Which School? Big vs Small, the Pros & Cons

How important is the size of your child’s school? It’s not about one being better than the other, but more about finding the right fit for your child.
Which School? Big vs Small, the Pros & Cons
By Carli Allan
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One size does not fit all when it comes to education. While one child may thrive in a small school of just 100 students, another will prefer the opportunities offered at a large school with 1,000 girls and boys. Both large and small schools have their advantages and disadvantages, and the size of the student community is one of the many factors to consider when choosing a school.

In Singapore, there are international schools of all sizes. There are standalone primary schools with just 140 students, such as Rosemount International School; small all-through schools with less than 250 students, such as Sir Manasseh Meyer International School; and some of the world’s largest all-through schools with more than 2,000 students, including Tanglin Trust School (pictured above).

Do you choose a smaller standalone primary where your child will be known by every teacher, or send them to a large all-through school where they will have access to a wider range of facilities, specialist teachers and after-school clubs? To help guide your decision, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com looks at some of Singapore’s smallest and largest international schools to understand the pros and cons of each.

Having visited hundreds of schools worldwide, WhichSchoolAdvisor has seen the strengths of schools of all sizes. But what do the schools think – is a small or large school right for your child?


Friendship Captains and Class Reps at Tanglin Trust School

There’s a wide choice of international schools in Singapore with more than 1,000 students – and numbers are rising at some of the newer schools including North London Collegiate School (Singapore). Looking ahead, One World International School (OWIS) will open its third campus in September 2023 – an all-through school for 1,500 students in in the Punggol Digital District (PDD).

Singapore American School is certainly the biggest school in the city with a total of 3,900 students and 380 teachers. GIIS SMART Campus school has capacity for 4,000 students. And Tanglin Trust School has more than 2,700 students (736 Infants, 768 Juniors and 1,320 Seniors), representing 51 different nationalities.

Tanglin’s Director of Learning John Ridley says:

“What matters is that children are ‘known’ in their schools; they need to be able to build relationships with their peers and with teachers and other key adults to feel secure and happy.

“At Tanglin, we pride ourselves on being a big school with a small school feel. In the Infant and Junior Schools, the classes in each year group are located together and all children get to know those eight teachers really well; there is more movement around the Senior School but tutor bases for each year group are located together for the same reason, and tutors and Heads of Year stay with the same group of students for several years to build up strong relationships.”


Students in the library at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS)

By contrast, Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS) has just 230 students aged 18 months through to 16 years, and offers a full-time Pre-School all the way through to Year 11 (I/GCSEs). While smaller in numbers, it still has a very international student body (24 different nationalities).

Principal Elaine Robinson says:

“Some children thrive in a small school, whereas others prefer the anonymity that a big school offers. The love and care that the students receive in a small setting are invaluable for many young people. Additional staff can offer in class support which provides focussed interventions that ensure rapid progress in a small class setting.

“At SMMIS we’re very fortunate that we can offer state-of-the-art facilities even though our setting is small. Although our ECAs or drama performances might feel less grand, the partnerships we are able to forge with external providers here in Singapore and abroad certainly make up for it. We are proud of our student achievements in national competitions; for example, we have teen champions in tennis and gymnastics.”

Next: Will a larger school offer a broader curriculum?

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