• Easily accessible by car, central location
• Small, welcoming campus
• Older, low-rise buildings with plenty of outdoor space
Some campuses wow you with their sweeping driveways, modern architectural design and global branding. Others simply welcome you with a feeling of familiarity and warmth. International Community School is definitely the latter.
There are several things that strike you as you walk or drive into this campus in the western district of Clementi. There’s the banner advertising the school’s 25th anniversary, which highlights how well-established ICS is. The traditional cottage building that houses the very active Parent Teacher Association here. The Biblical proverbs that hint at the school’s Christian values. And the large, grass playing fields that are surrounded by trees, which makes the school feel worlds away from the nearby busy AYE highway.
Housed in a renovated government school, ICS does not have all the glitz and glamour of Singapore’s newest international schools. What it does offer, though, is a positive climate where children can feel safe and have a sense of belonging, and an intimate campus where teachers and children all know each other.
Located close to the AYE highway it’s easily accessible and secure. It’s surrounded by high and low-rise housing blocks and is located next door to a local school and a pre-school, so expect a fair amount of school traffic at drop-off and pick-up times.
• Large classrooms, small class sizes
• Strong focus on Christian values
• Positive classroom environment with plenty of student input
Small schools often have a better sense of community than large campuses, and we certainly felt this at ICS. ICS has been at this campus, a former government school, for the past 13 years. It feels lived-in but well-maintained, spacious but cosy, and central but quiet. The school has separate low-rise buildings for kindergarten and some specialist classes, and a main school building for the elementary, middle and high school.
Children joining ICS in kindergarten walk into creative, stimulating classroom environments. There are colourful displays of student work, working walls, drawers filled with learning resources, and plenty of tools for learning that have been handmade by the teachers.
The elementary classrooms, which move up a grade as you walk up through the main building, are well-lit, roomy and welcoming. Far removed from the cramped classrooms in some international schools in Singapore, these rooms have less than 20 desks. Students here clearly have more opportunities to ask questions, contribute to class discussions and get to know their teachers and classmates.
ICS has not tried to reinvent the classroom for the digital age, and its more traditional layout and furniture will appeal to those looking for that old-school charm. That said, there are different areas for inquiry-based learning including desks, the carpet, beanbags, and reading corners.
The students clearly ‘own’ these classrooms, which is evident by the art and project work on every wall, and the child-led Classroom Norms or Student Pledge next to the teacher’s desk; these handwritten goals – such as “I can use kind words”, “I can treat others the way I would like to be treated” and “I can be a problem solver” – offer an insight into the positive values embedded across the ICS community.
The middle and high school classrooms certainly have a more mature look and feel about them, and they are subject-based. Every teacher has the freedom to design the classroom as they wish, and we saw different variations using desks, benches and stools, beanbags, exercise balls and sofas. We also saw plenty of evidence of the school’s inquiry-based science curriculum and its hands-on approach to learning, from student projects using recycled materials to sensory play activities.
The whole-school library is spacious with well-stocked shelves of books, sofas for reading, desks for studying, and IT stations. It’s large enough without feeling overwhelming and a central part of the campus.
We saw the school’s art rooms during their mid-year prime. They had paint spatters round the sink and on the desks, freshly-made paintings and sculptures on the walls and shelves, and even the aroma of paint and wet clay. What really stands out here though is the display of pen pots recently fired in the school’s kiln, and examples of different techniques ranging from Japanese quill work to Picasso.
Other facilities include a makerspace, design technology lab, science labs, basketball courts, early years’ play area, gym/multi-purpose hall, and a canteen. Students can buy hot lunches at the school, and Grade 11 students can go off campus during lunch breaks. Although specialist facilities such as the science labs may be fairly small, they offer enough space for the small classes at ICS, especially the AP classes which can be as low as eight.
The caring side of this school really shines though. Located next to a community garden, there’s a parent-teacher cottage that gives parents their own base at the school. And there are positive messages displayed throughout the school, from the teacher’s quote on every classroom door to Biblical proverbs painted by students on corridor walls.
Overall the campus feels spacious, clean and uncluttered – even more so when you take into account that there are only 450 students here. The colourful lockers, murals and bright blue basketball courts also help to create a cheerful learning environment. Yes, some of the facilities are basic compared to other international schools, but there’s definitely the sense that all children have access to them.
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