• Warm and friendly atmosphere
• Modern buildings
• Set within a quiet and tree-lined, residential neighbourhood
Australia has a reputation for being welcoming and friendly – and you’re given a warm Aussie welcome at AIS from the moment you walk through the door. From the artistic murals, kangaroo sculptures and messages of Distinctly Australia on the wall to the earthy decor of browns and greens, it feels relaxed and inviting. And there’s no mistaking which culture this school is so deeply rooted in. The campus feels modern, new and not too overwhelming, which is surprising for such a large school of more than 2,000 students.
The campus is located at the heart of a residential neighbourhood, surrounded by community facilities, luxury gated communities, and several local schools. There are three different entrances – for nursery, elementary and upper elementary/secondary – which helps to keep traffic flowing at drop and pick up times; is also helps to disperse the arrival of students. While 65% of students travel to AIS by school bus, it’s only a six-minute walk to the Lorong Chuan MRT station and there’s bus stop directly outside the school; students living locally are scootering or biking to school.
AIS says: “There’s a mini AIS community on the train and bus every morning.”
There are security guards and barriers at every entrance, and all students, staff and visitors must wear a pass around the campus. Once inside, students walk from one end of the school to the other under covered linkways.
Read our review of AIS here.
• Plenty of wide, open spaces
• Dedicated areas for learning and play for all age groups
• Well-equipped specialist classrooms
• Impressive sports facilities
The first thing that strikes you when you walk onto the AIS campus is the sense of wide, open space – the bright, airy, contemporary buildings are almost overshadowed by the large sports fields at the heart of this school. There are three main buildings at AIS – the junior school building for early years and lower elementary; the main building, which houses the upper elementary and lower secondary schools; and the Peter Bond upper secondary school, named after the principal from 2001-2011.
AIS says: “When families are making a choice, it is like looking at four schools but on one shared campus.”
Each purpose-built school has its own classrooms and specialist facilities, library, sports fields and play areas, and we liked how ‘contained’ each school felt within the larger campus. The school has recently added some under-croft play areas in the elementary school, which means that children can be outside, whatever the weather.
Developed in stages, AIS has been thoughtfully designed to give each age group its own outdoor space. For example, while lower elementary students have modern wooden play structures to balance, climb and swing on, upper elementary children have small climbing walls and playgrounds to explore, and older students have benches and grassed areas for break times.
AIS says: “Each school has its own ‘universe’ so the students don’t feel intimidated or overwhelmed. They all get plenty of dedicated spaces for play and learning and, compared to a community school in Australia, this campus is huge!”
Sport is an important part of Australian culture, and it’s embraced at AIS. Judging by the impressive array of sports fields and swimming facilities at the school, it feels that sport is at the heart of school life here. During our tour, we saw lower elementary students practising their balls skills on the pitch and building their fitness in the large indoor sports hall, and secondary students swimming laps in the outdoor pool. Also, with Sharks banners hanging all around the campus, you can feel the sense of pride in the school’s Sharks sports teams.
AIS says: “We offer a well-rounded education that goes beyond English and maths in the classroom, and we’re very well-known for our focus on sports. We have the facilities and, more importantly, the sporty cohort here to make us very strong in competitive sport.”
AIS offers vocational courses in construction and hospitality for students taking the HSC, and we were impressed by the outdoor workshop equipped with tools of the trade for its construction courses.
AIS says: “Australia is widely recognised for its approach to vocational and technical education, and many students will return home to train for a specific trade. We have a responsibility to prepare them for that, which is why we offer a range of vocational courses.
“There’s a place here for every child, regardless of their academic ability, their passion, their interests. It’s not always about focusing on academics and getting that place at Oxford or Cambridge.”
Specialist facilities include a mixed materials room with everything from 3D printers to hammers and workbenches; textiles rooms with sewing machines and rolls of fabric; and a food tech room, which we could smell down the corridor! We saw a Year 12 class cooking soup as part of a series of lessons to prepare them for independent living at university; it’s a good example of AIS’ strong pastoral care programme.
AIS says: “All specialist teachers have their staff rooms next to the specialist classrooms to make sure that they are always on-hand to the students; it’s particularly important to do this in such a large school.”
There are several music rooms of varying size, some set up for percussion practice and singing, others for orchestral rehearsals. There are musical instruments spilling out into the corridors, with rows of cellos and piled up bass drums, so plenty of opportunity for students to discover and develop their talent. We also saw well-equipped science labs, ICT suites and libraries, and a very professional-looking performance hall/theatre which was being used for a Year 3 assembly during our visit.
We were particularly impressed by the art department, decorated flamboyantly in student artwork from floor to ceiling and filled with art supplies; it felt like a wonderful celebration of the school’s creativity and shows just how important art is to the curriculum here. It felt messy in a creative way, and the art teacher we saw taking a class, dressed in paint-covered overalls, was overwhelmingly engaging and enthusiastic – and his students all totally absorbed. There’s also a kiln at the school which, judging by the shelves of glazed ceramic bowls in the room, is frequently used.
AIS says: “AIS is very well-known for both sport and the arts, and we are the only international school in Singapore to offer the Athlete Development Programme for aspiring athletes.”
There are two outdoor, shaded canteens with different hot and cold food stations serving breakfast, lunch and snacks. During our tour we saw a colourful, themed Mexican station complete with pinatas, ponchos and sombreros, which was another example of how this school fully embraces an idea.
We saw several signs of an active parent community here – a parent cafe, a dedicated office for the PTA, and posters advertising various social events and groups including the parent’s choir and a dad’s group.
• Relaxed learning environment
• Student work displayed throughout the school
• IB classroom set-up
We sensed the positive energy within this school in a matter of minutes. As we explored various classrooms and learning spaces, we felt that there was a strong celebration of students’ achievements and strengths, and a joyful love of learning from both students and teachers.
Far from being formal and stuffy, AIS has managed to create a relaxed learning environment. And, as a school that has been open for 25 years it does have that ‘lived-in’ feel that new schools just can’t replicate. There was music playing during an outdoor PE lesson, students all wearing their colourful house t-shirts (which they do every Friday), teachers on stage performing for an assembly, and Year 2s reading on floor cushions in the library. Just as important as seeing children playing in the fresh air during morning break, it was good to see a large number of students spend their break in one of the school’s four libraries.
There is student work on display on every floor: artwork on the walls, metal stools in the corridors and sculptures hanging from the ceiling. Also, on every floor, we saw inspiring displays promoting the different PYP and IB messages and missions. We were also interested to see one wall dedicated to the different student captains dating back to 1995, which shows just how important student leadership is here.
The decent-sized classrooms were well-lit and laid out for the IB’s inquiry-based programme, with movable desks arranged for collaborative learning, cushions for floor discussions, and shared breakout areas. Every class has each teacher’s individual ‘stamp’ on it, and the rooms looked and felt more mature as you progress through the year groups.
Read about our tour of AIS’ Early Learning Village here.
During our tour we met with AIS School Captains Chloe and Will (Year 5) and Gabby and Adam (Year 12) to hear what they have to say about life in and out of the classroom. When asked what they like about the school, all four students said the same three words – The AIS Spirit.
Gabby summed it up saying: “It’s a real community, especially for students coming from Australia and New Zealand, and it’s like a family here.”
Adam added: “I came from quite a closed environment back home in Australia, and AIS has been a complete eye-opener in terms of worldliness and experience. The people here are from all over the world. At lunch the other day, for example, I was with someone from the UAE, India, the Maldives and Australia. There’s also a strong Australian environment here, so you get the best of both worlds. I really feel that AIS helps to prepare you for the real world.”
Chloe said that the “teachers make lessons interesting and fun, and they add in jokes”, while Will heaped praise on the facilities, “mainly the soccer pitch”.
The students all agreed that the school lives up to its motto of being “distinctly Australian”, and that’s largely due to the teachers. Adam said: “Students have a lot respect for our teachers, but there’s also some banter and humour on their side. That’s a hallmark of the teachers here.”
While Gabby is studying the IBDP, Adam is enrolled in the HSC programme. Both students confidently (and happily) said they’d been given plenty of guidance to make the “right decision for me” when choosing which stream to take, with Gabby adding that “the teachers really engage with you on a personal level”.
Adam said: “In the HSC, I can specialise in three humanities as well as English and maths, which are my strengths. Also, there are assessments throughout the year that count towards your final mark, so I feel that I will be rewarded if I work consistently hard.”
Gabby said: “The IB is more suited to me as it provides me with a wide variety of courses to study, and I was advised that it is more in line with my learning style.”
There’s a fairly even split between students taking the IBDP and HSC streams at AIS, and it was reassuring to hear that there’s no clear divide beyond the classroom.
Adam said: “We still have recess and lunch together, and we’re interacting all the time. There may be two different streams and specialised classes but in terms of pastoral care and peer groups, we are all one.
The four Captains are all keen athletes, representing netball, rugby, swimming, basketball and cricket teams between them. Typical of many AIS students, they each play a lot of sport before, during and after school. Chloe added: “I do swimming every Monday and Friday morning. I used to do Tuesday afternoons as well, but I was just too tired!”
It was encouraging to hear the students praise the “very supportive” coaches and “great” facilities. “We’ve got lots of fields here and lots of space; there’s a long jump area, running tracks, so many things,” said Chloe.
Gabby and Adam have both been part of AIS’ athlete development programme.
Adam said: “It enhances those premier athletes in terms of fitness and wellness and doing everything to help you succeed. It allows you to really push yourself to your limits.”
The Captains described the technology at AIS as “amazing” – from the Seesaw app used in Year 5 to the D&T facilities in Year 12 that can be used “to make some masterpieces”. Will and Chloe were both looking forward to getting their own laptops in Year 6 when AIS moves onto a 1:1 laptop programme, and Chloe was excited to add that she had downloaded a learn to touch type app already.
It was interesting to hear how the students enjoyed AIS’ approach to technology.
Chloe said: “I like the iPads but I also like to draw. The other day we had to design a magazine cover and some people designed it on the iPad, while others like me decided to draw it by hand on paper.”
Adam added: “Handwriting is still important and there’s a seamless integration between technology and handwritten work here. It’s a good balance at AIS.”
Every child from prep through to Year 10 camps, explores, treks and much more as part of AIS’ outdoor education programme. Judging by the excited reaction from all four Captains, these trips are a highlight of the academic year.
Chloe and Will were looking forward to their Year 5 trip to Malaysia where they would be “staying in tents, swimming, kayaking, and going on a scavenger hunt”.
Gabby and Adam have also taken part in the school’s voluntary service camps, which take students to Nepal, Cambodia and India.
Adam said: “I went on a one-week trip for the Schools 4 Schools programme and volunteered at an orphanage. There are no words to describe it. It was such an amazing experience and it really opened my eyes to the world. It sparked a spirit of volunteerism in the whole group. Not only did we have great fun, we made such an impact on people’s lives.”
There’s more to AIS than sport, though, as its students were very keen to tell us. From theatre to ballet to art, the Captains have all been given the opportunity to get creative. We were interested to hear how the students felt they were encouraged to discover their artistic talent – and we heard stories about the elementary years rehearsing for school plays and secondary students painting 25 different pieces of artwork in unusual places around the campus as part of the school’s 25th anniversary.
Gabby said: “Although I don’t study art, I can still do an art CCA. The school hosts an exhibition every September for all students to display their work. We can invite our parents to this – and it’s such a proud moment.”
Adam added: “Even if you don’t draw or paint, you can still admire the artwork all around the school. There are no dreary hallways here, just plenty of art on the walls.”
As Captains of the school, these four students are playing a key role in driving change. But, as Adam was very quick to point out, “it’s a pretty good school already, so it’s more about what we can do to help”.
Here’s a school where all year groups are listened to.
Adam said: “We have the full support of the senior leadership team. They are so helpful and supportive, and they want to help us make any change happen.”
Representing her junior peers, Chloe said with a huge sense of pride: “We wanted to bring back the buddy system this year and we’re getting there with that. Next week the Year 12s are coming down to work with Year 5.”
And at the upper end of the school, the secondary Captains have been organising events including an International Culture Extravaganza, a teen leadership conference, and a series of grudge games against other international schools.
Gabby said: “We’re trying to promote more participation to boost the AIS spirit. We want people to really feel the spirit as soon as they walk into the school. So, we’re using platforms like Snapchat and Facebook to promote these grudge games and to get people supporting us.”
There were smiles all around when talking about the food at AIS, with Chloe describing the BBQ station as “amazing” and Will giving a huge thumbs-up to the ham, cheese, salami, lettuce and cucumber subs. “They’re so big!”, he beamed.
Behind the scenes, there’s a student action group working on changes to the menu, such as gluten-free dishes and better breakfasts for early arrivals.
Adam said: “There are so many different varieties of food on the menu, and not only are we learning about culture but we’re also getting great food on the plate!”
And, judging by the happy faces on Will and Chloe as they sipped on their hot chocolate in the parent café, the drinks come highly recommended too!
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