Are there are opportunities to buy your way to the top of the admissions list though? In countries including Hong Kong and the UAE parents can secure priority on waitlists by buying a debenture, and the price of these can run into six figures. International schools in Singapore do not typically offer such a debenture system. There are a few exceptions to this, though. Tanglin Trust School, Singapore American School and UWC South East Asia all offer a guaranteed placement programme.
At Tanglin, families and companies can buy their right to a place: either a standard placement right for $90,950 that places the child at the top of the relevant waiting list, or a guaranteed placement right for $176,550.
While anyone can buy one of these placement rights, Tanglin Trust says that “we anticipate most demand to come from companies who are looking to relocate families with children and who are finding it difficult to secure places at Tanglin because of waiting lists. Many families are unwilling to commit to a move to Singapore without knowing their children's education is secure.”
At SAS, companies or individuals can pay to move “to the front of the admissions queue”. And companies can pay $225,000 (plus GST) to the UWCSEA Nominee Programme (UNP) for a single place at its Dover or East campuses; this place is valid for eight years and is paid for by companies looking to secure a place at a top international school for expat employees moving into Singapore.
UWCSEA says: “Funds from the UNP have enabled UWCSEA to initiate a number of programmes including: increasing the number of scholarships, contributing to building the East Campus, providing teaching staff with outstanding professional development opportunities and building an endowment fund.”
At all these schools, students who enter through a guaranteed placement programme must still meet their entry requirements, which include English language proficiency and possibly other tests.
There are also various ways to get priority admission that won’t cost you a penny! Most schools will give priority to siblings; other priority groups can include school employees, alumni, and students transferring from another school in the same group (for example, Dulwich College).
A small number of international schools have an enrolment cap for students from particular countries or language groups; this is often a requirement by the Ministry of Education to help limit nationality dominance and create diversity rather than a decision by the school. For example, at Middleton International School (Tampines), OWIS and GIIS SMART there is a 30% cap on every nationality; OWIS has reached its cap on Indian and Japanese students but admissions are still open to other nationalities.
Other schools where your nationality can be an advantage to securing a place include SAS, where priority is given to US citizens and non-US families working for an American company; at GESS, entry into the German stream requires “native or near native level of German.
We’re also seeing a rising number of all-through schools open up a nursery, perhaps to help encourage early enrolment into the school. For example, GEMS World Academy (Singapore) opened Little GEMS for two to three-year-olds in January 2019, and both Stamford American International School and Australian International School now enrol children as young as two months at their shared Early Learning Village. For parents who are committed to enrolling their child into one of Singapore’s more oversubscribed schools, taking this pre-school route may help to avoid disappointment later on.