Looking for the best of both worlds? Canadian International School’s all-through Lakeside campus is designed as a schools-within-a-school to offer students all the advantages of a smaller school with all the benefits of a large, state-of-the-art campus.
Canadian International School (CIS) Lakeside is one of a growing number of schools globally to follow the schools-within-a-school model. At first glance, CIS Lakeside is a sprawling, state-of-the-art campus that offers an IB education for two to 18 year olds. Look a little closer though and you’ll see three separate schools – kindergarten, primary and secondary – which each have their own community of classrooms, learning pods and recreational areas.
View our tour of the school here.
This 43,000 sq m campus, which opened in 2011, was designed specifically around the schools-within-a-school concept, which offers the advantages found in smaller schools with all the benefits of a large, fully-equipped campus. Students from each ‘school’ can use campus facilities such as the Olympic-sized swimming pool and a two-storey library at dedicated times, and then return to their own age-appropriate school community. The result is a campus that holds onto the spirit of the Canadian International School while offering a tailor-made, intimate learning experience for children at all levels.
The Canadian International School (CIS) offers all three IB programmes – the Primary Years Programme, Middle Years Programme and the Diploma Programme – and it has been delivering high-quality education to expats for more than 25 years.
Whereas you'll find some schools in Singapore jump between the PYP, the IGCSE and the IBDP, CIS is proud to be a full IB school. Here's a school that believes the PYP and MYP is the best – and most rigorous – preparation for the diploma programme.
While its curriculum is not exclusively Canadian, its approach to teaching does follow Canada’s student-led model. Head of School Peter Corcoran explains,
Our academically rigorous programme is complemented by a broad range of languages, fine arts, athletic and service learning opportunities designed to develop balance, deepen connections and to uncover true learning potential.
As well as its schools-within-a-school model, CIS Lakeside stands out from the rest with its pioneering bilingual programme in Chinese and English to students aged four to 10, its focus on outdoor learning, and its unique approach to teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts and Mathematics).
For CIS’ youngest learners (aged two to five), the focus is very much on imagination, creativity and self-discovery. At Lakeside’s dedicated kindergarten wing, you’ll find a kitchen, black box theatre, STEAM makerspace, and a kindergarten aquatics complex. While there are all the facilities you’d expect from a nursery environment – colourful classrooms, a junior library and a swimming pool – the kindergarten’s headline attraction is its new Outdoor Discovery Centre, which is used for plenty of play-based learning.
Students in Grades 1 to 6 follow an IB PYP curriculum that’s centred around dedicated English and maths lessons, and specialist classes for Chinese, French, Spanish, physical education, art, music and drama. As mentioned previously, technology, STEAM and outdoor learning play a huge role in helping students to reach their potential.
In Grades 7 to 10, students follow the IB MYP to prepare them for Grades 11 to 12, when they study the internationally recognised IBDP; languages offered as part of this curriculum include Chinese, Japanese and French.
The school’s unique bilingual Chinese-English programme encourages all students from Kindergarten through to Grade 7 to be fluent in both languages. With two qualified teachers per class (one native English speaker and one native Chinese speaker), these lessons offer equal exposure on both languages; around 30% of students in each bilingual class are Chinese, which gives English-speaking students the opportunity to learn from their peers as well as the teachers. All teachers follow the Big Apple programme, a series of books that were written by the school's principal for Chinese language and culture, Huali Xiong, and are used in international schools worldwide. From August 2018, the school will offer a a new bilingual programme in French and English in Grades 1 and 2.
"It's part of our image.... We're a school that values language and diversity."
French and Spanish are also taught as part of the IB curriculum.
Makerspaces are mainstream in many Canadian schools, and CIS has adopted this hands-on, creative way of learning about science, technology, entrepreneurship, arts and mathematics. Its STEAM makerspaces encourage teamwork, collaboration and design thinking. Students build and work on projects using traditional equipment such as wood-working machinery and sewing machines, and cutting-edge technology such as 3D printers and GCC laser engravers; early years students will work on projects as simple as making their own lunch.
An annual STEAM Fair inspires both parents and children with innovative activities such as building a rollercoaster or learning to code a robot. Walking around the school, there are many explores of the school's investment in STEAM, and it is investing a further $250,000 next year to provide additional STEAM facilities for its secondary students.
It’s only natural that schools embrace technology in the classroom, and CIS is no exception. As part of the school’s digital literacy programme, it's compulsory for Grades 4 to 6 to have an iPad and Grades 7 through to 12 to have their own MacBook. Unlike many other international schools who charge a technology fee and provide an Apple device, CIS believes that personal ownership increases motivation and engagement. With most families owning an iPad anyway, it also reduces the need for an additional fee.
Learning at CIS extends beyond the academic, and music, dance, drama and visual arts are all an integral part of the curriculum. Its thriving arts programme includes musical ensembles and bands, choral groups, productions, performances, exhibits and participation in the Singapore Youth Film Festival. With a 500-seat theatre and plenty of modern studios and practice rooms, CIS is well-equipped to deliver on its promise to encourage creativity.
CIS is a big believer in outdoor learning, so it comes as no surprise that it has invested in a stand-out Outdoor Discovery Centre. Opened in 2015, this purpose-built kindergarten facility is much more than a playground; it is used by teachers as an extension of the classroom to teach maths, science, language and other subjects. You’ll find sand and water areas, a sound garden, eco pond, bike track, tunnels, art walls, a herb and vegetable garden and a mud kitchen. If hands-on exploration and learning in a natural environment is important to you, then you’ll struggle to find a better outdoor classroom in Singapore than here.
"For many of our children who live in Singapore, it's the first opportunity to get real mud between their toes and feel what real grass feels like. It's a great experience for learning opportunities."
There are many ways in which CIS takes learning outside the classroom. Competitive and recreational sports run throughout the school year, and include cross country and football. Outdoor learning programmes include Open Minds, which sees Grades 1 to 6 spend up to a week in real-world settings; Grades 4 to 11 travel to countries including Thailand, China, Cambodia and Canada for excursion weeks; and secondary students participate in community service projects such as planting friendship groves in Ladakh.
International teaching staff
The campus is overseen by Head of School Peter Corcoran, and each school is managed by its own principal. Corcoran is new to the school, taking over from Glenn Odland in September 2017. He came to CIS with 25 years' experience in the Canadian school system, and director positions in schools within South Korea and Qatar.
Read our Q&A with Peter Corcoran here.
Around 30% of teachers are recruited from Canada, with the rest coming from the US and Europe.
The school is now better known as CIS rather than the Canadian International School – a deliberate move to emphasise its international nature.
While it is keen to hold onto a "Canadian warmth", Head of School Peter Corcoran explains that,
"We're a true expat school, When you walk in our hallways reflect, there's no one nationality that dominates our school."
Students wear a casual uniform that's really practical and comfortable, and ideal for Singapore's climate. The academic year runs from August to June.
The school’s 2017 results for IBDP students show a pass rate of 97% and an average score of 33, which is higher than the global average of 30. The school admits that this was an "off year" as it was a drop from the previous year's score of 36, but it was also a "celebration of individual successes". Students have been accepted at universities in the US, Canada, the UK, as well as Australia, Europe and Asia.
The Lakeside campus, which has 2,100 students, is the newer, bigger brother of the two CIS schools. It has classrooms connected to learning pods, sporting, outdoor and playground facilities, as well as a performing and fine arts centre, 500-seat theatre, Olympic-sized swimming pool and a two-storey library. There’s also a brand new Outdoor Discovery Centre that must be the envy of its competitors. CIS has been granted a 27-year lease at Lakeside by the Economic Development Board,which controls all land that can be zoned for international school use, so parents can be reassured that the school is here for the long-term.
As the name suggests it is next to a lake, and is also within walking distance of an MRT station. The school also offers a bus service.
Meals are delivered to early years students, while primary and secondary students can purchase food at the large canteen using their access card. There's also a Red Dot cafe on campus, which is popular with students and parents alike
CIS has an extensive programme of co-curricular activities (CCAs). This includes a range of mother tongue and language acquisition classes, which are run after school by independent providers.
Health and safety
The school has a strict security system, and all visitors must hand over ID and wear a pass around the campus. Everyone wears a pass which is used to access lifts and different areas within the school. There's a dedicated nurse for both primary and secondary students.
Contributions to the community
In terms of service and leadership, CIS involves students in both local and global activities. Whether home or away, students are offered some eye-opening opportunities to learn about independence, environmental issues and global matters beyond the limits of a traditional classroom.
The school says:
"We are connected to a variety of voluntary projects both inside Singapore and beyond, such as an orphanage in Cambodia and community building in Nepal. We have a number of staff members who are very dedicated to community service and it's an important part of the IB programme for us."
Fees and admission
According to the school, around 80% of its parents now fund or partially fund their child's education rather than receiving an education allowance from their employer. Fees are among the highest in Singapore (ranging from $31,330 to $38,710), which is hardly surprising for a school that is employing international teachers, providing state of the art facilities and offering three IB programmes. However, CIS has taken some steps to offer parents more value for money. The fee increase is 1.6% for the 2018-19 academic year (lower than the 3.5% seen at some schools) and the cost of excursions has been "significantly reduced".
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