While school fees still need to be paid during the ongoing school closures, there is some good news for parents. Tuition fees for the 2020-21 academic year are being frozen at schools, and several international schools have announced discounts, rebates and financial aid packages.
Note this is version 3 of this article. We expect there to be multiple updates, so keep tabs on this page.
Many international schools are freezing tuition fees, as well as additional costs such as capital levies, for the 2020-21 academic year. When you consider that schools typically increase fees by around 3-4%, this decision does offer parents some financial relief. However, it does not benefit those families who are leaving their school at the end of this academic year for any given reason. Those freezing fees include Dulwich College (Singapore), Stamford American International School, Chatsworth International School, International Community School (ICS), Singapore American School, Dover Court International School, Canadian International School, UWCSEA (Dover and East campuses), and ISS International School.
The EtonHouse International Education Group is offering a fee rebate at all its schools during the circuit breaker period until June 1. Families at EtonHouse’s pre-schools, primary and secondary schools will receive a 20% rebate while schools switch to distance learning during the circuit breaker period. This will benefit families at campuses in Orchard, Broadrick, Thomson and Sentosa, as well as more than 10 pre-schools across Singapore. The rebate will apply to Term 1 fees for the 2020-21 academic year, so will benefit only families who are staying at the school beyond this term.
During this period of all EtonHouse Pre-Schools under the ECDA (Early Childhood Development Agency) will be offering a 50% rebate on fees for all Singaporean children.
Ng Yi Xian, Executive Director, EtonHouse International Education Group says, “These are uncertain times for both families and the economy but one thing that connects us all is that we are in this together and the only way we can beat it and come out stronger is if we collaborate. Unlike other school groups, we have many different schools and are governed by different regulators and have a diverse mix of families and teachers. We are doing our part to support all our families in whichever way we can.
“The group is also working with individual families who are facing financial difficulties due to the loss of their jobs to support them during this challenging time. In addition, the EtonHouse Community Fund, the charity arm has stepped up to reach out to those outside our community who do not have the infrastructure to access home-based learning through physical learning kits and sponsorship of routers and sim cards.”
The government’s Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) requires all pre-school operators to offset 50% of student fees for Singaporean children not attending school during the circuit breaker period. MindChamps, which is Singapore's largest pre-school provider, is giving a 50% discount at all its pre-schools for the month of May, to all parents irrespective of nationality.
Chatsworth has fixed fees for the coming academic year and is offering a rebate on Term 3 fees; the school is also discounting 50% off application and confirmation fees for new parents. Existing families who have confirmed that they will be moving to the Bukit Timah campus when Chatsworth’s Orchard campus closes in June, have already been offered discounts on fees for 2020-21.
The school explains: “All our families will be given a rebate from 1st April to the end of this academic year. The rebate will be automatically applied to the first semester tuition fees for the coming 2020-2021 academic year.”
As well as freezing fees for the 2020-21 academic year, UWCSEA is giving a $1,000 credit per student to all families at its Dover and East campuses. The school is also launching a Financial Assistance Programme in June to support families who are experiencing short-term financial hardship as a result of an unexpected change in circumstances.
In addition to freezing fees for the 2020-21 academic year (a decision that was made prior to the Covid-19 outbreak), ISS International School is offering an assistance grant equivalent to 5% of this term's tuition fees to be credited to next year's Semester 1 fees. The school has also adjusted its fee policies for the next academic year by reducing its early years tuition fees for kindergarten, amending its sibling policy, and introducing a postcode catchment discount.
The school says: “Starting from August 2021, we have a number of new tuition fee assistance policies, aimed at being able to help our families with the ever-increasing costs of international school fees.”
From August, ISS will move all its early years and primary students from its Paterson campus to its Preston campus. Read more here. Tuition fees for kindergarten have been reduced to $22,577 from $25,792 to “make it more convenient for our families that have both Primary and Early years children to school both children at one location.”
There is a now a 5% discount on fees for a second child, as well as 10% for the third child onwards. ISS says that “in keeping with our position as Singapore’s original village school” it now offers a 3% catchment discount on fees for families who live within the Alexandra/Gillman community; this covers districts such as Queenstown, Orchard, and Tanglin.
Dover Court International School has frozen fees for the next academic year, and is offering all families a one-off credit against Term 1 fees; this will be 15% for Nursery to Year 2, 10% for Years 3-6 and 5% for secondary. Fees are also being discounted for children in the school's Pathway 4 classes.
Singapore American School is freezing tuition and fees for the 2020-21 academic year and rolling back the 3.5% increase announced last fall; for parents who have already paid for next year, they will be offered a rebate of 3.5%.
The school says: “We are fully committed to providing students the best possible opportunities in the distance learning environment that is now required by the Singapore government. The shift to distance learning, in fact, has in many cases caused the school to need a higher level of time commitment and additional resources than before.”
Singapore is among the 10 most expensive countries for an international education, according to an ExpatFinder survey. Schools in Singapore have only been closed for a few weeks, and only a few have offered any discounted fees for the period of distance learning. By comparison, international schools in other popular expat destinations are also offering parents some reduction in fees after just a three or four weeks of school closures. For example, private schools in the UAE are offering immediate discounts of 10-30% on this term’s fees; parents needing further support are often encouraged to approach the school for additional support on a "case by case" basis.
There is no government directive on fee reductions in the UAE, and schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi are making unilateral decisions on how much to discount fees and for how long. Similarly, we are not seeing global school groups making any global decisions on fees.
For example, Nord Anglia School Dubai announced that it will be applying a 15% discount to all tuition fees for Term 3 across all year groups, and Nord Anglia's sister school, British International School Abu Dhabi (BISAD) similarly announced a 15% reduction in fees. The Nord Anglia-owned Dover Court International School is yet to make any similar announcement on discounted fees.
There are two sides to consider here. Schools need fees to survive, and money that schools collect goes, largely, to paying staff, rent, and running costs. However, that does not change the fact some form of financial support needs to be put in place for parents who do meet financial difficulties because of Covid-19.
Many international schools already offer parents financial aid in the form of scholarships and bursaries; they have existing schemes that can be applied for annually and are either means-tested or awarded for academic excellence.
Some of Singapore’s top schools have a scholarship programme that covers the tuition fees for primary and/or secondary education. Competition for scholarships is often high and the application process can be rigorous; while some are only available for Hong Kong permanent residents, others are awarded on a competitive basis to all students regardless of nationality and residency.