2021 is very much for the brave when it comes to starting new ventures. And, while global education groups are postponing school openings worldwide due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, this new standalone primary school is all set to open in August.
Knightsbridge House International (KBH) is founded by South African entrepreneur John Fearon, who is no stranger to the world of private education in Singapore. In 2016, he founded Invictus International School (Dempsey) to offer a private education without the frills; as a parent who felt so disgruntled with the cost of education in Singapore, he decided to launch his own school with fees of $17,000 per year. In just five years, the Invictus brand of education has grown in student numbers, reputation, and facilities; there are now two campuses in Singapore and other schools in Hong Kong, Cambodia and China.
Last year, Fearon stepped away from the Invictus group, which is still owned by Chip Eng Seng (CES). He has spent the past 12 months working on a new and even more affordable brand of education – KBH. With an all-inclusive annual tuition fee of $12,000 (payable over five instalments), it is $5,000 cheaper than Invictus. There are no registration fees, and the added incentive of a free bus service to Sentosa for the first academic year.
Fearon told WhichSchoolAdvisor.com:
"I am firmly committed to establishing a new school that enables a life-long love for learning and creates a warm and inviting community where all children will flourish. Every decision we make at school is centred on giving the best possible learning experiences to my children, and to all children of Knightsbridge House.
"Knightsbridge House’s core values are principled on high quality, yet affordable education. All the students will have the additional opportunity to access a special after-school programme at KBH Academy, the new professional one-stop Sports and Enrichment Centre that I opened in Phoenix Park, Tanglin Road, a few months ago. It has got a very own multi purpose sports fields for rugby, cricket and football training, a full size basketball court and beautifully appointed indoor studios for coding and arts. KBH students will have an option to have their days enriched until 7pm daily."
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Knightsbridge House International, which was originally called KBH Institution, has no links to Knightsbridge School in the UK. It has just been registered with Singapore’s Committee for Private Education (CPE), which regulates the private education sector. In order to be registered, a Private Education Institution (PEI) must meet CPE’s requirements for school premises, quality of academic programmes, teaching staff, and a fee protection scheme.
The school plans to “deliver high quality affordable international education in a nurturing and inspiring environment”. Just as he did with Invictus, Fearon is keeping costs low at KBH by offering parents a stripped-back version of an international education.
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Its waterfront campus will not have the state-of-the-art sports, arts and academic facilities that many international campuses here do. However, KBH does boast of having “easy access to lush greenways, beaches, and all the attractions on the beautiful Sentosa island”, and the timetable will include opportunities such as a “nature or history walk, sand-castle making at our beaches, sports, and play-based activities”.
KBH will be only the second international school on Sentosa island; the other one is EtonHouse International School Sentosa. It opens in the building previously occupied by the Invictus Sentosa campus, which was only open for a short time for Grades 1 and 2.
Once again, Fearon is trying to shake up Singapore’s private education sector by going against the grain – and he re-enters the market at a time when expat packages continue to shrink and finding the money to pay school fees is a growing challenge for families who have relocated here.
And, once again, Fearon is fiercely ambitious and a strong believer in his own brand of education. He is already opening a sister school in Hanoi, Vietnam, plans to roll out a secondary school in Singapore in future years, and has launched the Knightsbridge House Family Digital School offering online learning.
"I have been mindful to ensure that, as the founder of Knightsbridge House, I remain in control of how the school is run regardless of if we partner with investors in the future."
Teaching will follow the International Primary School Curriculum, as well as the rigorous Singapore curriculum for maths, and daily lessons in Mandarin as a second language. Class sizes will be average for Singapore with a teacher to student ratio of 1:22.
KBH will become one of around 10 international schools in Singapore where teaching follows the International Primary Curriculum (IPC) in part or full; this thematic approach to teaching subjects is adopted by schools of all budgets, from Middleton Tampines up to SJI International. The IPC is also taught at the Invictus family of schools.
The IPC is cheaper to teach than the International Baccalaureate (IB) programme, which is taught at many international schools in Singapore, but John Fearon has previously asserted that, “it’s lower cost, not lower quality.”
The small team of teachers so far have been recruited from Singapore and the US, and they have experience of teaching the IPC; members of the school’s academic board include Fearon’s father Dr Jeff Fearon. A headteacher is yet to be appointed.
In line with most international schools, the academic year will run from August to June, and there will be four terms; the school will open on Monday, August 16 2021 and the school day will be 9am - 3:30pm. KBH is open to students of all nationalities and it has an open enrolment policy throughout the school year.
The school promises to offer a wide range of daily extra-curricular activities ranging from sport (football, basketball, yoga and cricket) to academic courses (STEM robotics, coding, Mandarin enrichments, additional languages, science and sustainability, and art). Many of these will take place at KBH Academy at Phoenix Park in Tanglin, another venture launched by John Fearon, which has a basketball court, football field, and indoor studios.