Relocating to Singapore can be tricky enough without children in tow, but, when you have little ones to think about, their education tends to take precedence when it comes to the big move. The process of finding, choosing and applying for schools can eat up a fair amount of time and brain cells, so we thought we’d give you a hand with the practical side of things by chatting to someone who’s recently been through the motions themselves. British expat Lyndsey Fleming is mum to Alice, 8, and Jacob, 4. After a great deal of research, she decided to send her kids to CIS Kindergarten – Lakeside Campus. But how did the whole process work? Read on for our interview…
With a plethora of kindergartens to choose from in Singapore, how did you go about your search?
We were fortunate enough to have support from a relocation company, who helped with identifying potentially suitable schools and kindergartens based on our initial expectations. This was a low teacher: pupil ratio, the space, overall facilities and the approach to learning.
With a smaller list, we also sought input from parents/friends with children of a similar age. We then viewed a number of different kindergartens and selected the one that best matched our search criteria and, most importantly, ‘felt’ like a happy and engaging environment for our children.
What were the key features that made up your search criteria?
I wanted to know what my child was going to learn and how – I really like the IB PYP style of learning and knew my children would thrive in this environment. Social interaction with other children was always a key feature, as was knowing our children would be safe and secure in their learning environment. I wanted to get a strong sense of community feeling, as we don’t have our families around, and also to know there was a holistic approach to education. Overall, I needed to know that the school would be a good fit for my child.
How long did it take you to complete the search and make your final decision?
Not very long to be honest, you know when you’ve found the right kindergarten; we looked at a few before we walked into CIS. We were actually starting to feel a little disheartened at what was on offer to us by this point, but walking into CIS felt like: ‘Wow this place is amazing!’
It was so clean and bright compared to some of the others we had looked at. The space and layout of the school is very clever. – I’m still amazed that there over 2,000 children on the campus, yet there’s no feeling of being overwhelmed by the size.
So, which were the three main things that made up your mind?
Hmm, the three appealed to me most about CIS Kindergarten have to be the following: the space and overall feeling of the school, the subjects and the general happiness of the children.
To expand a bit more, the space that the children have is just fantastic! Each classroom is organised around a learning “pod” which is a large, open, shared space where teachers set up different hands-on, play-based learning centres. At the moment the students are learning about “the process of food” and the centres are set up around this. For example, one centre is a supermarket complete with aisles full of items, shopping trolleys and checkouts. The kids love it! Not only do they get the chance to play in an authentic supermarket, they learn a lot too. It’s not just about the current topic of study, as they also develop different skills, such as writing pretend shopping lists and comparing quantities of different items.
I love that the students have a mix of subjects every day – from physical education to drama, music, art and either French or Chinese. Students in Junior Kindergarten (aged four years), also have the opportunity to enrol in the school’s new bilingual Chinese- English programme.
And happiness is so important. All the teachers are brilliant with the children and enjoy what they do; there is a real sense of fun, which is exactly how it should be, especially in the early years.
What is their ratio of playing and learning?
Play-based learning is at the heart of the CIS Kindergarten programme. Throughout the entire day, children learn to make sense of the world around them through focused, play-based activities. These include water play for exploring volume and capacity and lego and blocks for reinforcing fine motor skills.
Is there outdoor space for the children to play and get exercise?
There is loads of outdoor space! The kindergarten has a special, dedicated play area with a wonderful new wooden climbing structure for children to develop their gross motor skills, a huge sandbox and Jacob’s favourite – a large bicycle track with lots of super bikes! There is also a great junior swimming pool where children regularly take swimming lessons.
Does CIS’s term dates match up to other international schools? How long are the term holidays?
The term dates match up reasonably well with the other schools – the main holiday is from mid-June through to early August, which is usually around 8 weeks, with a further three weeks off at Christmas.
How often are there parent-teacher sessions?
They hold three parent-teacher conferences a year – the first is not too long into the start of term, which is a good time to discuss first impressions with your new teacher. The second is held around February time, which allows you to see how much they’ve learnt and how far they’ve come. And the last, and my personal favourite, is the student-led conference. There is nothing more satisfying for a parent to be shown their child’s work through their own eyes – to see their pride and sense of achievement is just fantastic!
THE APPLICATION PROCESS
OK, so you’ve chosen a kindergarten you like. But how does the application process actually work, and when does it need to begin? To help parents that little bit more when it comes to signing kids up to school, we asked CIS a few simple questions around timing, requirements, costs and documentation
How much does a term cost per child at CIS? Are there any scholarships or discounts that a parent can apply for?Annual fees for the Kindergarten programme is $28,519 per child. An advantageous scholarship programme is available to students from Grade 4 onwards.
What requirements must a child meet?
There are no major requirements for the Kindergarten programme. Children must be between 3 and 5 years old and independently toilet trained (no nappies!).
What documents do you have to submit during an application?
In addition to the application form, key documents you need to provide include a photocopy of your child’s passport, birth certificate and immunization records and, unless your child is entering formal education for the first time, you also need to submit their current and past academic reports.
How long does the application process take?
Not long at all. Once you have submitted your application form, you will usually hear back from the Admissions Team within 3-4 working days, maximum 5 days.
Can people apply to CIS from overseas before moving to Singapore?
Absolutely. There are lots of families at CIS who conduct their entire application process before arriving here.
When is it best to start the process – from the very beginning until term starts?
CIS has a rolling intake so children can join the school any time throughout the academic year – your child doesn’t have to wait until the beginning of term to start. This of course depends if there is a place available so the earlier you apply, the better!