WINNER: Best Schools Award (Singapore) 2022 for Best Primary School

International Community School is awarded the WhichSchoolAdvisor (Singapore) Best Schools Award 2022 for Best Primary School.
WINNER: Best Schools Award (Singapore) 2022 for Best Primary School
By Carli Allan
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Winner of the WhichSchoolAdvisor (Singapore) Best Schools Award 2022 for Best Primary School is International Community School (ICS).

Highly Commended is Sir Manasseh Meyer International School (SMMIS) and Tanglin Trust School.

Getting a primary education in Singapore
While there are more than 50 all-through international schools in Singapore, there are very few standalone primary schools. The schools nominated in this Award category are all-through schools with a primary/junior/elementary school (Years 1-6/Grades 1-5), but they differ significantly in terms of their size, curriculum, fees, facilities and community. And, like many international schools here, they offer a broader curriculum than many expats would expect from a primary school in their home country – from bilingual programmes and music education to specialist teachers, swimming and access to secondary school facilities.

But what makes an international primary school truly outstanding?
The majority of schools here tend to be big, with school communities of 1,000-3,000 students and up to 10 classes in each year group. A challenge for many schools therefore is to create a nurturing primary school environment within a much larger school setting.

In this Award category, we were looking at how schools deliver an outstanding primary education for children in terms of the academic, pastoral care, sport and the arts. We focused on how schools have developed a learning environment designed for primary learners. And we looked at how schools offer a breadth of education that establishes the foundations for secondary, as well as how well it supports the transition from primary to secondary 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.

Why did International Community School (ICS) win?


Strengths of the school include:

  • Founded in 1993, ICS is a small all-through US curriculum school that enrols just 350 students aged four to through to 18 years, with around 25% coming from US and another 25% from South Korea.
  • Value for money: ICS is a mid-range school in terms of annual tuition fees; in 2021, parents paid $26,900 for Grades 1-5, which includes 1:1 devices and four local field trips. Unlike some international schools, ICS does not charge a one-off or annual capital levy, making its first-year admission cost of $2,500 one of the cheapest Singapore.
  • Close-knit: The Elementary School (Grades 1-5) has a low student-teacher ratio of 9:1 and small class sizes of 16.
  • Holistic education: There’s specialist teaching in music, technology, foreign language and the arts, and the elementary school’s Social-Emotional Counsellor’s visits every K4-G5 class nearly every day of every week, “getting to know the students and inviting them to participate in open-ended discussion".
  • The school has a small but very varied programme of extra-curricular activities.
  • Inclusive community: ICS is very much a community school with a signature small-school feel. This is strengthened by a very active Parent Teacher Fellowship, which hosts activities including weekly Bible study, Popcorn Fridays, Mums in Prayer, and craft and fitness mornings. The PTF has a dedicated 'cottage' on the campus and is heavily involved in fundraising and settling in new families to the school.
  • Caring and welcoming: Parents feel very much ‘listened to’ here – regular Elementary School town hall meetings with the principal foster open communication.
  • Admissions staff get to know every family; they are present at the front gate of the school every school day and send handwritten notes to new families to welcome them.
  • Values-based education: ICS is a Christian school where the education is based on Christian values; while 68% of the students are Christian, the school does welcome families of all religious beliefs. All students attend Bible class four days a week, elementary students have a weekly chapel meeting, and there’s an annual Spiritual Emphasis Week. Children are often heard singing worship songs on the school bus home, and many of the teachers are “Christian educators”. 
  • Facilities: ICS is one of several international schools in Singapore to occupy a former MOE government school. While this means it has an older, less glitzy campus than some of the new purpose-built schools here, ICS does have offer all the charm of a traditional school site, have decent-sized classrooms, and have plenty of outdoor space. This is not a shiny ‘bells and whistles’ school but it definitely feels welcoming. Parents here are happy to forgo a more state-of-the-art campus in favour of community feel and a huge sense of belonging.
  • Community service: Service learning is embedded within school culture from a young age; Elementary students take part in activities themed ‘A Servant’s Heart’ – building rock gardens on campus, making Xmas cards for the community, teaching English to migrant workers – as well as an annual Spiritual Emphasis Week focused on community outreach.

The Judges’ View


The judges were impressed by the school’s value for money, traditional ethos and values-based education, as well as its “huge sense of community”. “It was described as a “much-loved small school with a heart and clear purpose of investment in children rather than glitz and glamour”.

Sasha Crabb, Principal, Victory Heights Primary School, Dubai, said: 

“The resounding testimonials from the parents make this school a true winner. ICS clearly values community and is creative and innovative in solving problems with its value for money ethos. This school clearly cares about the children and surrounds each individual with core values and love. This school is not business profit-focused rather it’s in the business of authentic international education and a love of teaching and learning."

Judges highlighted the school's creative inquiry-based approach to learning, as well as initiatives such as Weeks Without Walls that help to place the school at the heart of the local community.

Zara Harrington, Principal, Safa British School in Dubai, added:

“Value for money, happiness, and a recommendation to others are forefront for all parents at ICS; it is clearly the winning formula for this school. Small but mighty springs to mind when looking at ICS. An excellent ratio of students to teachers and a strong school culture help to create wonderful citizens of the future with a focus on core values and not glitz and glam."

The Parents’ View


The general feedback from parents is that ICS's biggest strengths are its community feel, the sense of belonging that students have, and the small class sizes. Parents choosing ICS say that teacher to student ratio, teacher qualifications and student happiness are their key priorities. It’s a school that parents feel is inclusive, helps to improve their child's confidence and is able to meet their child's specific learning needs.

Testimonials include:

"ICS has small class sizes, a great sense of community; students feel loved and welcomed for who they are, and there are strong relationships between teachers and students. The teachers are highly qualified, talented and inspiring."

“ICS has a small neighbourhood feel and has a close-knit community, like a family. There's a variety of after-school activities for all grade levels, and the teachers are invested in the success of every student."

The WhichSchoolAdvisor Review


“Housed in a renovated government school, ICS does not have all the glitz and glamour of Singapore’s newest international schools. What it does offer, though, is a positive climate where children can feel safe and have a sense of belonging, and an intimate campus where teachers and children all know each other.

“The elementary classrooms, which move up a grade as you walk up through the main building, are well-lit, roomy and welcoming. Students here clearly have more opportunities to ask questions, contribute to class discussions and get to know their teachers and classmates.

ICS has not tried to reinvent the classroom for the digital age, and its more traditional layout and furniture will appeal to those looking for that old-school charm. That said, there are different areas for inquiry-based learning including desks, the carpet, beanbags, and reading corners.

“The students clearly ‘own’ these classrooms, which is evident by the art and project work on every wall, and the child-led Classroom Norms or Student Pledge next to the teacher’s desk; these handwritten goals – such as “I can use kind words”, “I can treat others the way I would like to be treated” and “I can be a problem solver” – offer an insight into the positive values embedded across the ICS community.”

Read our full review of International Community School here.

The School’s View


In its nomination for this Award, ICS said:

“Our littlest Knights in the Primary (Elementary) School enjoy the privilege of being known, heard, and cared for by each and every one of their teachers. We take the business of being a small school seriously! With just under 200 students in the ES and an average student-teacher ratio of 9:1, our students enjoy an intimate, close-knit relationship with the different members of our community – faculty, staff, and other students alike.

Read more about Singapore's international schools offering a primary education
14 Standalone Primary Schools in Singapore. Click here.
Why Choose the IB Primary Years Programme? Click here.

Next: Highly Commended

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