With international school fees rising and expat packages disappearing, more expats are considering local schooling for their kids. We spoke with one expat in Singapore about “going local”, and why the choice of preschool can make a big difference.
Name: Jane Lee
From: Los Angeles, California
Time in Singapore: 4 years
Children: Two sons – ages 4 and 1
Preschool: Brighton Montessori at the Grassroots Club
Why are you choosing local school for your children?
When we relocated to Singapore from the US, my husband and I considered all options, including international schools. My husband is Singaporean and went to local schools. Initially, I was unfamiliar and perhaps a little apprehensive that the local school system might be overly focused on academics. However, as I did more research, I found it to be a well-rounded education that highlights academics as well as social, creative and sporting endeavours.
You mentioned research. What did you do?
I read a lot, and I talked with other people who attended local schools. While they certainly had moments of academic stress, they spoke fondly about growing up in the local school system. I looked back at my academic experience in the US and realised that it really was not too different from the pressures I faced growing up, too.
Why did you choose Brighton Montessori?
We wanted a school that taught Chinese in an engaging way to get my son started on a lifelong love for Chinese language and culture. We believe that Chinese language fluency is one of the best gifts we can give our children. Through Brighton’s Intensive Chinese Immersion Program, my son has developed a strong desire to incorporate the language into his daily life. I find the school to be a close-knit community filled with kind and caring teachers and students. It also has a good mix of local and international students.
Certain preschools expressly prepare kids for local schooling curriculum. What does Brighton do to ensure kids are ready?
Brighton follows the MOE guidelines for getting the kids ready for local primary school. In true Montessori fashion, the school examines each child’s progress individually instead of benchmarking against peers. Overall, we feel confident that my son will be well prepared for primary school.
What advice would you give expats considering local school for their children?
Find a preschool that follows the MOE’s guidelines for primary school readiness. Many primary schools hold open houses, and I would highly encourage attending one to speak directly with the educators and get a first-hand feel of the local system.
Your child’s age: Kids start local school in January of the year they turn seven. So, consider finding a preschool with a curriculum through age six, ideally with other kids that stay through age six too (otherwise your child may be one of the oldest at the preschool as many international school kids leave at younger ages).
It’s not free: Local schooling can be financially attractive, but prices are rising. Monthly fees for Permanent Residents in primary school are increasing from $155 this year to $205 by 2020. For all other international students (not from ASEAN), monthly fees for primary schools are increasing from $600 in 2018 to $750 by 2020.
Getting in isn’t easy: Local school admissions are done in seven phases. PRs are eligible to register in the fifth phase (Phase 2C, behind all citizens in this phase), while non-citizens/non-PRs register in the last phase (Phase 3).
Written in collaboration with Busy Bees
Busy Bees operates a number of preschools in Singapore including Brighton Montessori, Learning Vision, Odyssey The Global Preschool and Pat’s Schoolhouse. For more, visit busybeesasia.com.
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