We are spoiled for choice when it comes to education in Singapore, with dozens of preschool options providing a broad spectrum of learning opportunities, experiences and facilities. Most international preschools have a very multicultural environment, too, with students from a diverse range of backgrounds and countries.
For many of us, selecting the right school for our children is, after choosing where to live in Singapore, the most important decision we have to make when moving to a new country. And while a visit to a school is often the best way to make an instinctive decision based on the individual needs of your children, hearing the opinions of other families about their experiences can be invaluable. The following article features a multitude of referrals from Expat Living readers to help you in your preschool decision-making process. There’s also a map to reveal all of the school locations across town below.
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.
According to Singapore’s Ministry of Education, by the end of their preschool years (age six) children should:• know what’s right and wrong;
• be able to relate to others;
• be curious and able to explore;
• be able to listen and speak with understanding;
• be comfortable and happy with themselves;
• have developed physical coordination and healthy habits, and participated in and enjoyed a variety of arts-related experiences;
• love their families, friends, teachers and school.
Australian International School
1 Lorong Chuan, 6883 5155
Karla and Ken Loughnan, Australian
Milly (8), Will (6) and Claudia (4)
We have happily been a part of the Australian International School preschool for the six years we have been in Singapore. Millie and Will both spent two years in the preschool, and Claudia is now in her second year.
The kids tell us their highlights are exploring in the big playground, the huge number of options at playtime, cooking, the preschool family picnic day and their beloved teacher. We appreciate that most of the teachers have been there longer than we have, that they do a great job at making a big preschool seem small, and that being part of the bigger school makes the transition to preparatory school very smooth.
The enthusiastic and hard-working professional staff are experts at nurturing individuality, enabling creative thinking and encouraging self-expression. The Reggio Emilia-inspired, IB curriculum is child-led and adaptable, and does not separate learning from play. The daily Mandarin lessons have also proven to be very popular with our kids. They seem to have fun while they learn.
The purpose-built learning environment is amazing. Besides a large and well-equipped playground, there are a number of smaller outdoor play areas, an indoor enquiry centre, indoor play areas, a kitchen and a large pod for preschool assemblies and concerts.
Our kids have loved every day they have gone to the AIS preschool. It made Millie and Will well prepared and confident to tackle the challenges of ‘big school’, as we are sure Claudia will be. We will miss being part of the preschool family next year!
Avondale Grammar School
318 Tanglin Road, Phoenix Park, 6258 8544
Joanne and Mark Vanderfield, British and Australian
Freddie (4) and Henry (3)
Both of our boys are very happy at Avondale. Freddie started in the Reception class last year and is now in the Transition class. Henry joined the Reception class this year.
We enrolled Freddie while I was heavily pregnant with Henry. I remember taking a tour of the school, and one of the students holding the door open for me without being asked. He looked at my pregnant belly and politely said: ‘Ooohh, congratulations!’ That made a very good first impression.
Our boys both have fantastic teachers who are always cheerful and positive and give excellent and insightful feedback at the parent-teacher meetings. In fact, all the teaching staff at Avondale have made us feel welcome. Many of them knew Henry before he even started at the school. I think this is indicative of the community feel at the school. The Parents’ Association is very involved in the school and there are many opportunities for parents to play an active role.
Though both of our boys are learning a lot at Avondale, they don’t feel under overdue pressure, because the learning happens in such a fun and engaging way. For example, even at home, my boys often sing songs in Mandarin or their Jolly Phonics songs.
More importantly, though, Mark and I liked the fact that Avondale was a small school with small classes. In addition, we wanted the boys to be in a school that taught the Australian curriculum, because we feel this will make the transition back to Australia a little easier for them.
Between Two Trees Preschool
7 Ming Teck Park, 6733 9768
Pitikarn and Peter Swim, Thai and American
Charlotte (6), Olivia (5) and Alex (1)
Charlotte and Olivia have been attending Between Two Trees Preschool for seven months. We were looking for a school that could provide a solid learning environment and prepare the kids for either local or international schools, and we have not been let down.
The curriculum provides a structured setting while also allowing the children the space to explore their curiosity through group projects and interaction. Balance is a key theme, and they always begin their day with creative outdoor play. In general, the school provides an environment where the girls have been able to grow artistically, intellectually and socially, while having an immense amount of fun at the same time!
We learned of Between Two Trees via word of mouth and chose it based on our interview with the administrators and after viewing the school while it was in session. The staff seemed to have an enthusiastic and caring attitude towards each and every child and provided a clear level of detail regarding their approach, methods and expectations.
Our children love their school, teachers and new friends. They have particularly loved the ‘school shoe project’ and have learned in-depth the end-to-end process of making shoes and managing a ‘store’. Their favourite place to play is the block area, where they can spend up to an hour with friends discussing how to build perfect structures. They also spend a lot of time in the playground, burning off some extra energy before coming home at night.
Canadian International School
Lakeside Campus: 7 Jurong West Street 41, 6467 1732
Tanjong Katong Campus: 371 Tanjong Katong Road, 6345 1573
Sean and Sarah Cuddihy, New Zealanders
Our son Benjamin is in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) programme at CIS, and we couldn’t be happier. We love that both students and parents are always made to feel welcome and that Benjamin is part of a wider school community. For example, he attends school concerts and plays, and has two senior students helping in his class once a week.
We learnt of CIS after asking a friend for recommendations, and chose it primarily because Benjamin was so happy there during the school tour; he took himself into an ECE class and joined the class activity! We were impressed by the facilities and the school’s approach to teaching the curriculum, and also loved that the ECE class sizes are limited to 16 students.
A highlight of the school has been the Uniting Nations’ week, when Benjamin learnt more about the cultures of his classmates. The week finished with a ‘Parade of Nations’; it was amazing to see the diversity of cultures represented at CIS!
Benjamin’s teacher is passionate about her work, and this is reflected in the creative ways she teaches the class. I love dropping him off in the morning and seeing the room set up for the day’s activities.
The Lakeside Campus is only 2.5 years old and has fabulous facilities such as a huge junior library, a purpose-built gymnasium, a playground, an art class and a drama suite for the junior school. Benjamin’s favourite place is the outside playground, especially the bikes and the climbing frame. He loves his music class, painting and playing with his friends.
As parents, we feel we made the right decision in sending Benjamin to CIS as he is now well adjusted to all aspects of school life, including having a variety of teachers working with his class, walking around a larger school between classes, and not being fazed by walking past large groups of ‘big kids’.
Chinese International School
60 Dunearn Road, 6254 0200
Anna and Adam Law, British and Australian
Lucy (8), Henry (6) and James (2)
Both Lucy and Henry are very happy at CNIS, where they started in August 2011. Lucy is in P2 and Henry in K2.
Having looked at most of the bigger schools in Singapore, we felt that nothing was as good a fit for our family as CNIS. New headmaster Stephen Keegan, a recognised IB expert, is helping to take the school to the next level.
Class sizes are small. In Kindergarten, there is both an English and a Chinese teacher in the class at all times – and in Henry’s class there is also a teaching assistant. The level of Mandarin and the method by which it is taught are excellent. The Kindergarten is a truly bilingual programme that is second to none. The teachers are caring and enthusiastic and really bring the IB topics to life with their creativity and imagination.
Henry says that the best thing about his school is ‘everything’, and he cannot wait for Mondays. Lucy loves her extra-curricular activities (which include Chinese paper cutting and peer club) and the PE programme.
Depending on demand and numbers, the school is currently considering setting up a new bilingual ‘nursery’ class for two-to-three-year-olds from August 2014. This would be a great way to introduce youngsters to Mandarin.
German European School Singapore (GESS)
300 Jalan Jurong Kechil (Junior School Campus), 6461 0802
Sara and Mans Lidgren, Swedish
Molly (8), Fred (6) and Tom (3)
Though we are Swedish, we have been living in Switzerland for the past five and a half years. Before we arrived in Singapore in June last year, our two older children had been going to a bilingual school where they spoke German half the time and English the other half, so they were both fluent in these languages.
Molly is currently in Grade 2 in the European section of the school, Fred is in the pre-primary English-speaking class, and Tom is in an English-speaking toddler group.
It was not a hard choice to pick GESS for our children. We liked the idea of a smaller school that was also a not-for-profit one, and it was very important for us to keep our European roots. With our children already speaking three languages, GESS was ideal for us.
The school is divided into two sections, German and European. The European section, which we chose, is a fully authorised IB World School that offers all three IB programmes; children don’t have to speak German to join this section. The German section offers the major German school-leaving certificates. Over 1,500 students from more than 50 nationalities are currently enrolled at GESS.
Both of the two campuses are very green and surrounded by nature. Our children were amazed when they first saw monkeys in the trees outside their classroom window. The open and friendly atmosphere at the school gives it a family feeling. My children are always happy to go to school, and they like their teachers and classmates. As parents, we can see that they feel safe and at home there.
What’s more, the school has a good balance between work and play. We have already noticed the result in our children’s learning, and we love to see their self-esteem grow, too. Molly and Fred also enjoy a wide range of co-curricular activities, and they love the library and the playgrounds.
Our whole family has settled very well in Singapore, and GESS is a huge part of that.
EtonHouse International Preschool
Numerous locations island-wide, 6746 3333
Helena and Jose Silva, Portuguese
Leonor (5) and Duarte (14 months)
Leonor is currently enrolled in K2 at EtonHouse Mountbatten 718, which Duarte will start attending when Leonor moves to the Broadrick Campus for Year 2 in August, at the start of the new calendar year.
Friends of ours had children enrolled at both the Broadrick and Orchard branches, and their feedback was great. What’s more, the EtonHouse 718 Mountbatten campus was brand new, and just five minutes away from where we live. When we visited it, we felt it was the right school for Leonor – a beautiful campus of the right size.
We feel that Leonor has developed into such a lovely and sociable child from her learning experiences with both her teachers and her peers. We love the fact that she learns and develops through play and through her own daily life experiences, exploring concepts ranging from nature to literacy, thinking, sharing, establishing her independence and communication skills through different media and respecting her peers’ ideas and cultures.
The teachers stimulate and challenge the children’s own capabilities through play, while they’re having fun. We feel the learning journey is well oriented, using concepts that children are interested in and can relate to. Similarly, the Mandarin programme is integrated and relates to the class inquiries. This is very important to us, considering Mandarin is Leonor’s third language.
Leonor loves going to school. She wakes up excited every morning, and comes back home every day with stories to tell. When I asked her what her favourite place at school was, she said: ‘I love it everywhere; everywhere is so special! And I love doing everything. I love my school, my friends and my teachers.’
International Community School (Singapore)
27A Jubilee Road, 6776 7435
Ryan and Julie Wiggins, American
Jack (8), Lowery Beth (5) and McClendon (2)
Jack and Lowery Beth began attending ICS when we moved to Singapore in August, 2013. Jack is in the second grade and Lowery Beth is in Junior Kindergarten. We moved to Singapore to work with Young Life, an international student ministry. One of the things we were most concerned about was how our children would adapt. They have transitioned wonderfully and we feel that a large part of that has to do with being a part of the caring community at ICS.
On the first day of school we went to check on Lowery Beth in her classroom. When we peeked through the window we saw her sitting in the principal’s lap listening to her teacher read a story. We knew then that we had made the right choice.
Lowery Beth always talks about her Mandarin, music class and percussion club. She has always been a little shy, but we have noticed her really coming out of her shell this year. She even sang a small solo in Mandarin in front of the entire school and their families during the school’s Mandarin Day Performance. She is also looking forward to a forthcoming percussion club event, so we would have to say her favourite place at the school is the stage.
The ICS community truly feels like a family and provides the biblically based education we were seeking. The teachers and staff are exceptional, and we are very pleased with the well-rounded curriculum. Our children are learning Mandarin and also spend time each week in IT, physical education, art, library and music lessons. They love the after-school activities that the school provides and have participated in soccer, taekwondo, the percussion club and the Lego club.
21 Preston Road, 6470 0114
Hardy and Nadine Trentini, Brazilian and American
Twins Kili and Siena (5), and Jean-Louis (3)
Kili and Siena started K1 at ISS International in August 2013, and Jean-Louis will start K1 in August next year. We chose ISS because it offers the IB curriculum and focuses on developing globally minded students. We wanted a school with an intimate feel, small class sizes and an international student population. In Kili and Siena’s K1 class of 14, there are children from 12 different countries.
The teachers and teacher-assistants do an outstanding job of integrating the children and teaching them to be communicative, inquisitive, confident, respectful, caring and independent. We like the subtle yet effective way that the school integrates technology into its teaching. For example, in PE, the children were shown pictures on an iPad of themselves throwing a ball. They were then asked to draw the ball’s trajectory and taught the importance of keeping your eyes on the ball.
Additionally, the school fosters community. Every Friday, the Elementary School principal, Ms Julia Alden, leads an assembly of the whole school. Important holidays and international events are talked about and celebrated, and the children’s achievements and birthdays are acknowledged.
Our twins love music, art, Mandarin, library time, PE, the playground and their friends! From our side, we have found the entire staff very personable, welcoming, supportive and kind-hearted.
Numerous locations island-wide
Mari and Wataru Takahashi, Japanese
Our son has been attending Learning Vision since he was 10 months old. We liked their educational philosophy, the 3:1 ratio of infants to teachers and the cleanliness of the centre. For us, the teachers’ friendly and open attitude was very important, because our son was too young to tell us about his school experiences.
The curriculum is theme-based and includes excursions relating to the various themes they cover. They also have optional camps a couple of times a year, which the class teachers are involved in.
I used to worry about the language aspect, because our son speaks only Japanese at home. But now he can switch between English and Japanese easily and translate from one to the other. We had thought about transferring him to a Japanese preschool after his first year in nursery, but decided not to.
He likes to learn songs and dances, which he often shows us. And although the meals are quite different to what we usually have at home, he enjoys them, especially snack time.
After 5pm, until their parents come to pick them up, the children play with each other. My son’s friends are very nice and friendly – when they see me they all say ‘Hi, Yusui’s mummy!’
One World International School (OWIS)
696 Upper Changi Road East, 6542 2285
Lisa and Matthew Scott, New Zealand
Sebastian (5) and India (3.5)
We feel really lucky to have found OWIS, and that both children settled easily into school life. India started in the nursery class at OWIS in April 2013, and Seb started in the new school year, in August 2013.
India’s class of 14 has three teachers, so she gets lots of attention. Seb and India love that their classes are next door to each other and that they see each other throughout the day. They also enjoy spending time in the music room, painting and drawing in the art room, and their (fun!) Mandarin lessons.
As OWIS is a small school, it feels welcoming and friendly. Living on the East Coast, I considered other (bigger) schools, but I found them daunting. At OWIS, most of the teachers know all the children by name. What’s more, the older children are supportive of the younger children. One of the ‘big kids’ came up to India on Sports Day and congratulated her on scoring the 100th point for their house. India was so proud!
OWIS offers a great IB programme, flexible half- or full-day study, daily Mandarin and lots of learning through play. We especially like that international and cultural diversity is both welcomed and celebrated at the school.
20 Fourth Avenue, 6781 8800
Damien and Anne, French
Sasha (2.5 years)
Sasha started schooling at Odyssey, The Global Preschool, Fourth Avenue in September 2013. A friend of ours had researched many of the international pre-schools and she advised us to look at Odyssey. When we visited the school we saw that all the requirements we had were met.
We immediately had a very good feeling about the school environment as well as the centre director, Ms Egeria.
Since Sasha started we have had regular feedback from her teachers about her personality, strengths and areas for improvement. We are totally confident that it is the right place for our daughter. The school offers vast green spaces with large well-equipped classrooms. The children really enjoy the large playground area, cycling area, dance and music rooms.
When Sasha started she was learning French and English at the same time. The curriculum specialist, Ms Kalvinder, and all the teachers were very attentive and helped her to manage the changes. Now she feels very comfortable and is able to easily switch from one language to another. At the same time she has learned Mandarin through songs. We are very impressed and proud!
The teachers are open-minded and listen carefully to parents. They hold regular briefings to discuss any issue to look at, or work on with the children. All the staff of the school are dedicated to the self-fulfillment of our children which we observe every morning and every evening when we drop-off or pick-up Sasha. We are very happy, and as we say in French “elle est bien dans ses baskets”; our daughter is feeling very well in her shoes!
Pegasus International Pre-School
26 Evans Road, 6735 2494
Amelie de Spot and Alexandre Schmitz, Belgian
Augustin (9), Garance and Hippolyte (5), and Oscar (3)
Oscar has attended Pegasus since May 2013; his siblings are at the Overseas Family School. Pegasus is a small and very friendly school with an excellent curriculum that prepares kids academically as well as teaching them values: autonomy, creativity, discipline, open-mindedness. These are an extension of our family values.
When we moved to Singapore last year, it was a big change for all of us. In Belgium, Oscar was not at school; he was in a nursery and only speaking French. Because he had no English and no school experience, we chose a small school with few kids so he could get maximum attention from the teachers and not feel lost, as might happen in a big school.
Language education is important as we plan to stay here for the long term. Teaching Oscar English was a priority so he could integrate as fast as possible, and living in a Chinese culture, we thought it important to also learn Mandarin. Pegasus has a very good mix of different nationalities and cultures.
Despite it being a small school, the facilities are everything we could hope for: well equipped classrooms and playground, hot lunch and snacks, showers, beds, water play and even a guinea pig to teach the children how to take care of animals. Outdoor activities are organised regularly, and the children go on visits to the Botanic Gardens and Sentosa.
Parent contact is excellent. A teacher welcomes the kids personally every morning and is present at pick-up every afternoon. This is an opportunity for the parents to engage with the teacher.
Oscar has a special blue book where his activities are documented each week with pictures, and we think it will be an amazing souvenir for him when he grows up.
Pibo’s Garden Preschool
7 Hua Guan Crescent, Hua Guan Gardens, 6465 0019 and 1 Dunearn Close, 6466 2639
Henriette Work and Rene Bach Larsen, Danish
Beatrice (3) and Carl-Philip (2)
Beatrice has been at Pibo’s for a year and Carl-Philip for six months, and our experience with this preschool has been excellent. Their teachers are very professional and caring, and constantly keep us updated on our children’s development.
The school offers a play based-curriculum that reflects our own philosophy as parents. Activities include sand and water play, art, stories, song, rhymes and cookery. On top of this they have Mandarin classes, too.
Once in a while, the school arranges days out for both the kids and their parents; we’ve been to the theatre, flown kites at Marina Barrage and visited an animal farm. It’s exciting for the kids, and a good way for us to meet other parents.
I was very impressed the minute I walked into the school. It was full of happy kids playing everywhere, and the teachers were welcoming and very friendly. The place felt right from the start, and I knew it was right for our children.
Quayside Isle Preparatory School
31 Ocean Way, #01-17 Quayside Isle, 6235 7527
Pamela Greacen and Art Buser, American
Our daughter started at Quayside when we moved to Singapore in October 2013, which coincided with the school opening. Since the day Helena started at the school, we’ve experienced an engaging, inspiring, nurturing and loving environment. Helena’s teacher is wonderful; her energy and warmth for the children are remarkable.
The school incorporates the environment and benefits of Sentosa into the curriculum through weekly field trips that are incorporated into their teaching. One month might be about insects, with visits to the insect park; the next month, it’s about sea life, with visits to the Aquarium. Earlier this year, the children went to the Butterfly Park and brought two cocoons back to school and waited for them to hatch. It’s fun and educational.
Of particular interest is the Virtues Project that is integrated into the weekly life at the school. Children learn and are encouraged to practise a different virtue every week; for example, determination or respect. We were previously unfamiliar with the Virtues Project, but are now very pleased because it reflects QUIPS’s focus on the whole person.
After friends had told us about the school, we attended an Open House while we were still in the process of deciding where to live in Singapore. We thought we would try it out from October until Christmas and see how we felt. After the first week we knew we had found a very special school and we were hooked. It played a significant role in us ultimately deciding to live on Sentosa, and we have been very happy with our decision.
If you live in Sentosa Cove, your child can walk to school, and that is a rare treat. QUIPS provides a well-rounded environment that is happy, engaging, and caring; great qualities for young ones as they venture off to school for the first time.
Rain Trees Kindergarten
60 Kheam Hock Road, 6474 6181
Digby and Claire Warren, British
Mia (4) and Sebastian (2)
Mia has now been at Rain Trees for over two years and Sebastian is starting this term. Our experience has been wonderfully positive, and Mia is loving her time there. Katie Terry, the owner, is very much hands-on, and everyone looks after the kids with warmth and attention.
Mia is in the Busy Bees class, the oldest age category in the school. When she joined this class at the age of three, I was concerned about her being with children who were as old as five. Thankfully, she has thrived from being with slightly older classmates.
Her teacher constantly creates fabulous backdrops within the classroom, based on the theme of the term, and leads the children in activities that are fun, engaging and educational. There is Mandarin exposure every day, too, from a warm and energetic teacher. Outdoor spaces include a little bike area, a garden with a pagoda, trampolines, sand play and much more. Mia says her favourite thing about school is painting, and she loves playing with the dinosaurs.
This small school may not have the flashiest of facilities, but it makes up for that with the love and attention that your child will receive.
279 Upper Serangoon Road, 6602 7247
Laura and Donald Lacey, American
Catherine is part of the nursery programme at the Stamford American International School. We are very happy with her school experience so far.
The campus is bright, clean and spacious, which made this school stand out vis-à-vis some of the others we visited. We have been living in Asia for six years – the first three in Singapore and the next three in Hong Kong – and have recently moved back here. So, we have been aware of Stamford from its inception. When choosing a school for Cat, it helped that we had friends with kids at Stamford, who were happy with their experience.
As we live in Sentosa, we were initially worried that the school would be too far away from our home. But once we learned that there was a bus service, even for kids as young as Catherine, we knew that Stamford was the right choice for us.
Cat’s teacher, Sylvie Lepillier, is extremely capable and experienced. We trust her opinion and feedback, and often receive detailed, personalised emails from her with notes on our daughter’s activities, progress and development
Once a week, Cat has a swimming class. Being crazy about water, this is her favourite activity at school.
Grant and Megan Chalmers, Australian
Thomas (nearly 3)
Since the beginning of the year, Thomas has been attending the new Shaws Preschool at Carmichael. The environment is very friendly and family-orientated, and the helpful teaching staff understands that each child develops in his or her own way. Daily Mandarin lessons are given, and Thomas is already speaking some basic words.
Shaws strongly encourages the participation of parents and other family members in each child’s learning. For example, every month there is an activity that the family is encouraged to do together at home, for the child to bring to school for a show and tell session. Excursions are well organised and usually involve some unique learning experience; parents are encouraged to join in.
On Tuesdays, Shaws Little League runs a sports session for each class, and every Wednesday involves water play. In addition to this, there is outdoor play both before and after class. We find that Shaws offers our very active and inquisitive son enough stimulation during the day, and the opportunity to learn at his own pace.
School meals and snacks are quite healthy: mid-morning fruit, plus a rotating lunch menu featuring, for example, brown rice, quinoa and lentils. We are very happy with the school, and we know that Thomas is too.
Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMM)
38C Belvedere Close, 6737 9746
Karin and Yoad Reiter, Australian and Israeli
Milan (4.5) and Rio (2)
When we lived in Hong Kong, our children went to a Jewish school, and that was a priority for us when we moved to Singapore. SMM is a boutique school that emphasises the value of teaching and learning through play. We love that it is truly international: the classes are a mix of children from all over the world.
The kids are learning Mandarin along with Jewish studies and Hebrew. This is important for us, as we want them to grow up close to their heritage, yet with exposure to different cultures.
Milan has attended the school for 18 months, and Rio for about six months. So far, all the teachers we’ve encountered have been wonderful to work with and have nurtured our children as if they were their own. We think the fantastic staff, the facilities and the ‘family feel’ make the school special.
My kids especially enjoy the playground. Milan loves her teacher and her schoolmates and loves going to school. Rio enjoys the indoor gym class, the arts and crafts and the free play.
If you’re looking for a smaller school with fantastic teachers, great learning materials, a healthy menu and fresh food served every day (no need to make your kids lunch boxes), then this is the place for you.
St Joseph’s Institution International
490 Thomson Road, 6353 9383
Darren and Jill Murphy, Australian
Angus (10), Lola (9), Curtis (5) and Helena (4)
Angus and Lola have attended St Joseph’s for four years, Curtis commenced in January 2014 and Helena will start next January. The school is a warm, caring and diverse environment where our children’s different strengths and interests are catered for. They get the benefit of the sound International Primary Curriculum along with daily Mandarin lessons, not to mention the extensive opportunities in sport and music.
The highlight for us is the school’s focus on building children of character, through The Virtues Project. This is instilled in the children from their very first day at school. We also love the beautiful chapel on campus and the weekly Catholic mass service.
We learnt of the school from a friend on our first visit to Singapore. The decision to enrol the children was an easy one, from our first glimpse of the campus. The fully established vegetable garden created by the staff, parents and children was a highlight. Within that first half hour, we were sold on the sense of warmth and friendliness of the staff, along with the confidence and helpfulness of the students. We are delighted to say that none of that has changed in the last four years.
The children enjoy every aspect of school: the playground, the tricycle circuit, the garden chess set and the handball courts. They also love their friends and teachers alike, ‘because everyone is so happy and friendly’. The range of extracurricular activities is a huge attraction, with football and gymnastics being favourites.
The school has become an extension of our home. To have children of such a young age thrive in so many ways, not only with the academic opportunities on offer but with the freedom to express themselves and develop as individuals in such a warm and caring environment, is really something that we value to the highest degree.
Singapore American School
40 Woodlands Street 41, 6360 6698
Anne and Judson Duncan, American
Martha (9), Sarah (6) and Ruby (4)
When we returned to Singapore in July 2013, we couldn’t say no to the opportunity to have our kids attend SAS for a second time. All of our children are at SAS, and all three have attended preschool there, despite our two-year gap living outside of Singapore. Ruby is currently enrolled in the preschool programme.
When we enrolled Martha we were impressed with the family feeling in the Early Childhood Center (ECC), because it is so small and parents are encouraged to participate as much as they wish. The range of learning opportunities includes Mandarin every day, perceptual motor skills (more commonly known as the fun room!) and library once a week.
Also, we like our children being on a campus where they can take small field trips to a science lab to play with bubbles, to a ceramics studio to make snowmen with primary school mentors, or to the high school students’ art show. Recently, a family visitor had to take our four-year-old to her music class in a different area of campus. The adult didn’t know where to go, but Ruby was able to direct her! Our girls feel like the SAS campus is a second home.
We value SAS for so many reasons. It offers students and parents so much more than pure academics – like hearing screening, counselling in the classrooms plus parenting classes and guest speakers. SAS caught a slight hearing issue that one of our daughters was experiencing in preschool and we are forever grateful for this early intervention.
Like all siblings, each of our daughters is so different from the next, and we feel like SAS knows them, respects their differences and offers something for each student. Our oldest daughter came home from Kindergarten one day and said, ‘Mom, you know those words written on the wall where you walk into school? Mr Hoss said the school thinks they are so important that they had to put them where everyone could see them!’ Those words are ‘responsibility’, ‘respect’, ‘honesty’, ‘compassion’ and ‘fairness’. Beyond all else that is taught, we are proud that SAS is instilling these values in our children.
Sunflower Baby House & Preschool
200 Turf Club Road, #04-01 & 07/08 The Grandstand 6463 1303 and 38 Sunset Heights, 6462 0034
Els Vansieleghem and Yves Demasure, Belgian
Eva (9), Anna (7) and Sofia (2)
Sofia was born in Singapore and started at Sunflower Babyhouse when she was 18 months old. We’d been looking for a fun place with friendly teachers where she could develop as an independent and responsive child.
Indeed, she is very happy in this cheerful environment filled with colourful toys and equipment. She loves her teachers, her little friends and the huge variety of activities offered. When I pick her up she’s always so happy, regardless of how tired she may be.
The teachers are experienced carers, and not only have the necessary patience and knowledge, but are there to offer the parents advice, support and understanding. They always take the time to tell me all about Sofia’s day.
At home, she dances and sings and proudly counts to ten in Mandarin. I think it’s wonderful for her to be exposed to the Mandarin language daily. Sunflower represents a good mixture of local and international cultures, and we love that Sofia is exposed to all these different influences.
Sunflower Baby House has a great atmosphere of openness and commitment, and I am very grateful to Angela and her wonderful team for taking such good care of our youngest daughter.
Swallows and Amazons
200 Turf Club Road, 6762 8158
Matthew and Amanda Jowett, British
Charlie (9), Alfie (7) and Isabella (4)
Our children have both been very happy at Swallows and Amazons. Isabella started there in May 2012 and will be moving to Dulwich College this August. Alfie was at SAA from June 2009 until Easter 2011.
Every day holds different activities, and the extra-curricular activities are excellent, too. Isabella does football, swimming, music and bubble gym, all held either at SAA or within the Turf City complex.
Jackie, Debbie and their team are absolutely amazing with the children, creating a fun, loving, playful learning environment. When Isabella comes home she is full of news about her day and her friends, and we often hear her chatting away in Mandarin as she plays!
We first noticed SAA while walking our dogs in the area, as we live very close to Turf City. Seeing the spacious outside area with its huge tree house, we knew it was the kind of nursery we wanted for Alfie.
We were right: on his first day, he gave me a kiss and a hug and happily walked off with the teacher, no tears. I felt most relieved, as at his previous nursery he had cried all the time. Isabella was exactly the same on her first day, and she didn’t want to leave at the end of the morning session.
Tanglin Trust School
95 Portsdown Road, 6778 0771
Paul and Melanie Marriott, British
Sam (10), India (8) and Jack (4)
Although we lived in Sydney for six years before coming to Singapore, both my husband and I were born and educated in the UK. We simply wanted our children to experience the same sort of British education, therefore Tanglin was the obvious choice.
All three of our children have attended Tanglin Trust School since Nursery – Jack is still there, while Sam is now in Year 5 and India is in Year 3. TTS has been nothing but positive for us over the past seven years.
Although the school is large, with students ranging in age from three to 18, the overall feel is very family-orientated and welcoming. It’s lovely to see all age groups interacting without it being in the slightest bit intimidating.
Sam loves the playground on the roof, which is astro-turfed. They get to play ‘ball rush’, which he says is brilliant. India says the MasterChef kitchen makes you feel like you’re on TV. The nursery playground is fabulous, too, with endless activities, and Jack enjoys racing around it with his friends on the red bikes.
Our three children are extremely happy and love going to school, and as parents we can’t ask for more than that – or for a better learning environment.
UWC South East Asia (Dover Campus)
UWC South Eas t Asia has two campuses: Dover and East, 6775 5344
Lisa Moore and Matthew Bubb, Australian
Sam (9), Thomas (7) and Madeleine (2)
Both our boys genuinely love the school. Thomas started in the Infant School in Grade 1 in August 2013; Sam is in Grade 4 and has attended for two years. UWC South East Asia has an international reputation, so we jumped at the chance when we were accepted. The school’s philosophy is built around educating the whole child, and that was critical for us. This is done through a set of clearly defined principles around which the curriculum is built, starting right from K1.
The Infant School has a caring and friendly atmosphere, with its own principal and staff, separate play areas, and different recess and finishing times from the rest of the school. It feels small and friendly, but has all the benefits that go along with a larger school: specialist teachers, great facilities, and a fantastic after-school activities programme.
This year, Thomas has done swimming lessons, gymnastics, tennis and Mandarin storytelling as after-school activities. As the children move up through the grades, they can choose from a huge range of artistic, musical and sporting activities.
We really like the way the curriculum focuses on the learning needs of young children, with lots of opportunities for them to be curious, to play and to explore and learn at their own pace. The teachers place a lot of emphasis on encouraging skills that are important for life-long learning, like critical thinking, good communication, compromise and collaboration.
The teachers are very engaged and genuinely welcome parental involvement. There are many opportunities to come in and see what’s going on in class, from volunteering for regular classroom activities and field trips, to special celebrations and sports days.
Thomas says the best things about going to school are seeing his friends (who come from all over the world), his kind teachers, music class, PE, “Treasure Time” and, of course, soccer at lunchtime. His favourite events this year have been performing in the Grade 1 Arts Festival and eating all the great food at the UN Food Festival.
White Lodge Kindergarten
Whitelodge has kindergartens at six locations, 6255 4230
Sofia Barrios (Venezuelan) and Jose Leon (Costa Rican)
Isabella (4) and Diego (2)
Both Isabella and Diego have attended White Lodge at Bukit Timah since they were 18 months old, and our experience has been amazing. We heard about the school through a neighbour, a recommendation in Expat Living and by generally asking around. We decided to enrol the children there because it’s a school that balances everything: clean facilities, good teachers, a great programme, stimulating activities and engagement with the parents.
The kids don’t spend the whole day in one place: they rotate through an indoor play area, an outdoor area with a roof, a music and movement area and a painting area. There are also frequent activities for parents; we enjoy these and feel very attached to the school and the teachers.
Isabella had a six-month break from White Lodge to attend another school, because we needed her to be in full-time school when Diego was born. This gave us the opportunity to compare the two schools. When she returned to White Lodge, the first thing she said was, “I love White Lodge; please, Mummy, don’t send me to the other school again.”
The weekly Friday bulletin is one of our favourite things: it includes lots of pictures of the kids with their friends and the activities they have been involved in for the week. We are really pleased with White Lodge. It was a great decision to enrol our kids there.
Isabella says: “I love the indoor play, because I can have fun in the kitchen, dress up, or read in the library corner, and there are cars, dolls and dinosaurs. I love dressing up as a princess!”
71 Bukit Batok West Avenue 8, 6338 4771
Set to open in August after five years of planning, Dulwich College is based on 400 years of tradition and innovation from Dulwich College in London and its sister schools in China and South Korea. Besides offering a dual-language Mandarin programme and being academically selective, it also places equal emphasis on competitive sport and excellence in music and the arts.
The student population will initially be approximately 900 with intakes in Pre-Nursery to Year Eight (ages two to 13) and will expand yearly through to Year 13. Headmaster Nick Magnus says the College’s strength will be the subtle blend of the old and the new and of the East and the West. “The time has come to stop talking and start doing. The entire Dulwich team is just raring to go, and looking forward to welcoming the students on 27 August.”
The Senior Dulwich Choir in China recently performed live on stage with the Rolling Stones in Shanghai, and the Beijing Junior Choir performed live on stage with the great and good of Asia’s music and film industry as part of Jackie Chan’s 60th birthday celebration.
Shane O’Shea is Director of Music for all seven Dulwich International schools and is based in Bejiing. “Music and, indeed, all of the visual and performing arts are an integral part of the development of the child. They offer opportunities for personal growth that no other subject can match, from performing on stage to composing your own music, being trained how to listen to music correctly and being given the opportunity to lead,” said Shane.
“From the beginning we will have a choir and an orchestra, followed soon after by a jazz band, big band and rock bands for those students interested in different genres,” Shane says. He expects other student-initiated and student-led groups to add to the life, energy and soul of the college.
Epsom College in Malaysia
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, +603 6211 4488
Opening its doors in September 2014, Epsom College in Malaysia will offer a British day and boarding school experience built on all-round excellence. The school offers Prep School and Senior School for children aged from two.
In the Early Years, up to age five, Epsom’s aim is that boys and girls develop a strong sense of self, feel positive about their abilities as learners, form constructive relationships and be confident communicators. The curriculum follows the British education system and provides children with the best possible start to their schooling.
From the child’s perspective, a curriculum such as this should be full of real-life, concrete experiences through which conceptual understanding can be developed.
Lessons will be taught in English and children must have a minimum standard of English to enrol, though there will be language assistance available.
The campus boasts three astro-turf sports pitches, hard play areas, a swimming pool, 10 badminton courts and a 1,500-square-metre sports centre with a fitness centre, squash courts and a dance studio. For music, the school has a separate recital hall, 20 practice rooms, a 600-seat theatre and a recording studio. There are 18 science labs and an outdoor amphitheatre, while art and design boast a magnificent studio and workshop facilities.
The purpose-built international school is located in a quiet, suburban setting on 50 acres, 15 minutes from Kuala Lumpur International Airport.
Map of school locations across Singapore
A – Australian IS
B – Avondale Grammar
C – Between Two Trees
D – Canadian IS*
DC – Dulwich
E – Chinese IS
F – GESS
G – Eton House*
H – ICS
I – ISS
J – Learning VisionK – OWIS
L – Odyssey
M – Pegasus
N – Pibo’s*
O – Quayside
P – Raintrees
Q – Stamford
R – Shaws*
S – SMM
T – SJII
U – SAS
V – Sunflower
W – Swallows & Amazons
X – Tanglin
Y – UWC*
Z – White Lodge*
* Multiple locations, refer to individual websites for more details. ** Map not to scale, approximate locations only.