How To Choose An International School

What's the best way to choose an international school in Singapore? The application cycle for the 2020-21 academic year is now open at most schools. So, here's everything you need to make an informed decision about the right primary or secondary school for your child.
How To Choose An International School
By Carli Allan
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When faced with a choice of more than 90 international schools, how do you pick the best school for your child? With a variety of IB, UK, US, French, German and Singaporean curricula-led schools, tuition fees ranging from the less than $15,000 to more than $40,000, and campuses in every neighbourhood, it's not an easy decision to make.

To help you get started, here is WhichSchoolAdvisor.com's step-by-step guide to what questions to ask and what to consider when making your shortlist of primary or secondary international schools in Singapore.

Checklist

The best way to make an informed decision about which school is right for your child is to consider the following key points regarding curriculum, location, facilities, school community, faculty and fees.

Curriculum

• What curriculum does the school follow?
• How does the school encourage and monitor students' progress?
• How is technology used to support teaching and learning at the school?
• How do the arts fit into the curriculum? Is there a school choir, band or orchestra? A school production? Art classes?
• How does the school teach Mandarin?
• What is the school’s homework policy?
• How does the school support students who have academic, social or emotional difficulties? Does the school have a well-staffed learning support department?
• What extra-curricular activities are available? Can students play competitive sports against other schools?

School community

• Do the children seem happy and engaged?
• Are the children smart, personable and presentable? A school that adheres to a dress code or strict uniform, as well as neatness and politeness among students is a school that will be equally as conscientious in its teaching standards.
• What is the school's approach to children’s behaviour and safety?
• Is there an active Parent Teacher Association (PTA)?
• How does the school keep parents informed of news and information regarding the school faculty?
• Where do most of the students live?

Staff and students

• How many children are in each class?
• How many different nationalities of children?
• What are the nationalities of your staff?
• How do you recruit your staff?
• What is your staff retainment rate?

Campus and facilities

• Is the school well maintained? International schools can sometimes mask their shortfalls behind state-of-the-art facilities and a contemporary building design. You should always be looking for a tidy, clean and well-maintained school that focuses its efforts and its funds on the education of the pupils rather than the latest gadgets or modern interior design.
• What outdoor facilities are available for learning and play?
• Is it a large campus? If so, are the breaks and lunch staggered? Are the younger and older students separated from each other?

School day

• What are the school start and finish times, breaks?
• What is the academic calendar? While most international schools in Singapore follow a August/September-June/July academic year, some follow the Singaporean and Australian January to December to calendar, and most Indian schools run from April to March.
• Does the school offer hot/cold meals, or do students need to bring a packed lunch?

Admissions

• What is the ratio of applicants to acceptances for students?
• What are the age cut-offs? This can vary between schools offering different international curricula, so do check.
• If visiting a primary school, where do students continue their secondary schooling?

Location

• How far away is the school from your home?
• How do children travel to school? Is there a bus service?
• Is there adequate parking?
• How are pick up and drop off times managed?

And finally… your gut instinct is usually correct, so if you feel comfortable with the school, trust your intuition and go for it.

If your child likes the school, feels comfortable and happy during the visit, then it probably is the right one for them. While you shouldn’t allow your child to have the casting vote, take their opinions and feelings into account before making your decision.

Next page: Is the school registered with the CPE?

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