With more than 25 years’ experience, this Christian school delivers an American-based college preparatory curriculum to children from kindergarten through to high school.
International Community School (Singapore) (ICS) is a school with community as its middle name – and this warm and welcoming mid-sized KG-12 school is as focused on producing good citizens as it is strong students.
Founded in 1993, ICS is one of several schools in Singapore to offer a US college prep curriculum, but the city-state's only Christian school. It's not hard to understand why ICS has become such a popular school with both American and Christian expat families alike.
Proudly committed to a “Christ-centred education”, ICS is a non-profit school with small class sizes of around 15 students and a low teacher to student ratio of 7:1. With around 450 students representing more than 20 nationalities, ICS offers a solid US-style education to students in kindergarten, middle and high school. The fees are mid-range, the campus is well-maintained and well-established, and there are strong bonds between students, teachers and parents.
Although it doesn't advertise the fact in its name, ICS is a US-style school where teaching is heavily influenced by American methods. It follows a US curriculum based upon Common Core State Standards for English and Mathematics, and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS); the school has also developed its own social studies curriculum based on the American Education Reaches Out (AERO) standards.
This curriculum is delivered by predominantly US teachers (85%), and ICS follows the US two-semester system with the year beginning in mid-August and ending in late May.
The elementary and middle school curriculum also covers music, art, digital technology, Mandarin and PE. Middle school students can select two electives per semester, which the school says helps them to “find their passion”. These range from art, computer programming and robotics to life skills, worship band, Google guru, and guitar. There are also four Advisory sessions every week for middle school students, giving them time for reading and learning support.
In high school, students work towards their SATs and AP courses. They have a choice of up to 20 AP courses including sciences, English, studio art, history, maths, music, psychology, Spanish and Chinese. Other subjects studied include the core subjects, Spanish, Mandarin, PE, the arts, technology, social studies and the Bible. All Grade 12 students end their education by completing a Capstone project.
Students are tested using external exams such as MAP (Measures of Academic Progress), so student progress can be benchmarked against global averages.
ICS focuses on inquiry-based learning, which is described by one elementary teacher as,
“It’s not just about learning and cramming information, it’s about doing and using it. We do a lot of hands-on experiences as I want them to dig deep into what they’re learning.”
The school has a low-student-teacher ratio, and with small class sizes of 16 in elementary and middle school and 15 or less in high school, teachers are able to work in small groups with students of different abilities and offer 1:1 learning. There’s a lot of talk about how as ICS can “cater to the different needs of students” – and with such small class sizes and teachers dedicated to personalised learning, the school seems to be achieving this goal.
Also, the school champions a love of reading by adopting the Accelerated Reader programme (very popular in US schools), where students choose their own books to read, and complete online quizzes after reading each book to assess how well they understood it. Middle and high school students are required to have a subscription to the National Library of Singapore to encourage them to read more.
A Christian school
ICS is a Christian school where the education is based on Christian values. All students attend Bible class four days a week, elementary students have a weekly chapel meeting, and there’s an annual Spiritual Emphasis Week. Children are often heard singing worship songs on the schools bus home, and many of the teachers are “Christian educators”.
While 68% of the students are Christian, the school does welcome families of all religious beliefs.
As the name would suggest, ICS is an international school, which it celebrates through seasonal parties for events such as Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, and an annual International Night. Although the majority of students are from the US, the school also has a sizeable number of students from Asia.
This is a school that actively encourages students to take part in a range of non-academic activities, ranging from sports days to student councils. Extra-curricular activities and sports clubs include robotics, dance, service club, cross-country, bowling, ukulele, creative writing, basketball, soccer, and badminton.
There are also opportunities to represent the school in a range of competitive sports teams, and high school students can coach junior athletes by signing up to the Coach Mentorship Programme. This is one of several ways in which the school is building bridges between its younger and older students; another is the Elementary Buddy scheme, which sees middle school students visit their 'buddy’ every other week in Bible class to spend time reading and working on projects.
As mentioned before, ICS is a community school. This is strengthened by a very active Parent Teacher Fellowship, which hosts activities including weekly Bible study, Mums in Prayer, and craft and fitness mornings. The PTF has a dedicated 'cottage' on the campus, and is heavily involved in fundraising and settling in new families to the school.
ICS has a 1:1 laptop programme in middle and high schools, and all students have a weekly technology class in the school's makerspace and/or design and technology lab. Although ICE isn't the most advanced school in terms of equipment, it is actively teaching children how to use technology to be responsible digital citizens, to communicate, to create and to problem-solve.
Contributions to the community
In line with its strong Christian principles, ICS has a strong focus on service learning. While there are several service initiatives throughout the academic year, the highlight is the FaithWorks programme for middle school and the high school Week Without Walls programme.
ICS’ average SAT score is 1883, which is 400 points above the US national average. In the 2018 AP results, 88% of students scored 3+; 62% AP scored 4+; and 35% scored 5; these results are all consistently higher than the global averages. While the majority of students go on to attend universities in the US, some study in Asia, the UK and Australia.
Campus and facilities
ICS is one of several international schools in Singapore to occupy a former MOE government school. While this means it has an older, less glitzy campus than some of the new purpose-built schools here, ICS does have offer all the charm of a traditional school site, have decent-sized classrooms, and have plenty of outdoor space.
Facilities include science labs, a makerspace, basketball courts, indoor hall/gym, early years play area, art rooms, canteen and grass fields.
ICS is fully accredited by the Association of Christians School International (ACSI) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) and is a member of the Network of International Christian Schools (NICS).
Admission and fees
ICS is a mid-range school in terms of fees, which range from $23,155 for kindergarten to $33,635 for Grade 12. These are all-inclusive fees, and the only additional cost is an application or re-enrollment fee of $2,000 or less.
Families who are involved in full-time Christian service can receive a "substantial discount" on their school fees.
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