums allows their children to transfer and continue their education easily. Curriculums are typically a mix of the International Baccalaureate, the International Primary Curriculum and the ICGSE.

National curriculum schools

Examples include Marlborough College Malaysia, the Singapore American School and Avondale Grammar School. Parents value the way that these schools ensure minimum disruption when transferring between countries, and, for older children, allow easy entry to university in their home country. Typically, these schools demonstrate strong cultural ties, while embracing their place in Singapore and its cultural diversity.

How to choose a school, international school guide, international schools in singapore
Celebrating culture and diversity


Hybrid curriculum schools

Examples include Stamford American International School, GESS, Tanglin Trust School and the Australian International School. These schools offer a dual curriculum approach, combining a home country curriculum with one or more international curriculums, typically with a culturally diverse student population and a strong emphasis on language.

Local schools

Some expats choose local schools, especially if their children attended a local kindergarten or preschool and they are keen to continue their intensive language instruction. Singapore’s education system has an excellent reputation internationally and regularly tops the world in mathematics and science. Families considering staying in Singapore for the long term may favour this option, but should be aware that there can be strong competition for places.


This is an article that first appeared in the May 2017 edition of Expat Living. Purchase a copy or subscribe now so you never miss an issue!

Check out our handy guide to international schools!