Choosing the best preschool can be a daunting task for parents, particularly those who are adjusting to their new lives in Singapore. To help you make an informed decision about where to send your little ones, we asked mums and dads about the preschools they chose for their own children and why.
Australian International School (AIS)
1 Lorong Chuan
6883 5515 | ais.com.sg
“When we learnt we were being posted to Singapore in July 2011, our eldest daughter, Aurelia (5), had only just started preschool. I did a lot of online research into preschools in Singapore and drew up a shortlist of four. We wanted one attached to an international school so Aurelia wouldn’t face another school move, no matter how long we stayed in Singapore. Once my husband visited them on his reconnaissance trip, the choice became clear.
We love the Reggio Emilia approach in the AIS preschool and the IB curriculum in the rest of the school: there are so many opportunities for the children to learn in a fun, self-directed (but teacher-supported) way.
The learning environment is fantastic. The space and the facilities at the school are excellent and, because the preschool is a separate area with its own playground, it doesn’t feel like you’re sending your little ones into a huge school where they will be lost.
The deciding factor for us was the friendliness of the staff and the warmth of the students. Aurelia settled in quickly and our family was made to feel very welcome. It’s a social school, with lots of events to help make the transition to a new country that bit easier. Aurelia is now in preparatory school and our younger daughter, Miranda (3), is in the preschool. Both girls love going to school, and our youngest, James (18 months), will go to AIS’s preschool in 2015.”
Kate Young, Australia
Avondale Grammar School
304 Tanglin Road
6258 8544 | avondale.edu.sg
“Mia (4) has been attending Avondale three days a week since the start of the year. Relocating from Australia in January meant she has had little time to settle into her new environment, but our experience has only been positive.
When choosing a school, it was important for us that it offered a learning-through-play environment. We wanted structure, without her being stressed. We also wanted to follow the Australian curriculum for ease of transition when we eventually return, and the convenience of following the same terms for summer holidays. Living in a new culture, we also wanted Mia to be exposed to other languages and have the opportunity to learn Mandarin.
Class sizes at Avondale are small, and the student-to-teacher ratio allows the children to get individual attention. There is great communication in the form of weekly updates from the school, as well as direct email contact with the teachers.
Mia loves her two teachers and her class of 11. She says the best things about school are her new friends, the ‘surprise bag’ talks and icy pop Wednesdays.
If you’re choosing a school in Singapore, take a tour, meet the teachers and watch the classes in action. After that, you just need to go with your gut instinct.
Avondale has definitely helped with our settling-in process. The Parents’ Association is very active, organising social events and welcoming new families. There is a strong school spirit that we are very happy to be part of.’
Sarah West-Davis, Australia
Between Two Trees
7 Ming Teck Park
6733 9768 | betweentwotrees.sg
“Kiran (4.5) has been at Between Two Trees (B2T) for two years and Sachin (2.5) for six months.
What stands out at B2T is how dedicated the teachers are; most of them have been with the school since it opened in 2009, so the kids are surrounded by familiar faces.
The school just moved into its new location at Ming Teck Park; we love the new outdoor area that comes with it. The boys look forward to sand play, water play and outdoor play.
When touring the new school, I loved the classrooms; they’re homey, warm and inviting. An effort was even made to replicate the pre-nursery classroom so that the furniture and environment were familiar, to ease the children’s move into the new school.
I also love how the kids’ artworks are prominently displayed, and I always look forward to logging onto the school’s online portal, updated weekly. I can read more about what is done in school and see pictures of what my boys get up to!
Being at a Reggio Emilia-inspired school, the students start projects based on their interests. The K1 class is doing a project on oceans; Kiran is so excited about it – he comes back with new knowledge every day. And the best part is that he’s learning by having fun!
I was also pleased at how quickly my younger boy settled into school. When he first joined at 20 months, he wasn’t talking; now he even sings songs that he has learnt and he has become more confident and independent.
Sheryl Murthy, Singapore
Bibinogs Preschool at King’s Arcade
559 Bukit Timah Road
#B1-01 King’s Arcade
6466 8015 | bibinogs.com
“Our youngest child, Hugo (almost 4), has been attending Bibinogs since the age of two. When we moved to Singapore in 2010, I would visit a different preschool each day. Word-of-mouth is priceless, so I would chat with the mums dropping their children off at school. Bibinogs has an existing branch down the road in the Serene Centre and I was excited to hear of the new branch opening at King’s Arcade, close to our home.
An important factor for us was closeness to home, as Hugo was so young when he started. We also liked the small class size and high ratio of teachers to children, as well as the flexibility. We wanted Hugo to go to a bilingual Mandarin preschool that takes a consistent immersion approach.
The engaging staff helped Hugo settle into school life from the start. Their multiple learning approaches to each theme keep him stimulated and eager to tell us what he has learnt. We also love the weekly newsletter with photos of him busy learning.
Since Hugo really enjoys the arts and crafts sessions, we decided to book him into an extension course at the school one afternoon a week.
There are many different preschool teaching philosophies and curriculums, from academic to developmental, and it is crucial to choose the right structure for your child.’
Meagan Noé, France
370 River Valley Road
6341 9336 | brightonmontessori.com.sg
“We have been part of the Brighton Montessori community for over four years. Our daughter Lily (7) graduated from K2 in 2012, and our three other children, Sofia (22 months), Sam (3) and Eliza (5), are all enrolled there. Brighton has provided our kids with a safe, caring and stimulating environment, and the teachers have been nothing short of exceptional. They have proven to be flexible, patient and creative.
We live centrally and wanted our growing family to be walking distance from a school. We were drawn to Brighton because of its location and the Montessori learning approach, and so we simply walked in one afternoon. We liked the atmosphere and immediately enrolled Lily.
Brighton is a warm, intimate school with friendly, nurturing teachers. It is these attributes, combined with the daily Mandarin classes, the cultural diversity and the personalised academic focus that are important to us.
Settling the children in over the years has been relatively easy; the teachers are well trained and experienced in comforting younger children. Before long, the little ones join the rest of the kids and are demonstrating the same independence and confidence as their peers.
For our children, the most enjoyable aspects of school are their friends, their teachers, the offsite excursions, school events, cultural celebrations and activities such as art and cooking. The school has instilled a love of learning in the kids, which extends into the home.”
Emma McPhail, Australia
Canadian International School (CIS)
7 Jurong West Street 41
6467 1732 | cis.edu.sg
“Our daughters Sadhbh (9) and Ailbhe (6) joined CIS in January 2013. When we started to look for a suitable school we did have some help from a relocation firm, but we also carried out initial research online and placed a lot of emphasis on actually visiting schools.
For us, the most important factors were the school’s focus on each child as an individual, its facilities, and recommendations from other parents.
The teachers and classroom assistants at CIS have worked very hard to make our children feel welcome and to help them fit into a school system quite different to the one they came from. And of course, the new friends they have made in class have also helped them settle in to school life.
When I asked Ailbhe what she likes most about her school, she said she enjoys the friends she has made and her teachers. For Sadhbh, it’s the extra-curricular courses and the specialist classes such as music, art, and physical education that are most enjoyable.
If I had to give advice to other parents looking for a school for their child, it would be to think of the child’s enjoyment and not just the academics. Very early start times and heavy homework loads can be tiring for a young child.”
David Gosling, Ireland
EtonHouse International Pre-School
718 Mountbatten Road
6846 3322 | etonhouse.com.sg
“When Samika (4) was younger we did many parent-and-child classes, which we loved, but when she was three-and-a-half I decided to look for a preschool for her. I talked to friends, read articles and adverts and looked to see what was in my area.
I wanted a nice environment that would allow my daughter to play, learn and socialise. As she was so young, I needed a school that would allow her to learn and explore through play and her own interests. I was hoping to find this in a location close to home, so we could walk to school and consequently gain some new school friends nearby.
We were very fortunate to find EtonHouse, which had everything we were looking for plus wonderful grounds with many varied environments for play and exploring.
I was concerned about Samika settling in, as we had always taken classes together and I knew how attached she was to me. I discussed this with her teachers and they were great in helping her adjust. I think it was key that we began with just one teaching assistant; she was amazing in helping Samika and communicating to me how she was doing (it’s a stressful time for parents, too!). She has settled well, loves school and is now a confident participant in her class.
According to Samika, her favourite thing at school is ‘everything!’. I know, though, that she especially likes physical education, learning songs with her classmates and exploring new books.”
Terry Joshi, UK
George Washington Preschool
200 Turf Club Road
#06-08 The Grandstand
6314 2884 | gwpreschool.org
“I recently enrolled my children, aged three and five, into the discovery classes at George Washington Preschool. My eldest daughter suffers from separation anxiety and has, on many occasions, cried and rejected new classes. Recently she even rejected going to her Montessori kindergarten, which she had attended for almost a year, due to a change in teachers.
At George Washington we were allowed to sit in with our children for their first lesson, which not only reduced their anxiety but gave me a chance to see how lessons are conducted and to gauge the quality of the teachers. From observation and regular updates about lesson plans, as well as the teacher’s feedback on the children’s progress, my confidence in the school has increased greatly.
I choose schools based on the quality of the teachers, and staff turnover is always a concern, so I was very glad when the preschool’s principal assured us that the teachers are on two-year contracts.
My children’s school has to be one that they love to go to. At George Washington Preschool they run to greet and hug the teachers, leaving me behind at the door. This is very different from the tugging and crying scenario at schools they have disliked. My eldest daughter told me the reason she likes going to her preschool is because of her teacher, Linda. ‘She has taught me many things,’ she says.”
Woo Jin May, Singapore
German European School Singapore (GESS)
72 Bukit Tinggi Road
6469 1131 | gess.sg
We had friends from Munich moving to Singapore just a couple of months before us and they told us about GESS. We visited the school for the first time and made our decision right away. This is our second time in Singapore – we’ve been back since August 2012, and we have chosen GESS for a second time, too.
Freja (6) is in the Preschool (German Section). We considered some other schools for her but her sister Josephine (12) is at GESS so we chose to keep them together. I really like the rules that Freja’s class follows: to help each other, listen to each other and enjoy friendship. The children do music, English, German, cooking, physical education and woodwork.
The teachers were very understanding during Freja’s first days at school, which made me feel comfortable, and Freja as well. She found friends quickly and it helped a lot. Playing with them is what she enjoys most about preschool.
I think when you choose a kindergarten or preschool it’s important you feel comfortable with the concepts of the school, with the teachers and with the location, of course – it has to be a convenient place to send your child, or at least not too far on the school bus.
Karoline Markl, Swedish
ISS International School
25 Paterson Road
6470 0113 | iss.edu.sg
“We were looking for a school for two of our three girls: Filippa, born in 2006, and Julia, born in 2007. We carried out research online, looking both at official school sites and at parents’ comments, and scheduled appointments at three schools during our five-day reconnaissance trip to Singapore.
The location of the school was important to us; we wanted it to be close to home and the office, so we could pick up the children ourselves and participate in school as much as possible.
We also like the size of ISS and that the teachers know the names of most of the students. In fact, during our meeting at ISS a child came in to see the nurse, who knew his name and received him really well.
Our girls did not speak a word of English when they arrived in Singapore, which was a challenge. We were worried about this for the first four months, but there have been no concerns since. You could tell they were frustrated, but at the same time they were both surprisingly well integrated and mostly happy being in school. The best advice to other parents is to try not to worry too much, even though it may be tough. Listen to the teachers who have great experience and can give reassurance.
We were lucky to have girls who were excited to start ‘school’ here. Wearing a uniform was very exciting for them and made preschool feel more like real school!”
Kristoff Schram, Sweden
Odyssey Wilkinson Road
101 Wilkinson Road
6781 8800 | theodyssey.sg
“My four-year-old daughter has been attending Odyssey preschool since the beginning of 2012. We selected it through online research, word of mouth, parenting forums and direct interaction. The endorsement from parents of Odyssey students was positive, spontaneously given, and supported with specific examples of how their children had benefited from being at the preschool.
Odyssey is an IB school that focuses on children’s holistic development. It sets them up for lifelong learning, instilling responsibility and curiosity, instead of just memorising facts or focusing on only academics.
Two site visits to the school clinched it for me. Being able to see the grounds and the classroom setting, observing a class in session and how staff interact with the children gave me the confidence that this preschool would suit my child.
The first couple of weeks were an adjustment, but the friendly staff helped. She was paired up with a buddy, a vivacious and helpful classmate who made sure she wasn’t lonely.
Early on in my second pregnancy, her teacher and I had a good talk about my daughter’s noticeable change in behaviour, and her teacher provided me with tips and materials to help my daughter through the changes that my pregnancy had brought on.
The teachers are very important, as they are the role models and authority figures for your child for a good part of their day during their formative years. My daughter loves her teachers and in her first few months there she would keep asking for them during the weekends!”
Connie Koh, America and Singapore
One World International School (OWIS)
696 Upper Changi Road
6542 2285 | owis.org
“Our son Will (5) and daughter Yasmin (almost 3) both attend OWIS. Will was at a local Montessori kindergarten and, as we live in the east of Singapore, we had intended to send him to another international school. When that school was unable to offer him a place for the next academic year, I recalled an ex-colleague praising OWIS. We had a tour of the school the next day, were instantly impressed and signed up immediately.
As an international family of two nationalities, the cultural diversity of both students and staff at OWIS really suits us. Will’s first class had 14 students from nine nationalities, and we relish the opportunity to expose our children to such an array of cultures, beliefs and faces!
Another aspect of OWIS that complements the IB programme and fantastic staff is that it is quite small in number. Nearly every child is known by name by practically every teacher; this nourishes the community and, as a consequence, our whole family has made some very dear friends through the school. The leadership, staff and atmosphere of OWIS have impressed us, and our children have flourished there.
For anyone considering a new preschool or kindergarten, the one piece of advice I would give (apart from considering OWIS) would be to look at term times, and consider the impact the school will have on their education at a later level, particularly if you’re likely to move to another country.”
Aran Dadswell, New Zealand
Pat’s Schoolhouse at Claymore Road
11 Claymore Road
6781 2288 | patschoolhouse.com
“Our twins Oscar and Charlotte (5) enrolled with Pat’s Schoolhouse in January 2009 at Halifax Road, and are currently at the Claymore Road schoolhouse in K2.
We initially used a relocation company to research a broad range of suitable schools that were compatible with where we wanted to live. The most important factor was a warm and caring environment for our children’s introduction to school, followed closely by a curriculum that included Mandarin and a range of learning experiences that we could share in. Finally, we wanted a preschool that built a good foundation for moving to a primary school in either the local or international school network. We felt that Pat’s offered these opportunities.
Plenty of new indoor and outdoor experiences helped Oscar and Charlotte settle into the Singapore environment quickly, and the teachers were key to providing a caring learning environment that welcomed them every day. They can’t wait to get to school each day, and that is a pleasure to see.
The kids would certainly highlight all the school friends they have and the interactive learning experiences as being the things that make it fun to be at school.
Look for a school with the right curriculum and a caring atmosphere, and observe the behaviour of teachers, the attention to cleanliness and the quality of the food. Also take time to observe the interaction between teachers and kids.”
Peter and Agnè s Cooke, Australia and France
60 Kheam Hock Road
6474 6181 | raintreeskindergarten.com
“My son Samuel (3) attends RainTrees Kindergarten and absolutely loves it! A friend recommended RainTrees and we decided on the first visit that it would be a great place for our child. The director showed us around and Samuel didn’t make it past the outdoor play area, he loved it so much.
We visited the classrooms and all the questions I had were answered. RainTrees is spacious and inviting and it really has a great feel about it. It wasn’t a hard decision, as Samuel wanted to stay on from our first visit.
I started him in the Caterpillars class last October, initially for two mornings a week. I was planning to wait until he was three before I extended this, but he was enjoying school so much I extended it to five mornings before Christmas.
Like any mum, I expected there to be tears on his first day, but there were so many things in the room that he just wanted to start exploring. It was just a matter of a kiss and a cuddle and ‘Bye, Mummy’ and he was off. It really helped that his teacher Karen was so engaging with him from the word go. She really gets down to the kids’ level and teaches them in a way that is fun and stimulating.
The whole team at RainTrees is lovely. I feel what Samuel does there is a great extension to what we do at home, and I cannot recommend it enough.”
Lesley Crawshaw, New Zealand
Singapore American School Pre-Kindergarten (Early Childhood Center)
40 Woodlands Street 41
6363 3403 | sas.edu.sg
“Our daughters Zoe (7) and Marley (4) are now in their second year at SAS Pre-Kindergarten. Before choosing to relocate to Singapore, my husband, who is an international schoolteacher, had been offered positions in Hong Kong, in Kuala Lumpur and at Singapore American School (SAS).
Finding somewhere with a strong early childhood education option for our children was crucial for us. From reviewing websites, as well as talking with staff, parents and administrators in all three places, it was clear that SAS provided top quality practices, resources and facilities.
The SAS school day isn’t too long, and the play-oriented environment attracted me. As a former pre-kindergarten teacher, I knew I wanted somewhere that my children could learn through play. SAS provides countless opportunities for this, both inside and outside the classroom.
The teachers and assistants set up learning environments where they can positively interact, guide, and build upon the child’s inquisitiveness. They also provide a structured day where the children learn the academic skills and vocabulary building blocks needed for learning to read and understanding mathematical concepts.
The school shines with diversity, and there are many children who have moved around and live international lives, just like my children.
For Marley, the comfort and simplicity of being with her family regularly, her fabulous, loving teachers, and the friendships she’s formed with other children have all helped her settle in. She also enjoys visiting her father’s high school classroom and watching him coach sports at SAS. It has helped her feel comfortable in the school community and environment.”
Laura Jo Evans, US
Stamford American International School
279 Upper Serangoon Road
6602 7247 | sais.edu.sg
“We have two children attending Stamford: Sofia (11) in Grade 5 and Maria-Francesca (3.5) in Nursery.
Our relocation from Switzerland happened at very short notice. To find a school, we had the help of the relocation agency and we also searched online. We wanted to send both daughters to the same school; some don’t accept children under three, and Francesca was turning two when we arrived.
We liked the look of Stamford and its programme. Plus, the fact that our two daughters could attend meant that Francesca would have the support of her older sister. We also believed that the sooner Francesca could go to school, the better it would be for her to develop her social and language skills. As expats, we know that these skills are important for better enjoying the great experience of living abroad.
The school facilities are very good; the nursery playground is big, with tents to protect the children from the sun.
The friendly environment has helped Francesca adapt to her new country and language. She loves her colleagues and teachers. ‘Splash Day’ is a favourite – wearing swimming suits and playing with water outdoors. She also enjoys painting (proud Dad gets new works for his ‘art gallery’ every week) and Chinese lessons – she even sings in Chinese at home.
At the end of school day, at 1.45pm, Francesca always gives me a big hug and asks if she can play with her friends before going home. She has a lot of energy!”
Sonia Evangelista, Brazil
Sunflower Baby House Grandstand
200 Turf Club Road
6463 1303 | sunflowerbabyhouse.com
“In January 2012, we moved to Singapore with our then two-year-old son and nine-month- old daughter. I was going to be working here too, and although we hired a helper, we felt that it would do the children good to enrol them at a preschool, also because they were both used to going to day-care in The Netherlands.
Our daughter was too young to enrol at the Hollandse School where we enrolled our son Tobias, so the search began for a preschool for her. This proved quite difficult, because most only take children from 18 months. My search started online, and Sunflower looked like an immediate match. When I learned that a friend of ours had enrolled her son there, much to her satisfaction, we paid it a visit.
The warm welcome, the caring staff and the combination of educational and physical play and social interaction very much appealed to us. Flore started at Sunflower for two days a week when she was 11 months old and we never regretted it. From the beginning, she seemed very comfortable. At 18 months, she moved to the playgroup (three days a week), which has a more defined learning and playing structure.
Flore is eager to learn and adores the teachers – she never leaves in the afternoon without a hug and a kiss for them. She has no difficulty saying goodbye to us in the morning, a clear sign that we made the right choice.”Reinder and Céline Peek-Grimbergen, Holland
Swallows & Amazons
200 Turf Club Road
6762 8158 | swallowsandamazons.com.sg
“Swallows and Amazons (SAA) has been a big part of our lives since we arrived in Singapore in 2009. After an exhaustive search for a suitable preschool for our boys, we finally chanced upon SAA. We were taken with the warmth and openness of Jackie Barkham and her staff, as well as the large and well-equipped outdoor play area with its fabulous tree-house. What clinched it for us, though, was the environment they created for the kids: nurturing, empowering and fun, with a big dose of old-school can-do attitude.
Our older son, Daniel (now 7), was at SAA for two and a half years before going to UWC; James (aged 4) will have been there for the same length of time when he moves on to UWC in August 2013.
SAA does not merely pay lip service to the ‘learning through play’ concept – this is part of the SAA culture, which has benefitted both of my boys enormously. Their curiosity has been encouraged, but within a culture of mutual respect, and without preciousness or overt permissiveness.
The staff at SAA has been consistently supportive through the ups, downs and other vagaries of our lives; we will miss them enormously when James leaves the school.”
Wendy Lötter, South Africa
Tanglin Trust School
95 Portsdown Road
6778 0771 | tts.edu.sg
“We have three boys: Angus (8) and Archie (4) who are currently at Tanglin, and Rory (2) who is starting in August. We arrived in Singapore when our eldest was 18 months old and quickly started to research schooling options.
I went to a small village school in the UK with ten pupils in my year group, so I didn’t know what to expect from my first visit to Tanglin. Despite its size, it has a lovely atmosphere, helped by the open plan layout in each of the year groups and very friendly staff. The infant school (Nursery to Year 2) is located in a separate building, but still feels very much part of the wider community.
We also wanted a school that had a British-based curriculum, to ease our eventual transfer back to the UK. At the same time, we wanted a multi-cultural environment. Angus had at least 15 different nationalities in his infant classes, and both he and Archie have made wonderful friends.
Luckily, both Angus and Archie bounded into school on their first day and haven’t looked back. Over the past five years, the boys have had some wonderful and dedicated teachers – very professional and approachable. There is the usual broad spectrum of activities, but also an emphasis on producing well-rounded, confident characters, not just academic achievers.
Archie says the best part of school is playtime and swimming and Angus told me that it was his teachers and lunch! Overall, we feel very fortunate that they enjoy Tanglin so much and love going to school every day.”
Belinda Brown, UK
UWC South East Asia Dover (UWCSEA)
1 Tampines Street 73
6305 5344 | uwcsea.edu.sg
To find the right school for our kids, we set up meetings with each expatriate school in Singapore and went through our priorities. These were based on providing our children the best and broadest education possible and were, primarily, the school’s education philosophy, course work, facilities, cultural mix, industry mix, teacher-student ratios and final year performance. We also consulted alumni within the expat community. Based on the pros and cons for our family and feedback from alumni, UWCSEA Dover campus came out as the clear leader for us.
The philosophy of the school is aligned with how we wish to bring up our children. The IB programme is internationally recognised and UWCSEA’s final year performance is outstanding. Their facilities for sport and music are excellent which allows our children to engage in a broad range of sports and musical activities. The school also provides a very broad view of the world that better enables our children to see opportunities for themselves.
Our children love the school. They are young so they are focused on the choices of activities, the humanitarian work and most importantly the strong friendships they have formed with classmates. It seems that many UWCSEA Dover families are in Singapore for the longer term and this helps foster friendships as the children move up together over multiple years.’
Roslyn Paterson, Australian
White Lodge East Coast
102 Guillemard Road, #02-01
6440 6690 | whitelodge.com.sg
“When we arrived in Singapore with our three girls in August 2010, we knew few people. We researched kindergartens through the web, initially, but we were living in a serviced apartment and had no definite address, so we didn’t know where to look first.
On the advice of a friend who had a daughter at White Lodge, and went there and took a look. The school principal was very welcoming and the clean, spacious feel of the kindergarten was extremely appealing. So we started our two eldest girls there.
Once we’d moved into our place, we did tours of the kindergartens that were located closer, but none of them seemed to have the same rich syllabus and warm, welcoming feeling.
Three years on, our eldest daughter Harper has successfully transitioned to school, Indianna is in the final class preparing for school next year and our youngest, Ella-Belle, has just started at White Lodge.
Each of the girls had the usual issues in adjusting to life in Singapore and starting kindergarten, including tears and insecurity. The White Lodge teachers were very supportive and nurturing and worked with them through these natural stages.
The girls have all loved learning phonics, maths, and Mandarin, as well as the performances and art displays each term and, of course, the year-end performance. We recommend White Lodge to any family looking for a learning experience that is fun, collaborative and welcomes parent engagement. White Lodge offers flexible attendance hours, which is very helpful during the adjustment period as your child is fitting in.”
Jason Honrado and Danielle Johnson, Australia