Big things come in small packages at Canadian International School’s Tanjong Katong cosy campus, which delivers a well-rounded primary education boosted by excellent outdoor learning, STEAM and bilingualism.
In some ways, the Canadian International School’s Tanjong Katong campus couldn’t be more different to its western sibling, the Lakeside campus. It’s much smaller, far less modern and only offers an International Baccalaureate education up to Grade 6. In other ways, though, these two schools are so similar. They both offer a pioneering bilingual programme in Chinese and English to students aged four to 10, have a spectacular Outdoor Discovery Centre for kindergarten students, and take a unique approach to teaching STEAM (Science, Technology, Entrepreneurship, Arts and Mathematics).
View our tour of the Lakeside campus here.
The Tanjong Katong campus, affectionately known as TK, is a small, intimate school for students from two to 12 years; there are approximately 900 students here. TK does its best to create a close-knit school community with inter-connecting recreational areas and classrooms having direct access to a newly built Outdoor Discovery Centre. Other learning spaces include a library, an outdoor amphitheatre, a STEAM makerspace, a covered sports court, playing field, gym and outdoor classroom.
The school moved onto the site of the former Tanjong Katong Girls’ School in 2007, which is a heritage site with plenty of charm. The government lease on the land at TK expires in 2020-21, but the school is confident that it will be renewed. While some of TK's facilities are not as glitzy as at other schools in the city, they are every bit as modern. In the school’s own words, "it's an intimate environment in lush green surroundings." And that is like a breath of fresh of air in a city such as Singapore.
The campus is overseen by Head of School Peter Corcoran, and each school is managed by its own principal. 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.
For CIS’ youngest learners (aged two to five), the focus is very much on imagination, creativity and self-discovery. While there are all the facilities you’d expect from a nursery environment – colourful classrooms, a junior library and playground – the school’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. Students typically continue their education from Grade 7 at the CIS Lakeside campus, and the school offers a free bus service to this campus in the western part of Singapore.
While its curriculum is not exclusively Canadian, its approach to teaching does follow Canada’s student-led model. 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.
CIS Tanjong Katong 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).
The CIS learning path at TK follows the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (IB PYP) from Pre-kindergarten through to Grade 6. Students then have the option of continuing their IB studies at CIS’ Lakeside campus, which runs up until the IBDP.
The non-selective school’s unique bilingual Chinese-English programme encourages all students from Kindergarten through to Grade 6 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. French and Spanish are also taught as part of the IB curriculum.
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."
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. An annual STEAM Fair inspires both parents and children with innovative activities such as building a rollercoaster or learning to code a robot.
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, its compulsory for Grades 4 to 6 to have an iPad. 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 an outdoor amphitheatre and a music room, 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 followed Lakeside’s example and invested in a stand-out Outdoor Discovery Centre. Opened in 2017, this facility is much more than a playground; it is used by teachers in all years 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 this outdoor centre should put TK on your shortlist.
"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 other ways in which CIS takes learning outside the classroom. Competitive and recreational sports run throughout the school year, and include cross country and football. CIS also has an extensive programme of co-curricular activities (CCAs) and after-school languages. Outdoor learning programmes include Open Minds, which sees Grades 1 to 6 spend up to a week in real-world settings; Grades 4 to 6 travel to countries including Thailand, China, Cambodia and Canada for excursion weeks.
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.
Around 30% of teachers are recruited from Canada, with the rest coming from the US and Europe.
Read our Q&A with Peter Corcoran here.
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.
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 on-campus for the primary 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.
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