For many of us, selecting the right school for our children is, after choosing where to live, the most important decision we have to make when moving to a new country. A visit to a school is often the best way to make an instinctive decision based on the individual needs of your children, but hearing the opinions of other families about their experiences can be invaluable. The following pages feature the testimonials of a host of Expat Living readers to help you in the decision-making process.
Need to Know: Terminology
Singapore is awash with learning centres, also known as enrichment centres or educational play centres. At these, babies and children can get involved in music, Mandarin, arts and crafts, mathematics, dance, drama and gym classes.
Before beginning statutory education at age six in Singapore, many children attend preschool from the age of 18 months upwards. In Britain, preschool is known as nursery school or playgroup, while in the US the terms preschool and pre-K are used.
In Singapore, many international schools use the term kindergarten to describe the first and sometimes second year of primary school education. However, the Singapore Ministry of Education uses the term kindergarten to mean a preschool that provides a structured three-year preschool programme for children aged four to six. Children learn activities that develop language and literacy skills, basic number concepts, social skills, creative and problem solving skills, appreciation of music and movement, outdoor play, English as a first language and Chinese, Malay or Tamil.
A few things to take into account when choosing a preschool:
- Check the location of the campus, convenience to home and transport options
- Ensure the curriculum fits your child’s education needs and your future plans; the right fit may minimise the disruption of moving to another country and changing schools.
- Class sizes and teacher-to-child ratios vary from preschool to preschool.
- Mandarin is widely taught as a second language.
- Extra-curricular activities can offer children a balance to the academic experience.
- Most international preschools come with a higher price tag than expats may be accustomed to in their home countries.
- School holidays and term dates vary from preschool to preschool.
- Depending on the age of your child, schools often encourage parent participation; if work commitments allow, this can be a wonderful way to meet new people and get to know the school.
- Because of the tropical climate, outdoor experiences feature in most preschools; check the facilities available.
- Most schools offer flexibility with the number of days per week that a child attends, depending on age.
- Find out about the preschool’s daily and weekly programmes, and the activities the children will be engaged in.
3 tips from a parent for selecting the right school – Fei Koloen-Lim (Sunflower Baby House)
- Have an honest reflection about your personal priorities at the outset: e.g., proximity from home, bilingualism, curriculum, facilities, hygiene and so on.
- Visit the preschools in person with your children during operating hours and arrive prepared with questions if possible.
- Lastly, trust your instinct!
Stamford American International School
Morgan and Ivy began attending Stamford American in August 2015. We were impressed from our first interaction with admissions, through to our visit to the school and the amazing facilities for students. These are accentuated by the wonderful staff who support our children’s education and development. Miss Sylvie and her team do an exceptional job of integrating the young students into nursery and challenging them daily to grow.
For our eldest, the educational and social experience has been first class: it has revitalised her focus on her future education and made her think strategically about university and her career options. Her peers share the same commitment and drive, which helped smooth the transition from London to Singapore.
We had researched a number of options for our girls and had originally planned on another institution, but after visiting the campus and meeting the staff our minds were made up that Stamford American was the best environment for them to progress both educationally and socially.
Our experience has been outstanding, and really made our move from London to Singapore an amazing chapter in our girls’ lives. They love going to school every day, and we are supremely happy and satisfied to know that their individual educational needs are being met and they are developing social skills and friendships to last a lifetime.
Australian International School
Josie started at AIS in March 2015 just after she turned two, and we plan to send Callan when he turns two next year. Josie was really happy in full time nursery in Norway (where we previously lived), so I wanted to find something similar for her here.
She has loved AIS since the moment she started and skips or runs down the hallway to class each morning. The only trouble is that it’s hard to get her to leave at the end of the day! She has really thrived since she started, and the staff have helped to foster her curiosity, independence and enthusiasm for life. She’s had fantastic teachers and in fact everyone who is involved with the nursery year was fantastic.
I started researching preschools before arriving in Singapore and was quite keen on a Montessori school. We looked at a few, but I found most of them to be overly academic and not necessarily true to the Montessori philosophy. I’m trying to be conscious of what is developmentally appropriate for my children and feel that pushing academics at too young an age provides little benefit to a child and may actually be detrimental.
I came across AIS in the course of my research and as we plan to eventually settle in Australia I thought it was worth visiting. I was completely blown away by the programmes and facilities when I visited and it quickly became the only option. As well as being a fantastic preschool for children, AIS provides a huge social network (not just Aussies!) for those who have newly arrived in Singapore. It has really been a win-win for my husband, me and Josie.
Avondale Grammar School
We have been living in Singapore since mid-2009. Eva has been enrolled in the preschool programme for a year and a half, and Henry will join her at Avondale later this year. We couldn’t have asked for a better start to Eva’s schooling years. Her classroom is beautifully set up each morning to welcome the students with different activities and sensory learning stations – I’m constantly amazed by the creativity of the teachers and the new ideas they come up with.
Eva has daily Mandarin classes and weekly music lessons, library sessions and sporting classes. She goes off to school happily and comes home having had a very fulfilling and fun day with her teachers and friends. What is most important to us is that Eva at this age develops a love of learning and enjoys preschool, Ben and Sarah McGeachie, Australian Eva (4) and Henry (2) but we are also very comforted by the strength of the curriculum and high academic standard at Avondale.
One aspect I have really appreciated is the opportunity for daily interaction with Eva’s teachers. There is a 30-minute drop-off window for the preschool, which means you can stay with your child until they settle, or discuss anything you need to with the teacher. It’s a great way to feel involved in their school life.
We first heard of the preschool programme from friends whose children were enrolled, and their impression of Avondale stuck with us for many years. We love that it is a relatively small, community-like school – very similar to the kind of school we would want our children to be at if we were back home in Australia. It’s the only school in Singapore to exclusively offer the Australian curriculum – this is very important, as we want our children to feel connected to our home country.
Avondale offers junior, primary and middle schools, so, should we be in Singapore long-term, our children can remain at the school. I have recommended the preschool to many friends and also acquaintances who are new to Singapore. Avondale offers a friendly and welcoming environment – everyone knows everyone. This is really comforting when you are new; it’s an instant community and support network and it’s lovely to walk in each day and be greeted by so many warm and familiar faces.
Between Two Trees
Between Two Trees (B2T) is small and familiar, which feels very suitable for little children. It offers art and music, as well as sand, water and plenty of outdoor play. While we’re not overly concerned about academic progress, the Chinese programme is immersive, so Ellen learns easily without feeling pushed. We have been lucky with all the teachers – and the school cook, Uncle Low, deserves a special mention. He puts a lot of effort into the creation of dishes and is so kind to prepare special food when required for Ellen and Ines, as they are vegetarian.
When we first went to look at B2T, we thought it looked like a place where you would want to leave your children, and we were also convinced by the Reggio Emilia approach. The children are treated respectfully and encouraged to form and utter their own opinions. They learn that their views matter and that they are important, and they gain a deeper understanding of how things work. They are always encouraged to try things by themselves. Both our girls have become very independent and confident.
We have recommended the school to many friends, and some of their children are now also attending B2T. On entering the school, there is always someone at the reception, most often Hui Jia Koh, the manager. The management is very transparent and communicates openly, which we highly appreciate. We feel that our daughters are very safe in the school and that we couldn’t have found a better place for them.
Blue House Nursery & International School
Sophia attended Blue House for three years until she turned five; Alice was there for two years and previously attended the Infant &Toddler Atelier; Helena and Isabelle currently go to Atelier drop-in sessions and classes.
Blue House Nursery & International Preschool is a unique and inspiring school. From the first day, my children were excited to explore and engage in the beautiful and purposeful learning environment. The teachers work hard to create multi-sensory and thought provoking displays for the children and they are also great observers, quickly picking up on thoughts and topics that interest each child.
One of my favourite aspects is the documentation of their learning. Teachers write detailed daily class reflection journals that parents can access. In this way we learn what the children are investigating and can discuss it with them, adding to the depth of the learning. Blue House has a focus on sustainability, and their recycling centre “Karung Guni” is used by all classes on a regular basis as part of their learning. The materials in the classrooms and playground are mainly natural or recycled materials.
My daughter recently recorded a presentation with her classmates about the different types of renewable energy and their importance. Other experiences such as Mandarin, soccer, swimming, music and drama are on offer. Some are part of the curriculum and others are after-school activities. The Infant & Toddler Atelier mirrors the practices and philosophy of the school. Helena and Isabelle love the Atelier because the teachers are always finding new ways to create intriguing experiences for them to explore. Spending time at the atelier also made it very easy to transition Alice into going to the nursery, as she was accustomed to the location and the philosophies of the school.
I’m a teacher trained in the Reggio Emilia approach. When I moved to Singapore, I started researching schools that were Reggio-inspired, and as soon as I walked into Blue House I knew it was the perfect fit. I would highly recommend both the Infant & Toddler Atelier and Blue House Nursery & International Preschool. The philosophy of Reggio Emilia talks about developing the “hundred languages of children” and I truly believe that is what the school and atelier do. My children not only love learning, but love questioning, thinking and engaging with their environment because of Blue House.
Charles started at Brighton Montessori at Sunset Way in 2012. He loves going to school every morning, to see his friends and teachers and to learn. We have developed important dialogues with the faculty of Brighton Montessori and can collaborate effectively to Charles’ benefit. We are very pleased with his progress in reading, writing, mathematics and social development.
Brighton Montessori was recommended to us, and from our first meeting with the staff we felt a connection to the school. Charles’s mother Andrea attended and taught at Montessori, and felt it was the right environment to develop his cognitive, social and academic capabilities.
We wholeheartedly recommend Brighton Montessori to parents who have children in this important development period. Charles is developing into an independent, curious, cooperative and confident child, due in part to his time at Brighton Montessori. The diverse curriculum offered is creative, innovative and tactile.
These positive attributes are mixed with a nurturing environment that makes for a well-rounded and happy child. He has developed a strong relationship with his teacher of two years, which makes learning special. His Chinese language skills, both written and verbal, have progressed significantly during his time at Brighton Montessori. We could not be more pleased.
Issy has been attending Camberley for one year. The teachers are informative and show great care and pride in their jobs, and Issy loves being around her class teacher. Art is Issy’s favourite subject and the art equipment is great. She loves cooking at school, just like her daddy. Mandarin has been a great subject for her, and she has taken it upon herself to teach it to us.
The camping sleepover was something that we were not used to, but Issy loved it, and we found it a nice way for the children to learn and have fun. We also like that the school encourages parents to get involved in special occasions and school trips, and uses family experiences to teach some of the lessons. Also, the holistic learning approach has been a surprise to us – we had not seen it in Canada or Thailand. The children are allowed to make mistakes and then helped to learn from their mistakes, in a positive way.
When we first moved to the Kovan area, we walked around and found Camberley Preschool. We went to the school to talk to them, and when we met with Issy’s first teacher, we felt very comfortable with her. So we decided to enrol Issy, and we’re very pleased with the outcome so far.
We would definitely recommend Camberley to our friends. We like the way they present a weekly report with pictures of the kids and describe everything they’ve done in the past week through email, but most of all it is the personal attention that the teacher shows to the children and to the parents.
Kovan centre, 16 Flower Road
Balmoral centre, 271 Bukit Timah Road 02-16
Canadian International School
All the children attend Canadian International School Lakeside campus. Jasper and Harry started in August 2013 and Jemima in August 2015. Harry and Jemima have both had the same teacher in Junior Kindergarten who is very enthusiastic, kind and gentle with the children while at the same time maintaining total order and control in the classroom.
The children have huge variety in their school days with access twice daily to the amazing new outdoor discovery centre that opened earlier this term. Here they have a huge range of experiences such as riding bikes, playing in the mud, experimenting in the outdoor “kitchen”, watching tadpoles, making music, as well as the normal playground experiences of running, jumping, climbing and balancing.
They have PE sessions twice a week, and five periods of language with a choice of French or Mandarin. There are separate bilingual classes in many year groups (we chose not to put our children in these as we don’t believe we’ll spend long enough in Singapore). In the kindergarten years, language is predominantly learnt through songs and games.
Despite CIS being a large school, the kindergarten area always feels cosy and friendly with many activities and facilities available for the children in shared pod areas. These large indoor spaces are great for when the weather – storms or haze, for example – prevents the children from going outside.
We chose CIS because we were impressed with the facilities and we were keen for the children to be together in school and be able to stay in the same place for as long as we’re in Singapore. We continue to be very happy that we chose CIS. The teachers are very approachable if you have questions or concerns. Parents Pare very much encouraged to be part of their child’s education and are always welcome in school. We would certainly recommend CIS to those who are looking for an international school that follows the IB curriculum.
Lakeside Campus, 7 Jurong West Street
Tanjong Katong Campus, 371 Tanjong Katong
Dulwich College (Singapore)
Alexa has attended the school since the day it opened in August 2014, and Samuel started in the Toddlers class in August 2015. My experience has been fantastic; both children can’t wait to arrive in the morning, and they run in smiling every day. The dual language approach in ‘Ducks’ is a great opportunity. They are immersed in the Mandarin language all day and within weeks Samuel was confidently responding to his Chinese teacher. There is a lovely sense of Dulwich community among the parents and teachers, and also between the different Dulwich schools internationally.
I heard that Dulwich College was building a school in Singapore through a friend already living here. I decided to enrol my children, first and foremost due to the reputation of the Dulwich brand and Dulwich London; secondly, because the school follows a British-based curriculum but within an international environment with children from over 40 nationalities; and finally, because it was a new school with fantastic facilities, and all new staff who were passionate and excited about creating a great new international school.
I would absolutely recommend Dulwich. The highlight of the school for me is that, in addition to having great teachers, fantastic facilities, hundreds of extracurricular activities and a very strong academic programme, it places utmost importance on turning out polite, respectful students who care about each other and their environment. Everything they are taught in the Early Years programme is based around eight guiding statements all reflecting respect for others, caring about their world, having friends from many different places, growing together and so on. My children are thriving at Dulwich and I am constantly amazed at the variety of knowledge that they are acquiring on a daily basis.
EtonHouse International Pre-School (Sentosa)
Clara attends EtonHouse Sentosa and was one of the founding students who started in August 2015. We attended Open House Day before the school opened, and spent hours in the facilities as our daughter didn’t want to leave.
Since the school opened, all our expectations have been fulfilled. In addition to the amazing building and facilities, the outstanding points are the Reggio Emilia enquiry-based learning approach that I’m truly convinced of. My daughter can express her creativity and is encouraged to explore things she’s interested in. She is more confident and engaged since she’s been in this environment.
Besides the curriculum, we like the community feeling within the class, the involvement of the parents, and the open communication with the teachers and school staff. There’s a great team spirit and we enjoy being part of it.
We’re also very proud to see Clara managing three different languages. She normally communicates in English and German, but is now starting to sing, count and speak basic words in Mandarin too. The most important thing for us is to see our daughter happily running towards the bus every morning and how she excitedly shares in the afternoon what happened at school.
We had heard a lot of good things about EtonHouse and were very happy when a new campus opened on Sentosa close to our home. The environment is truly inspiring, and it’s the best place for our daughter in terms of learning approach, facilities and teacher commitment. We love to recommend EtonHouse to other families as it’s simply an amazing school; it has truly been enriching for all of us.
German European School Singapore (Junior School)
We moved here from Zurich almost four years ago. Elliot has attended GESS for three years, while Howard and Milton started in August after being in local day-care. All three are in different classes, so we have deep insights into many different aspects of the school.
The boys totally enjoy school, and their teachers work tirelessly to bring out the best in each of them and to build their self-confidence. In their green uniforms they do look like peas in a pod, but we are adamant that they develop and grow as individuals – particularly our twins, Howard and Milton.
The teachers approach learning and exploration very holistically, which is a refreshing change to some of the hot-housing that you can encounter. We were initially concerned that our kids were maybe not hitting the same educational milestones as their local peers, but at the end of the day, it’s not only about scores, but also developing systematic enquiry skills and critical and creative thinking.
We have German, Swiss, British and Asian roots, so living and learning in another different country can either be more enriching, or it can be unsettling. Most of the teachers have had plenty of exposure outside of Germany and Singapore, and their understanding of the practical and emotional needs of the boys is very reassuring. The teaching team is very multicultural in experience and mind-set, and what we like is that they all have a zest for life and learning.
We visited a number of international schools before deciding. Ultimately, we want the boys to have broad exposure to the big wide world while experiencing local cultures, tapping into some of our Asian roots and, of course, receiving a relevant, high-quality German education. In short, as they go through school, we want them to know as much about where they come from as where they live – GESS ticks the boxes for all of that, and in a well-rounded and balanced way.
Hillside World Academy
Twins Joshua and Xander have been at Hillside (formerly Chinese International School) for three years and we have been delighted with the school for many reasons. The ‘immersion’ Mandarin programme has been great: the Chinese teachers speak Chinese to the kids throughout the day, with informal interaction both inside and outside of the classroom. Our children have already gained the confidence to speak, sing, read and write a lot of Mandarin.
The English teachers have also been amazing and really attentive to the individual needs of each of the students. Managing the personal development of twins is not easy, and we feel that the teachers have really helped our boys to develop their confidence and individuality and have communicated well and regularly with us as parents.
As newcomers to the IB, we have been really impressed by the philosophy behind the programme and love our boys’ positive attitude towards school and learning. HWA also offers a number of fun after school co-curricular activities in the kindergarten years, like soccer, music, dance and art.
Brad and Lisa Wong, Australian Joshua (6), Xander (6) and Ava (1) Like many expats, we see living in Singapore as a great opportunity for our children to learn to speak Mandarin. In choosing HWA, one of the key draw cards for us was its reputation as the top international school for kids to learn Mandarin. We’re not Mandarin speakers and so we really loved the thought of our children learning the language in a play-based ‘immersion’ kindergarten programme with teachers from China.
The low student-to-teacher ratio is another big draw card, as we feel that a teacher’s time and attention is the most valuable thing that a school can provide. We also liked the fact that HWA is a little smaller than some of Singapore’s other international schools, which helps the school to maintain a great sense of community. We would wholeheartedly recommend HWA to other families who are keen for a truly bilingual experience as well as the personal touch that a small school can offer.
Integrated International School Singapore
Benjamin has been attending IIS for over six months, and our experience has been first class. He had spent the first six months of last year at a lovely community school in Australia that was unfortunately ill-equipped to deal with his individual needs. With a hearing loss and delay in speech, he struggled to cope with the large class and did not really engage in learning at all.
At IIS, however, with the small class sizes, great teacher-to-pupil ratio, clear ground rules and expertise in dealing with kids who learn differently, he’s engaging with learning, doing his homework (although that remains a struggle!) and developing at a rate we have found pretty astounding.
He loves dance, his friends and his extracurricular activities, and he is starting to “get” school life and learning. Having speech and behaviour therapy as part of the curriculum and school process is also really helpful. The learnings between school life and the critical elements of Ben’s development are not only reinforced, but are consistently practised throughout the school week, making all elements even more impactful.
We heard about IIS through a combination of Expat Living and referral from parents with children who attended the school. We would highly recommend IIS for its inclusive nature, its focus on individuality and its diversity; Ben has thrived in the environment and loves going to school.
We think the blend of diversity, education, integrated extra help and inclusiveness that’s been created at the school by Dr Vanessa von Auer is both a testament to her skills and an enormous benefit for all kids. It’s a magnificent environment.
International Community School
Both kids attend ICS, and we’ve had a great experience there since moving to Singapore two years ago. Two of the three teachers we’ve had are ICS graduates themselves, which speaks well for the school. We’re most familiar with the elementary teachers and administrators, and have had enough social interaction with faculty across all grades to know ICS has hired some great folks!
There are loads of positive things to mention about the school, but what has meant the most to my family is being part of the community. We’ve made some great friends and the staff work hard to foster personal relationships with all the kids, even ones that aren’t in their classes. We’ve loved the emphasis on moral character and healthy relationships just as much as that on learning in fun and engaging ways. Extracurricular activities are relaxed and based on skills and sportsmanship rather than competition; they’re also very reasonably priced!
We weren’t initially aware that Singapore had a Christian school, but that was definitely something we were interested in. After just about getting lost on a tour of a much larger school, a friend suggested I see ICS. Being expats who move quite a bit, and this being our first experience with kids in school, I wanted a small and nurturing environment to ease them into. We have not been disappointed; it was the right choice for both our kids.
I would recommend ICS wholeheartedly, especially if you’re interested in a smaller, more nurturing environment where each student is known as an individual. The spiritual component to ICS was a big factor for us, but we’ve seen kids who do not come from faith backgrounds thrive in the ICS community as well. We couldn’t be happier with our experience!
We moved to Singapore in May 2015 after two years in Sydney, but the kids were all born in London. Carl is London born and raised, and I have dual citizenship between Canada and the UK. All three kids attend Maple Bear full-time at The Grandstand; they’ve been there since the day after we landed. Maple Bear was my first and only choice.
All the children are learning Mandarin, and Holly is beginning to read it. In the long run, it might actually prove to be an unwise decision for our children to speak a language that we don’t – it spells trouble, as they’re all rather mischievous kids!
They are very active at Maple Bear, where the facilities allow them to play outside yet under shelter every day, regardless of weather. So far we have enjoyed a wonderful sports day and a bilingual Christmas concert. My favourite moment was Holly being taught ‘Our Singapore’ for SG50. I’d never heard it before, and it kind of cemented that not only Maple Bear but Singapore as a whole is the right place for us to be right now.
Maple Bear is a Canadian school, which piqued my interest initially. I visited it and another bunch of schools a few months before we moved and was struck by the right balance of play and structure. Maple Bear had the right mix, not to mention the lovely, clean and bright space. The classrooms surround a communal kitchen and everything looks very happy and playful.
Mrs Koh and the team at Maple Bear run a shipshape preschool; I’d be happy to recommend it as a place for anyone looking for child-centred learning and play to take a look at.
Nexus International School
We have lived here since May 2013, and this was our first international move. We’ve been so impressed by the community feeling of Nexus, starting from the head of Primary School and the school staff, who know the names of all the students, and then the teachers who are so well trained to teach in this diverse international environment.
Communication with the teachers is very easy, and the weekly newsletters help us to better understand what is going on at school. Parents are involved in many activities (such as helping in events or volunteering at the library, among many) and this creates a family feeling that helps children to settle.
My children didn’t speak a word of English when we arrived. It’s been a tough start, especially for my daughter. Luckily, young children have a sponge-like mind and can learn a new language very quickly, if offered a stimulating and reassuring environment. This happened thanks to the teachers who supported my son in Year 1, and immediately found the best way to interact with my daughter, who at the start felt very shy and confused in Nursery.
Evelina Anelli and Luca Pini, Italian Federico (8) and Elenora (5) Learning a new language has now become even easier for their minds. They are learning Chinese as a third language smoothly, thanks to having lessons daily. Thumbs up also for the swimming lessons included in the timetable, as both my children learnt to swim here.
I found Nexus from an Internet search and, after visiting other international schools, decided to enrol my children here. I immediately had a good feeling after talking with the administration office, and I liked the International Baccalaureate programme and Primary Years Programme as curriculum and philosophy – taught in a not-too-big, friendly atmosphere.
I would highly recommend Nexus to other families. My children have flourished, especially in nursery and kindergarten, where they learn through play. You can feel the core values of the school (the famous ‘RECIPE’) being included in every activity.
Odyssey The Global Preschool
Both girls attend Odyssey, Anoushka for the past two years and Bella for the past two months. We have had a very good experience and our children love going to school. They get up every day and ask to go to school, and we take that as a sign that they are very happy there. The school day has structure, but the children have plenty of time to play, and many of the lessons are based around play and fun activities.
The focus is on the children developing a love of learning, and although we have no personal experience of other schools, Anoushka has developed confidence, close friendships and fundamental learning skills during her time at Odyssey. She regularly comes home with a new song – Chinese or English, as well as plenty of dance routines to show us. There is an emphasis on building confidence from a young age, and this has definitely helped our girls. In the short time that Bella has been at Odyssey, we have received regular updates from the teachers about her progress, especially over the settling-in period.
There are a few advantages to Odyssey that make it a good fit for us. The first and main one is its bilingual curriculum. The curriculum is pretty evenly divided between English and Chinese, and we have been pleased and impressed with her progress. Exposure to Mandarin is one of the reasons we wanted to live in Singapore, so this was very important for us. When we first saw Odyssey, we immediately loved the large campus; it has a great area for the kids to run around in, and we liked the idea of them not being confined to an air-conditioned classroom. The students we met looked happy and settled, and we liked the mix of children from different backgrounds.
As both of us work, it’s also very useful for us that Odyssey runs on childcare hours rather than on school terms. There are no long holidays, just a few days off through the year, detailed at the beginning of the year.
I would highly recommend Odyssey. School selection is a personal choice, and we have been happy with our choice knowing the girls enjoy school and are learning and playing every day.
One World International School
All our children currently attend OWIS; Oscar and Noé started in August. They all have great teachers who really get to know and appreciate each child on a personal level. In particular, they noticed that Noé’s way of learning was different to the other children and adapted their teaching for him without compromising the learning of the rest of the class. The result is that Noé is now making fantastic progress.
As well as reminders, news and events, the school website allows parents to see weekly updates about their children and what homework is to be completed. The school community is at the heart of the school and parents are very much involved. There are lots of social, cultural and charitable events organised throughout the year.
Although the facilities are limited at the moment (the school is looking to move to a new East Coast campus for the 2018/19 academic year), OWIS offers swimming lessons in two terms out of four, and a chance to compete against other international schools in sports including crosscountry. Besides the traditional extracurricular activities run by third parties, the teachers run several free weekly clubs, which are accessible to all.
Initially, Maël and Camille attended a different international school. We decided to make a change, and we visited a few schools, but it was OWIS that stood out by far. We were pleasantly surprised to see the headmaster personally greeting the children as they made their way to the playground in the morning.
I would definitely recommend OWIS. The school is committed to its students and offers a high quality of education, and the teachers are dedicated and will go the extra mile to make sure that every child succeeds. It may be small compared to other international schools, but that is also what makes it so special, as your child will not go unnoticed. Our children are happy and look forward to going to school every day; they return busily telling us what they have learnt that day and excited about what they are going to do the next day. This is truly a great school, and we are so happy that our children are part of it.
Quayside Isle Preschool
There’s no denying that the quality and selection of international schools on offer in Singapore is impressive, and yet choosing the right school for our daughters was surprisingly more challenging than we had expected. We were looking for a school that would guarantee a solid grounding but were also mindful that they are still very little. So what was essential for us was how they would learn and, most of all, how much fun they would have in the process.
Quayside’s focus on learning through exploration and discovery and the excellent teacher-to-pupil ratio that allows this approach and focus were key factors in our decision. To date we have been extremely happy with our choice. The passion of all the staff for both their teaching and their pupils is hard to miss. The fact that you rarely step over the threshold of the school and see a face that you don’t recognise results in a warm, vibrant, family atmosphere where both kids and parents alike know not only the names of everyone in the class but most kids in the school.
Just a few weeks into her time at Quayside, Lana, our eldest, was telling her granny about the insect module they were studying in school and a recent trip to the Butterfly and Insect Kingdom. “So have you learnt about spiders yet?” asked Granny, to which Lana replied: “Granny! A spider is not an insect! It is an arthropod!”
Lily has just finished her first term at Quayside, and because she joined as one of the youngest pupils in the school shortly after her second birthday – and because she’s a relatively quiet and introspective little girl – we were concerned about how she would settle. However, we’ve not had a single tear from day one. She’s made great friends, loves her teachers, is growing in confidence and surprises us every day with detailed run-downs of her activities and the knowledge she has gained.
We don’t hesitate to recommend the school; it has the perfect blend of academic structure and progress, with a focus on how you learn, how you treat and respect the people and environment around you, and having fun. Both our children are thriving there and they can’t wait to get to school every day. We believe it represents good value, particularly given the teacher-child ratio and the fantastic learning environment.
Raintrees Internation Kindergarten
We enrolled Matilda in Raintrees a month after we arrived in Singapore. She was three at the time and it was immediately obvious that she loved it and was thriving, so Molly joined as soon as she turned two – literally on her birthday!
There are so many things that we like about Raintrees, but we must make particular reference to Matilda’s Busy Bees experience. The Busy Bees are the oldest children in the school, and at that level there is a noticeable move towards more structured learning. From day one, Matilda has loved it; she has thrived on learning her letters and being in that environment, which is fantastic to see in your children.
However, what we see most is the care that Matilda’s teacher takes and her pride in them all – it really shines through. We feel very lucky that Matilda is in her class. The principal and the director of the school are always present in the morning at the school gate, and open to any comments or queries.
We scoured magazines when we arrived and visited a handful of schools. What struck us most about Raintrees was that all the children were having fun, were very smiley and happy, and waved to us as we walked around the school. We were immediately taken by it; other schools that we saw didn’t have the fun and warm atmosphere that hits you at Raintrees.
I recommend Raintrees without question. Every day that our girls are at school, they come home having learnt something new. They’re still very young and the play-based curriculum at Raintrees obviously works. Whether it’s a song, a new Jolly Phonics letter, a sentence in Mandarin, or even just an improvement in their vocab, they are constantly changing and growing. They have loved all of their teachers, and Molly on a couple of occasions has resolutely refused to leave the classroom to come home!
Singapore American School
We’ve lived here for three years. Olivia has been attending the Early Childhood Center (ECC) for over six months, while her older brothers are now in the Elementary School. She is thoroughly enjoying her first year, and responding well to the Reggio Emilia approach to learning.
The preschool space was redesigned last summer to create an environment where children have the opportunity to interact with their peers and teachers from other classes throughout the day. The children benefit from this community approach: Olivia loves interacting with all the children and likes to sing with her own teacher, paint with another and listen to stories from yet another.
This lovely community of learners use creativity and imagination in their classroom environment as they build castles together, play dress-up, paint, colour and glue, and get wet outside in the water area. Exploration trips to the green space on campus result in a study of snails and millipedes. And birthday celebrations are truly a community effort as the children all pitch in to bake chocolate banana bread and other delicious treats for the special birthday boy or girl.
Olivia also enjoys her time outside of the preschool space where she gets to focus on her physical development in the Move & Groove class. With daily Chinese, Olivia is learning to explore another language and enjoys singing the Chinese songs that she has been hearing her brothers sing for the past few years.
Before moving to Singapore, we had researched international schools and were quite impressed with SAS – not only in terms of the vast resources available to students, but also the experience and long tenure of its teaching staff. Glowing reports from many friends back home who had children that attended SAS while in Singapore helped us decide that it was the school for us. We certainly haven’t been disappointed.
We would recommend SAS – Olivia is happy and so are we. The move to a more Reggio-based exploratory learning environment shows SAS’s progressive approach to education. The school takes very seriously its vision to provide a world-leading education that cultivates exceptional thinkers who are prepared for the future.
St Joseph’s Institution International
India is in Grade 3 and has been at St Joseph’s Institution International for four-and-a-half years, Cosima is about to start Grade 1 after two full years in the preschool, while Paloma started in January. I’m loving being a member of the school community and have always felt very happy leaving my children to be guided by the teachers each day.
We have been lucky to have kind, talented and experienced teachers, and as a result my children have thrived and are enthusiastic about learning. Parents are very quickly drawn into the school community and encouraged to contribute and participate in school activities and learning, which I like.
Atmosphere is very important to me, and I think it’s a lovely feature of the school that each of the prep classrooms runs onto the playground and a covered deck at the back of each classroom allows the children to play outside regardless of weather. The playgrounds are adventurous for them too, with plenty of fun outdoor toys.
I love the experience-based learning and find my children have responded very well to this. I also like the International Primary Curriculum and its global approach. The way each unit of work runs through all their subjects certainly makes it easier to support from home. I heard about St Joseph’s Institution International through family friends whose children were enrolled there. It just felt right when I walked around the school, and I enjoyed the warm and nurturing feel. I would highly recommend the preschool. It provides a wide range of learning experiences that give every child a chance to engage and thrive. The Virtues Project that each teacher is trained in is a real point of difference for me; it runs throughout the school as an integral part of the way the children are taught, developing in them the skills and qualities they need to be successful at school and, more importantly for me, in life.
Sunflower Baby House and Preschool (Bukit Timah)
We’ve had a great experience at Sunflower over the past four-and-a-half years. Teachers are absolutely core to any school, and in general the Sunflower teachers are approachable and demonstrate genuine interest in each child. Most are excellent in managing both children and their parents – a challenging and important skill to acquire.
The infant care section has a structured programme but remains flexible to requests from parents. The programmes for older children (N1 and above) are well balanced in terms of academic versus play, indoors versus outdoors. Gym and outdoor sport sessions are part of the core curriculum. All programmes have Chinese teachers who speak exclusively in Mandarin. Events where families have the opportunity to participate include sports day, and Mother’s and Father’s Day celebrations. The annual Father’s Day charity football match is a highlight on the school calendar, and attracts a great family turnout with all teachers present.
Sunflower boasts diversity, both culturally and racially, in its student mix. We have also acquired a strong parent network and friendships over the years.
The school came up on our online research for a centre that accommodates the schedules of full-time working parents. Of the centres we visited, Sunflower was the only preschool where we were met by the owner, Angela, who also runs the day-to-day operations with her husband, Dennis, and her team. Angela walked us through the school philosophy, programmes and menus, and patiently answered all our questions.
Sunflower was an easy choice for us, as the energy levels of the kids and teachers were high during our two visits, and it was obvious that they were having fun.
Swallows and Amazons
Both girls currently attend Swallows and Amazons and my experience has been extremely positive. Sienna has been there for just over a year and has flourished and is more confident and outgoing than she was a year ago. She looks forward to going to school, and when she comes home she is always in a happy space. Seeing just how happy she is confirms to me that I have made the right choice. In addition to her positive emotional development, she has also developed intellectually from a curriculum that incorporates Mandarin, numeracy skills, reading and writing.
Victoria joined two months ago as a two-year-old and is learning phonics and mathematical awareness, doing crafts, singing songs and much more. If I had to attribute my daughter’s happiness to one thing in particular, it would be to the wonderful teaching staff at the school. Their dedication and commitment is ever-present, and I feel a very personal one-on-one connection with all the teachers I’ve met. Miss Linda, the head teacher, is the glue that holds everything together. She’s passionate and sincere and always has the children’s best interests at heart. The headmistress, Jackie Barkham, has the vision; and Linda and her team execute it by creating an environment where the children are encouraged to be creative and express themselves while continuously learning.
My first impression was that the school felt the way a preschool should feel: full of vibrancy, bright colours and children having fun. When I met Jackie Barkham, her philosophy of developing a well-rounded child really resonated with me.
This school offers caring, committed and dedicated teachers who give personal attention to help children develop belief in who they are and confidence in what they do.
Tanglin Trust School
Our experience at Tanglin Trust School has been very positive. My younger daughter Naya has enjoyed both Nursery and nowReception. The parent community is supportive of one another, which I found helpful when transitioning Naya into ‘big’ school, and the Communications Team is really helpful in supporting newcomers with regular updates and newsletters.
The teachers have been exceptional with both my daughters. In particular, Charlotte White has had quite a magical effect on Naya, who comes home regularly impersonating her and saying she wants to be a teacher when she grows up.
My older daughter Anya, now in Year 4, joined in the middle of Year 3, and Edward Duncan did an amazing job of helping her transition. Anya has really enjoyed the extracurricular and co-curricular activities, including choir. She loved the Christmas concert at St George’s Church, and for us it was a heart-warming experience as it reminded me of our Christmas concerts as children growing up in the UK.
I think it’s exceptional how the school incorporates mindfulness into the daily routine. It provides children with a tool to manage stress and help them to focus and become more resilient. As a family, we practise mindfulness together; it’s a tool that can stay with children throughout their lives and into adulthood.
We would highly recommend Tanglin. It has an exceptional standard of teaching, and the holistic support and encouragement the children receive day-to-day is impressive. The school is big, which may initially seem daunting, but I’m amazed at how the teachers seem to know all the children, manage to maintain a sense of community and make each child feel valued.
The Garden House Preschool
The Garden House provides a safe, supportive, creative, caring and engaging environment for young kids. Ana and her team of teachers are extraordinarily engaged with and caring towards all the children and their families. We love the large number of outdoor activities they provide and the nutritious, healthy food cooked in the outdoor kitchen.
We’ve been very impressed by the teachers’ personal involvement with all the children, and we feel very lucky we found The Garden House in the ‘jungle’ of preschool offerings in Singapore.
We searched for a preschool that didn’t require uniforms, where the kids got to be outside as much as possible, and importantly where kids would learn via play rather than study. At our first visit we felt the very personal involvement of Ana and her team, and we didn’t hesitate to enrol Alexander right away. He has now been there since September 2014, and Benjamin started in February.
Whenever we talk to other parents about preschools, we always recommend The Garden House and tell them about the fantastic experience we’ve had. It’s a rare gem in Singapore.
The Winstedt School
When we arrived in Singapore we enrolled Addison at a large international school, and were very excited about her future education. However, we soon began to notice her need for more one-on-one attention, which her teacher couldn’t provide due to the mass of students in her classroom.
We then searched for a school that could give Addison a higher level of attention, and found Winstedt online. They have a low student-faculty ratio (6:1) compared to other international schools. But what really impressed us was the fact that, after Addison spent a few days at Winstedt on a trial basis, the teachers there seemed to have more insight into her and her needs than the larger international school could express to us in the six months she was with them.
Addison has now been attending Winstedt since January 2015, and we would highly recommend this school to families who are looking for a school that can recognise and support your child’s needs.
UWC South East Asia
Pavlos is currently in Grade 4 and Tatiana is in Grade 1, both at the East Campus. We had the wonderful experience of being one of the families who joined the new campus in its first year of operation in Tampines, as Pavlos went into K1. Tatiana also joined at K1 two years ago. We have experienced the wonderful energy and incredible enthusiasm of the team of teachers, assistant teachers and staff, evident not only inside the classroom but also in the extensive number of sports, activities and service opportunities offered.
Pavlos loves his private guitar lessons at school as much as he enjoys participating in the weekly Guitar Ensemble with his friends. One of the clubs he particularly enjoyed in the past was mindfulness! As for Tatiana, she is a real advertisement for the classroom teaching style, and, as she loves to emulate it at home, she gives us a great idea of how the teachers promote critical thinking, imagination, passion in pursuit of interests and effort in a safe and positive environment.
As a Greek, I was very touched by a recent article from the Head of College, where, to illustrate the competing pressures upon UWCSEA, he referred to the teachings of Greek philosophers Aristotle and Plato – the former more pragmatic and scientific, the latter more idealistic – concluding that not all things can be measured, but those that can’t be may be the things that have the greatest value. This, for me, sums up the spirit of UWC.
We were attracted to UWCSEA’s balanced approach to both academics and the children’s holistic development. I wholeheartedly recommend UWCSEA to other families.
Quitterie has attended White Lodge in Bukit Timah since September 2015, and Leonard will start in September this year. We really like the school for our daughter. It was her first school, and it was challenging because she was only able to speak French when she arrived in Singapore. Her teacher in the pre-nursery classroom, Mrs Santhi, is very good at understanding her and her difficulties. Our daughter immediately enjoyed the school, the toys and the outdoor playroom, and straightaway felt confident in the new environment.
After only three months, Quitterie can now understand most of the basic English that has been taught, and she is just starting to pronounce her first sentences. At school, the teachers sing and dance a lot with the little ones and Quitterie can now even sing a song in Mandarin, which is amazing!
The school is in our neighbourhood, and after visiting it we met another French family who already has a son in the school. We would definitely recommend White Lodge to other families because of its familial atmosphere and kind approach. We also greatly appreciate the weekly scope, which keeps us updated on our children’s learning and behaviour.
White Lodge has eight locations island-wide.
Want to know more? Visit our schools section for the latest information on education in Singapore.
This article first appeared in the March 2016 issue of Expat Living. Subscribe.