Early years education in Singapore's international schools
In the past three years there has been a noticeable increase in the number of international schools opening a nursery and pre-school for children as young as two months.
To help create that ‘small school feel’, these schools house their nursery and kindergarten classes in a self-contained early years’ centre with its own community of classrooms, learning pods and recreational areas. This can offer families the best of both worlds – many of the advantages found in smaller schools with all the benefits of a large, fully-equipped campus. They often have lessons from specialist subject teams, such as Mandarin, swimming, music, dance and PE, and have access to outstanding facilities that smaller nurseries simply cannot offer.
But what makes an international school’s early years’ programme truly outstanding?
In this Award category, we were looking at how schools deliver an outstanding early years education for children in terms of the academic, pastoral care, sport and the arts. We asked does it offer a breadth of education that establishes the foundations for primary school, and how well does the school support the transition from early years to primary? Also, has the school developed a learning environment designed for early years learners, is it investing in teaching expertise, resources and leadership, and how does the school track progress and connect with other parts of its school?
How are the Winners and Highly Commended schools decided?
Our panel of expert judges selected the Award winners based on their strengths; feedback from parents, teachers and students in WhichSchoolAdvisor surveys; information in the Award entries submitted by schools and parents; and reviews by WhichSchoolAdvisor (Singapore) editors.
Strengths of the school include:
Judges said that Dulwich’s ambitious forest school offers “fantastic opportunities for young children”, and the dual language programme immersing younger students into languages is impressive. The school stands out for its “fantastic range of CCAs which allows for a smooth transition into the older years”, as well as its focus on encouraging “the love for learning”.
Sasha Crabb, Principal, Victory Heights Primary School, Dubai, said:
“I was really taken by the sense of confidence from the school and the belief in the application of what under-fives actually need in terms of learning experiences. It genuinely feels as if the setting knows their community, knows who they are catering for and believes in making childhood memories for all. What a bursting bundle of days and projects for all their young learners.”
The school stands out for its commitment to the UK's Forest School programme, which judges say is proven to offer a myriad of benefits to children, especially those residing in urban areas.
Jenny Mollon, Director of Education at Kidzink Design, said:
"Dulwich College (Singapore) leads with a vision of being child-centric and then consistently demonstrates a deep understanding of what this really means. The physical, social and emotional and communication development of the children is paramount here.
"Here's a school that puts emphasis on student agency, which allows the youngest of children to create and understand the powerful impact their actions can make."
The general feedback from parents is that Dulwich College (Singapore) offers an academically rigorous curriculum as part of a balanced education that offers some exciting opportunities in sport and the arts. According to our Parent Survey, 69% of parents think their child has a tremendous sense of belonging at the school, which is a sign that the school is creating an environment where students, of all abilities, should flourish.
“Dulwich has really delivered on what it promised - a family culture with a focus on kindness and nurturing global citizens who will shape our world. The school is proudly academic but there is also a strong focus on sport and the arts. Student achievements, big or small are recognised and celebrated. We have been blessed with excellent teachers who genuinely care about the development and wellbeing of their students.”
"This school is turning my son into an ever more confident young man who is happy, positive and fulfille."
"The whole package is outstanding. The Forest School provision is particularly innovative - both of my children love it above all else!"
"In keeping with Dulwich College tradition, the early years centre for children aged two to seven years (toddler to Year 2) is endearingly known as DUCKS. In the Foundation Stage, teaching follows the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework and children learn through purposeful play combined with a focus on learning to read and beginning to write in both English and Mandarin.
"The College is an international school with a strong British independent school ethos. It’s a school for the ambitious and the talented, and for the student who thrives in a competitive environment – and the foundations for academic success are laid in the early years.
"DUCKS immerses children in a dual language environment, introduces them to the concept of performance in the early grades, and encourages leadership and teamwork from a young age. However, this is a school that also sees the true value in outdoor education, in creativity, and in having (particularly muddy!) play, which guided the successful launch of its Early Years Forest School programme."
Read our full review of Dulwich College (Singapore) here.
In its nomination for this Award, Dulwich College (Singapore) said:
"Through the Forest School programme we can shape the attitudes and build the characters of not just our own children, but their extended families and the wider world. Our Forest School helps us to build solid and holistic foundations so that our children can become outstanding learners and more importantly outstanding people who can contribute positively to the world and make the future a better place.
"Having parents inform us that their children are ‘nagging’ them to look after nature, recycle and exercise in green spaces, really is pleasing and good examples of the power of this programme."
Read more about early years education in Singapore.
Singapore International Schools With a Pre-school. Click here.
Your Top 5 Pre-school Curriculum Options. Click here.
Next: Highly Commended