• Contemporary campus with modern facilities and decor
• Easily accessible location in up-and-coming Jurong
CIS Lakeside knows how to make a great first impression. We walked straight into a grand atrium decorated with flags representing every nationality at the school, inspirational messages on the wall such as ‘Own the Future’, and red dots (a reference to Singapore’s nickname) everywhere. It all feels modern, fresh and inviting – and has the ‘wow’ factor.
Surrounded by a lake, trees, and some high-rise apartment blocks, the school is in a quiet corner of Singapore. Don’t let the location deter you, though, as it’s a 10-minute walk to the nearest MRT station and a short drive from the nearest highway.
• Large, seven-storey campus
• Schools within a school model
• Dedicated STEAM centre
• New outdoor learning zone
We started our tour on Level 1 of the main seven-storey building, which is home to the reception, the Red Dot cafe (used by students and parents alike), an exhibition space, and swimming pool. There’s also a large canteen serving a variety of international dishes and bench-style seating; we liked to see the recycling bins, which are well-used by the school’s environmentally-aware students (and teachers).
Located on Level 2 is the kindergarten wing, which was thoughtfully laid out and decorated, and well equipped with toys and equipment. The classrooms were generally spacious and well-lit, and there are two large dedicated central areas – one for junior, one for senior – which are dotted with desks, easels, climbing frames and themed activities that change regularly.
There’s also a kitchen here where students make their own lunch once a week, and all children have access to the school’s shallow junior pool, outdoor play areas, and the new Outdoor Discovery Centre. Designed for outdoor learning, this is used for two sessions everyday by early years’ students and for certain units of inquiry by other grades. Created with natural materials, it features a music garden, cycle track, mud kitchen, and plenty of flower beds, trees and muddy puddles – all the makings of a perfect outdoor classroom.
CIS says: “A lot of children in Singapore do not have a garden, so this is a place where they can get their hands dirty and explore. It’s a place where they can learn by doing.”
The school was purpose-built to deliver the IB programme. We walked along dedicated floors for primary and secondary years, each with decent-sized classrooms laid out for IB learning and leading out onto a central ‘pod’ area. We observed several small group lessons, some passionate and engaging teachers, and confident and polite students.
The walls are decorated with messages about the PYP, MYP and IBDP, and students have a choice of sofas, benches and desks to work independently and as a group. Outside, there are dedicated play areas and a sand-pit for primary students.
There is an entire floor dedicated to STEAM, with a multimedia lab, makerspace, science labs and maths classrooms. We were impressed by the central area, which looked well-equipped for students to experiment, invent and tinker with a range of materials and technologies – from wood-working machinery and sewing machines to makerbot 3D printers, GCC laser engravers and a newspaper styxx rolling machine.
CIS says: “STEAM ties in with the IB learner profile as a lot of the projects are very collaborative. Our makerspaces are part lab, part shop, part conference room, and are designed to foster a culture of teamwork, collaboration and design thinking.”
There are two large libraries at CIS – one for nursery to Grade 6, one for Grades 7 to 13 – each well-stocked with books and featuring study areas, reading corners and displays of student work. The libraries are used for timetabled lessons and are always busy during break times and after school; they are also open every Saturday from 9.30am -1.30pm, giving families the opportunity to “come in and grab a coffee downstairs”. We liked to see (and hear) the difference between the two libraries. The primary one is a well-lit inviting space with bold, primary colours, comfy seating, and plenty of displays to inspire little minds – and we appreciated the raised noise levels in what felt like a learning playground. In contrast, the secondary library is quieter, has a neutral decor and offers older students a haven for independent study.
CIS says: “Whilst we are very committed to digital literacy, we think it’s also very important to have that commitment to the tactile book.”
Arts facilities include the David Foster theatre (named after the Canadian musician), which has professional sound and lighting facilities and raked seating for 500. Also, there are art and drama studios and a music room that all open out onto a central outdoor area used to perform and exhibit students’ work. Sports facilities include an outdoor swimming pool, fitness studio, an elevated sports pitch, three rooftop tennis courts and a large gymnasium that can be sectioned off for different lessons. We couldn’t help but notice the cabinet of trophies in the entrance, which showcases the school’s sporting success in the ACSIS (Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools) league.
In summary, CIS is a vast, purpose-built campus with an innovative, student-centred, and project-based culture. We felt slightly disorientated and overwhelmed as a first-time visitor. That said, the students we saw were moving between classes confidently and quickly (and that’s without using the lift, which is reserved for teachers only). Also, by giving the kindergarten, primary and secondary schools their own space within a much larger campus, the school probably feels smaller through a student’s eyes.
• Well-resourced classrooms
• Student art and project work displayed both in and outside the classroom
• Inspiring outdoor learning spaces
Across the school, we saw glass-fronted classrooms with age-appropriate chairs and desks and the flexibility to change the layout for different learning activities. Every inch of wall space is filled with student work, particularly in the kindergarten and primary school. Parents may disagree over whether this is decoration or distraction. Judging by the displays of student work throughout each grade, though, there’s no shortage of creativity and effort here.
The Chinese and French classrooms had bilingual materials such as pictures and puzzles as classroom decor, which helps to create an environment that celebrates duel-language learning.
In the Outdoor Discovery Centre, kindergarten students were starting a lesson in a mindfulness circle with a series of breathing, listening and relaxation exercises, before being given a task to collect natural materials. In the STEAM centre, students were hands-on with projects such as designing footwear for people with orthopaedic needs and creating useful storage facilities for the home. And, in the gymnasium, primary students were running around the upper level while secondary students played basketball on the courts below. Despite its size, every corner of this school feels like a constant hive of activity.
Read our Q&A with head of school Peter Corcoran here.
• Happy and passionate teachers
Eleanor, a member of the school’s PTA and mother of two secondary students, praised the school culture and teaching staff, saying,
“Our school provides so many opportunities for children to try different things. The teachers are very happy and passionate about their jobs, and they are full of encouragement.”
Other positives included the choice of food in the canteen, the campus’ proximity to an MRT station, the variety extra-curricular activities, and the regular school events.
“Everyone is new to Singapore at some point so the PTA is a great opportunity to make new friends. We have monthly coffee mornings with guest speakers, book clubs, and three or four bigger annual events to bring the school together.”
Areas for improvement included the school uniform, which she described as too limited and not colourful enough. “It’s not a reason for me not to like the school, though!” There was also a feeling that the PTA “could have a bigger say” in the running of the school.
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