Meet the Head At One World International School

Meet Michelle Dickinson, the head of school at one of Singapore’s newest and most affordable schools, One World International School (OWIS) Nanyang.
Meet the Head At One World International School
By Carli Allan
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It’s July 2018, One World International School (Nanyang) has been open just six months, and founding head of school Michelle Dickinson is already celebrating a positive response from cost-conscious parents across Singapore.

It may be early days for OWIS, which describes itself as a “thoughtfully priced international school”, but there are already long waiting lists for some places in the August 2018 academic year. Ms Dickinson talks to WhichSchoolAdvisor about just how this school is offering an international education for less.

"International schools' approach to traditional curriculum is informed by the Four Cs of 21st-century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity."

What makes OWIS Nanyang stand out from other international schools in Singapore?

We are an affordable fee international school that upholds the philosophy of inclusivity, and our 30% national cap means we live and breathe diversity.

Read about our tour of the campus here.

OWIS Nanyang is a part of the well-established and not-for-profit Global Schools Foundation, which owns the GIIS and SMART campuses in Singapore. How does this help you to maintain your low-fee structure?

At OWIS, we have carefully studied the most effective strategies for minimising expenses while protecting education quality. As a larger education group, OWIS can distribute its IT and back-office staffing costs across several sites. We leverage our size to procure books and resources at competitive rates.

How does teaching differ to the GIIS schools, which largely follow an Indian curriculum?

We are an IB PYP school and we underpin this philosophy with the UK National Curriculum. This approach ensures that our students are ready for IGCSEs through our concept-driven approach. Also, we are focused on Mandarin as our second language.

You have said that “higher fees are no guarantee of a better education”. But what areas have you had to make cutbacks in to keep tuition fees low?

OWIS’ flexible, cost-effective approach requires parents to pay only for the activities in which their children engage, without compromising the quality of the core-learning programme. Public facilities or shared premises can be used for co-curricular activities and field trips; students can explore local neighbourhoods, meet peers from other schools, and familiarise themselves with Singapore's history and culture.

Are you confident that you can still offer parents all the benefits of an international education?

International schools offer a unique take on learning. Parents typically choose these schools for what they view as nurturing environments with teachers with a global outlook, smaller classes and more capacity for parental involvement. This is in contrast to more traditional school models, which rely mostly on academic scores to gauge a child's intelligence or ability. International schools' approach to traditional curriculum is informed by the Four Cs of 21st-century education: critical thinking, communication, collaboration and creativity.

Schools, like any big business, each have a reputation to maintain. While seeking to lower costs, educators must attract good faculty and keep enrolment rates high. This means that schools should emphasise both quality and affordability of education.

What are the greatest challenges that you face in your first year as principal?

We are a rapidly growing school and we expect to be at a capacity within the year – this brings its own challenges.

You previously worked for six years in China and the last three years in Ethiopia developing curriculum and assessment practices. What attracted you to this position as head of OWIS Nanyang?

I love that inexplicable sense of happiness when children are in school. Or when our parents and visitors tell us how happy our children are at school. The happiness really is something quite tangible and visible when you visit...

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