Principal Views: The Year in Review, and Ahead

As one calendar year ends and another begins, we spoke to the principals at some of Singapore’s international schools about their highlights of 2019 and their hopes for 2020.
Principal Views: The Year in Review, and Ahead
By Carli Allan
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LET'S GO speaks to three principals, asking them to reflect on 2019, as well as the upcoming challenges for Singapore schools, and education in general, in 2020.

The three principals? Nick Magnus, headmaster at Dulwich College (Singapore), Craig Considine, CEO at Tanglin Trust School, and Elaine Robinson, principal at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS). We begin with a school that this year celebrated its 400th year...

Nick Magnus, headmaster at Dulwich College (Singapore)


What has been your school’s highlight of 2019?

There are so many things that we are fortunate enough to celebrate every week but an undoubted highlight for me this year was the Dulwich College Olympiad. Students from all of the Dulwich International schools travelled to the College in London for a week of sport, music, art, drama and friendship to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the Founding of Dulwich College in 1619. We took 130 students from Singapore and they competed at iconic sporting events such as the London Stadium, The Olympic Park Aquatic Centre and the Copper Box, all venues for the 2012 London Olympic games.

Our actors and musicians performed at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank. A contemporary adaptation of Dr Faustus by Christopher Marlowe with a combined Dulwich cast of students from all over the world was one of the finest pieces of school theatre that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. There were also many other 400th anniversary celebrations taking place at the College in Singapore throughout the year, for the whole school to get involved with. It was certainly a momentous year for Dulwich.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

I am really excited about the wellbeing agenda that we are driving forward at the College at the moment. We have introduced student services where we triangulate our social and emotional counselling, university and careers guidance and our nursing provision. This fits within a wider supportive well-being programme where a culture of well-being is created where everyone is connected and the focus is on the individual.

We are working in partnership with MIT on a compassionate systems framework and although it is early days yet, I firmly believe that it will benefit everyone in our community.

What do you think will be the biggest changes in education in Singapore over the next three years?

Continuing with the well-being agenda I believe that this is something which is prominent on the wish list for all schools in Singapore. We have been pleased to share our work in this field with colleagues from the Ministry of Education of late. We are anxious to share with both Singaporean and international schools in putting all of our children and their health and happiness first. I believe we are all aligned here so watch this space.


Craig Considine, CEO, Tanglin Trust School


What has been your school’s highlight of 2019?

Tanglin’s academic results are consistently outstanding, and this year was no exception. This year the IB average (38.2), A Level results (47% of all grade were A* or A) and (I)GCSE results (74% of all grades were A*, A or equivalent) were all excellent.

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

Our new 11-storey Edu-Sport building is being erected and while it will not be completed until August 2021, it requires significant attention at this planning and construction phase. We will not increase the school’s student numbers and as such it is possible to re-purpose a number of areas around the school to further enhance the learning opportunities our students have.

It is the people that make great schools. Meeting our new staff and students is the thing I am looking forward to most. Everyone brings something unique to our already diverse and interesting community. Programmes in music and sport that reflect a high-performance focus will support top performers and encourage all of our students to develop healthy attitudes to physical education, sport and the arts.

What do you think will be the biggest changes in education in Singapore over the next three years?

Many of the changes that will occur in education reflect global trends. Shortage of excellent teachers, relentless focus on tutoring to achieve top grades, parents training their children with a multitude of extra-curricular activities all create significant pressures in a world where schools are required to manage the balance in children’s lives.

Tanglin will respond to these changes in a number of ways, providing excellent academic and co-curricular programmes that balance each young person’s load. Great schools provide rock solid values and programmes that help each young person to aspire to excellence. We hope though new facilities and integrated staffing, wellbeing is the focus. We aim to provide a school environment that nurtures and allows our children to flourish by providing a balanced experience whilst preparing each individual for the step ahead.

Academic success is the currency for the next educational step. Unfortunately, one of the greatest challenges at present is the growth of tutor colleges and the belief that this will provide the required results. Ensuring each young person develops emotionally and socially with the skills to undertake roles in an emerging workforce is the current challenge for schools and universities. Education must enable each individual to fulfil their potential in all areas of life. Preparing just for academic success has never been the Tanglin way and we will continue to see honest, empathetic young people of integrity and character as the real mark of our graduates.


Elaine Robinson, principal at Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS)


What has been your school’s highlight of 2019?

The introduction of the SMMIS Makerspace, the development and delivery of an engaging Makerspace programme to enrich the technological prowess of our students, and the launch of the IGCSE courses for our growing secondary school. Further development of learning celebrations and showcasing of student learning of the IPC (International Primary Curriculum).

What are you most looking forward to in 2020?

The further expansion of our state-of-the-art secondary school. Further cultivating a culture of giving more Interfaith, volunteering and charity work opportunities to all of our students, and to bringing restorative practices more widely and explicitly into our school community to make it even more productive and harmonious.

Also, the growth of ICT across the curriculum through our makerspace and other STEAM programmes, along with the implementation and extended opportunities for our Able and Ambitious students.

What do you think will be the biggest changes in education in Singapore over the next three years?
A move away from the traditional academic disciplines and a focus more on life skills and the wellbeing of students and less focus on exams and ranking. A greater focus on critical and creative thinking, linking learning to real problems and situations. Moving away from a testing culture to other forms of assessment and recognition of achievement.

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