Singapore’s only school to offer an Australian curriculum-based education is proud to be a non-selective school that doesn’t believe in intellectual ability alone.
Australian International School has an open doors policy. As well as being the only school in Singapore to offer both the IBDP (International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme) and the HSC (New South Wales Higher School Certificate) curricula, AIS offers opportunities for all students regardless of their academic abilities – and its outstanding results speak for themselves.
It offers an education that’s underpinned by Australian curriculum standards, and shares the very best of Australia from swimming through to indigenous art. There’s also a strong sense of community that shines through at AIS, which parents and teachers like to call the ‘AIS Spirit’.
Read about our tour of the school here.
Located next to the main campus, the AIS Early Learning Village enrols students from two months to six years and has capacity for 800 students. One of the world’s largest pre-schools, the Early Learning Village is a collaboration between Australian International School (AIS), Stamford American International School (SAIS), and Brighton College (Singapore) – all Cognita owned. Each school has its own section with the ELV, and they share a large indoor gymnasium and swimming pool. While some parents may prefer the intimacy of a smaller pre-school that has a genuine village feel, rather than one that is the size of a village, others will be drawn to the large-scale opportunities that this can offer.
With a large student population of over 2,600, it’s important that AIS does not follow a ‘one size fits all’ mantra. The school promises to focus on individual learning styles to help “your child become an active, compassionate and lifelong learner”. It’s a philosophy that runs throughout the school’s education programme, which begins with a Reggio Emilia-inposred curriculum and the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (PYP) from kindergarten to Year 5, continues with the Australian Curriculum for Years 6 to 8, Cambridge IGCSE in Years 9 and 10, and rounds off with the Higher School Certificate (HSC) or International Baccalaureate Diploma Program (IBDP) for Years 11 and 12.
The IB PYP is a curriculum that focuses not only on what is taught, but how it’s taught. AIS is committed to allowing students to be actively involved in their own learning and to take responsibility for that learning. In addition to developing proficiency in core subjects such as English, maths, science, technology, and humanities, children study specialist subjects including Mandarin, PE, music, library, and the visual arts.
During the elementary years (Prep to Year 5), teachers claim to focus on discovering a student’s “individual strengths, passions and interests” – and then developing them. There’s a strong emphasis in the curriculum on critical thinking, problem solving, teamwork, and leadership during these years. The elementary curriculum is mapped to the Australian curriculum in maths, languages, science, history, geography, music, visual arts, and PE.
AIS then follows the Australian curriculum for Years 6 – 8, and languages offered include Indonesian, French, Chinese, or the child’s mother tongue.
The school says,
“We don’t do the IB's MYP as we don't believe it's cultivated enough to prepare students for the IBDP. Instead, we follow the Australian national curriculum, which has the measurement tools in place to prepare students for the the two-year IGCSE programme and public exams in Years 9 and 10.”
In Years 9 and 10, students study for their IGCSEs; languages include Chinese, French, Indonesian, and Spanish, and electives cover the arts, humanities, technology, and PE. At the start of Year 11, students have the choice of studying for the International Baccalaureate Diploma (IBDP) or the Australian Higher School Certificate (HSC). This choice allows students to select a curriculum that’s suited to them – the academically rigorous IBDP or the more vocational HSC. As part of the HSC, students can study Vocational Education and Training (VET) in construction and hospitality. All students receive careers counselling from Year 10 to help them choose the academic programme that's best suited to them.
Unsurprising for an Australian school, sport and physical education are an important part of life at AIS. A Smart Steps gym is used to develop teamwork and motor skills from a young age, and AIS offers 100 competitive teams in sports ranging from athletics and football to swimming and netball. Whether competing in a regional fixture or taking part in a curriculum PE lesson, you get the feeling that students feel a great sense of pride when wearing the green and gold AIS sports jersey. There's also a great team spirit here, whether in the Year 12 mini Olympics at the end of mock exams, a Year 4 athletics carnival or the secondary school cross country race.
The school's inclusive, no-cut ethos sees it field competitive teams in over 10 sports to match the level of interest. With around 800 students playing in representative sport, AIS is giving even the least sporty types the chance to try a range of different sports here.
This is a school that encourages and celebrates students' sporting ability at all levels; with a no cut policy and a huge choice of sports on offer, there are opportunities for every student to train, compete and most importantly enjoy the benefits of staying active.
It also offers pathways for its most talented athletes in Years 7-12 to reach their full potential and work towards university scholarships and competitive sport. Its non-sports-specific programme Athlete Development Programme (ADP) was launched in 2015 to develop potential and aspiring athletes for university scholarships and competitive sport; the focus is very much on the individual – on everything from psychology, training principles, skill acquisition and nutrition to injury management and prevention, ergogenic aides, and coaching methods. The school currently has 115 ADP students who are trained by eight specialist coaches over a two-year period.
The school says,
“The athlete development programme is for students who show a particular talent in a sport. It's a rigorous training programme that covers strength, fitness, psychology, nutrition, injury management and coaching methods. They undergo training in the gym as if they were a professional athlete.”
AIS offers a well-rounded education where visual arts, music, and drama are nurtured as much as academic learning. This is achieved through the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA) Speech and Drama Programme and the Orff Music Literacy Program, which both start at just 18 months. This also helps to lay the foundation for elective music studies under the IGCSE, IBDP or HSC.
Throughout their AIS journey, students are encouraged to join one of 17 music ensembles, and talent is showcased annually in four drama productions, three art exhibitions, and a music ensemble evening. And there are some impressive arts facilities to support these events too – two black box studios and a performance hall, art rooms for junior and secondary, visual arts, photography and digital media suites, and several music rooms of varying size (some set up for percussion practice and singing, others for orchestral rehearsals).
According to our Parent Survey, 100% of parents rate the performing arts and fine arts at this school as being in the top 10% schools in Singapore
Technology is integral to all lessons, including music and art, and the 1:1 iPad programme from kindergarten to Year 5 and the 1:1 MacBook programme in Years 6 to 12 are used to encourage exploration, research, and communication. Back to basics, there’s also a strong reading culture that’s fostered through library sessions, author visits, and literary events.
The school runs an outdoor education programme from prep through to Year 10, which ranges from camping trips and wildlife tours through to adventure weekends and jungle treks. Children progress from den-building and nature spotting to rock climbing and abseiling.
The school says,
"We operate with a 'challenge by choice' ethos, never forcing students to take risks, but encouraging them to push themselves outside of their comfort zone and 'have a go'."
AIS is part of the international Cognita group of schools, which has headquarters in the UK and educates 40,000 pupils in schools worldwide. It’s a school that has invested in its future. In the last decade, purpose-built facilities have been completed at the existing site, including a dedicated science and technology area, five libraries, and the AIS Inquiry Centre; the Early Learning Village opened in September 2017. Boarding is offered at ACS Oldham Hall in Singapore.
AIS has come a long way since it was founded in 1993 with just 32 students. After outgrowing various premises across Singapore, the school now teaches more than 2,600 students from over 50 different countries at its purpose-built campus. Around 65% of the student body are Australian.
The academic year follows the Australian calendar and runs from January to December, which is ideal for the majority of families who will eventually return to Australia as they can easily slot back link the national school system. It does makes AIS different to the majority of schools in Singapore, however, which run from August to June.
There's a close-knit community within this large campus, aided by a house system within each school, students captains, and a robust programme of events. Also, during the elementary years, students can enrol in the Buddy Programme and mentor a younger student on a regular basis.
The school offers counselling services to all year groups as part of a strong pastoral care programme, and has introduced Project ROCKIT from Australia in Years 8 and 9, which tackles bullying, cyber bullying, and leadership. The school says,
"Our students have participated in a number of online workshops on how to deal with common cyberbullying situations and standing up for what you believe in with a real emphasis on being a bystander who makes a difference."
Is this drive to bring out the very best in every student reflected in the school’s grades though? The results are certainly a sign of solid academic achievement across the years.
In the 2021 IGCSE results, 29% of all grades were A*, 54% were A*-A, and 92% were A*-C.
The 2021 results for Year 12 IB students show a 100% pass rate and an average score of 36.37, which is higher than the global average. There were two top-scoring student with 45 points, and 26% of students scored 40-plus points and 70% scored 35-plus points. 14 students completed the IB bilingual diploma.
One of the most interesting statistics shared by the school, though, is its value-add score of 5.76, which is a measure of students making outstanding progress during their time at AIS.
The IB and HSC results are converted into an ATAR score for each student, and this ranking system is used to measure a student’s overall performance and eligibility for entry into Australian universities. AIS students have an average ATAR score of 78.5 out of 100.
The numeracy and reading results for NAPLAN, an annual assessment for students in Years 3, 5, 7, and 9, were more than 20% higher than the Australian national average.
AIS is located within a pleasant residential neighbourhood in Lorong Chuan, and is well connected to the rest of Singapore by car or public transport. It is a purpose-built campus divided into three schools - early years and lower elementary, upper elementary and lower secondary, and upper secondary. Facilities include sport fields, swimming pools, indoor gyms, specialist visual arts, music, drama, and technology rooms, libraries, and a performance hall.
The Early Learning Village at the campus brings education for two to six-year-olds all under one roof. This Reggio Emilia-inspired school has child-sized doors, an outdoor learning space for every classroom, and clusters of classrooms with dedicated teaching kitchens, mini-libraries, and resource centres. Known as The Village, this pint-sized campus also has a dance studio, Smart Steps movement room, multi-purpose gym, 1,500 m2 covered play space with sensory play equipment, water play, bike tracks and sandpits, and a 22m swimming pool for first swimmers.
Outside school hours, students can choose from CCAs including sports, community and service activities, and general interest groups such as chess, robotics, debating, and cookery. There's a popular mother tongue programme, offering after-school classes in languages including Spanish, Korean, and Mandarin.
Health and safety
Each school within AIS has its own dedicated health centre and all members of staff have first aid training. There are security guards and barriers at every entrance to the school; all AIS families are issued with two parent security passes, which must be worn on campus.
Contributions to the community
There’s a growing trend for Singaporean schools to adopt ‘values in action’ programmes that develop social skills and global awareness. AIS puts this into practice with a programme of community projects, both locally and overseas. Each year group focuses on a particular charity or cause for 12 months: litter picking in the school, reading books and playing sports with students in Malaysia, raising funds for and working at a social centre in Vietnam, and joining a house building team in Cambodia.
Australian International School (AIS) is a Best of school, a ranking determined by parent surveys on the site. It can be found in the following Best of rankings:
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