Singapore’s only French school offers the French curriculum – from Maternelle through to the Baccalauréat diploma – for students aged two to 18 years. While IFS has a predominantly French student body, it is well-equipped to deliver a bilingual education to students of all nationalities.
Here’s a school that follows the guidelines of the French national curriculum and is accredited by the French Ministry of Education. As a bilingual school, its curriculum is taught in English and includes the teaching of English. And, as a school with more 60 different nationalities, it is culturally diverse. With tuition fees ranging from $17,215 to $26,990, it is also competitive and affordable.
One of Singapore’s oldest international schools, IFS was founded more than 50 years ago. During this time it has branched out from its French curriculum with the addition of a bilingual French stream, and it has changed its name from Lycée Français de Singapour to the International French School (Singapore) (IFS) – a move that marks its direction towards a much more ‘international’ education. IFS has plans to expand its capacity by an extra 2,000 students; there are no plans to relocate, but the school is developing new facilities on its existing site.
IFS is Singapore’s only French school for students aged 2 to 18 years. And, while this school has a predominantly French student body, IFS is well-equipped to deliver a bilingual education to students of all nationalities; in fact, 40% of students are international.
While there are other international schools offering French-English bilingual streams (these include the Canadian International School and the Swiss School of Singapore), IFS is the only school to teach the French curriculum – from Maternelle through to the Diplome National du Brevet at middle school and the Baccalauréat diploma at high school – in both English and French. Non-native French-speaking students (up to 11 years old) get the opportunity to learn French and study the French curriculum through a full immersion experience that is unmatched by any other school in Singapore.
Located in Ang Mo Kio, this non-profit school has a primary school at its new AMK 2900 campus, and a middle and high school at its original AMK 3000 campus next door. Students share facilities including swimming pools, gymnasiums, sports fields, a stadium, a climbing wall, and technology labs.
Which stream is right for my child?
IFS has developed several language streams for students of different language proficiency: Classic or Anglais+ in kindergarten to elementary; Classic or International in middle school; and Classic, International, or European in high school. All streams follow the French curriculum, but offer varying degrees of teaching in English; they are flexible so that students can switch as they develop their language skills.
From kindergarten through to high school, non-French speaking students are enrolled in the Classic Stream where the curriculum is taught in both French and English with a strong emphasis on French language acquisition. Throughout the school day, individual subjects are taught in both languages by two teachers (one French, one English) in the classroom. These students get up to eight hours of lesson time in English and English is taught as a second language; the number of hours taught in English decreases from nine per week in kindergarten to 6.5 in elementary and seven in college.
The Anglais+ stream is designed for KG and elementary students who are fluent in both French and English. The full French curriculum is taught by two teachers in both languages, and teaching alternates with one day in French and one day in English; the curriculum also includes bilingual lessons taught by both teachers in the class at the same time.
In Grades 6 – 12, students can move into IFS’ truly bilingual programme, called the International Stream. Designed for fluent speakers in both French and English, this stream runs throughout College from Sixième to Troisième (Grade 6 to 9), with the option to continue through Lycée (Grade 10 to 12) to graduation. The International Stream prepares students for the French Baccalaureate International Option (IOB) where they are examined in English language, literature, history, and geography.
Once students move into Grades 10 – 12, they can opt to join the European Stream. This includes extra hours (4.5 hours per week) of English instruction in the students’ Second Language classes and one additional subject (physics, history, or geography). This offers motivated students the opportunity to develop their skills in modern languages and their knowledge of different cultures.
Does my child have to speak French to attend IFS?
In short, the answer is no. There is a growing community of non-French speakers at the school who study the French curriculum in IFS’ bilingual Classic Stream – and the school is committed to welcoming them. That said, the school is equally focused on developing the English language skills of its French speaking students.
“We want children who are fluent in French, but also children who are fluent in English. So, children who are multilingual.”
But how does IFS ensure that these students settle into a non-English speaking system and overcome the challenges of learning a new language? Well, it is certainly very well equipped to do so with a strong support programme in place to help non-French speaking students get up to speed.
Students as young as five years can attend an immersive French language support programme designed to gradually integrate non-French speakers into the curriculum at elementary or middle school. Even as late as Grades 6 and 7, there is a French gateway programme which consists of a small class of non-French speaking students led by a qualified and dedicated bilingual teacher. There is also a Buddy system, where students are paired with their French-speaking peers. The school offers continuing support to non-French speakers; however, from Grade 8, when this becomes more challenging, students must meet certain pre-requisites in French.
Parents are right to be cautious about enrolling their non-French speaking child into such a school, and should expect to face several challenges along the way. However, the benefits of seeing your child adapt to a different culture, learn a new language, and go from zero to fluent French speaker may be worth the early obstacles.
Students can enter IFS from as young as two years when they join Maternelle (N1 to K2). While the kindergarten is kept separate from the rest of this large school – and has a dedicated entrance and separate canteen and play area – students do have use of school facilities such as the 25m swimming pool. There’s a low teacher to student ratio (1 to 15) in these year groups, which helps to support the school’s early years bilingual programme.
In Elementaire/elementary school (Grades 1 – 5) the main focus of teaching is on learning the French language and mathematics – just as in any local school in France. Other subjects include English, Mandarin, art, music, PE, civic and moral education, history, geography, science, and technology.
Students at IFS get a one-hour weekly Mandarin lesson by a native teacher, which is considerably less than many international schools in Singapore which offer one hour per day or more. If you consider Mandarin to be an important part of your child’s education, it is worth reviewing other bilingual schools in Singapore such as Canadian International School (CIS) and Singapore American School (SAS).
In College/middle school (Grades 6 – 9), students start to study a much wider variety of subjects including French, modern & ancient languages (English, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Latin), art, music, theatre, PE, civic and moral education, history and geography, life and earth sciences, physics-chemistry, technology, maths, and media and information studies. From Cinquième (Grade 7), students must select a second language of study from a choice of Mandarin, Spanish, or German, and from Quatrième (Grade 8), students can take a third language in German, Spanish, Mandarin, or Latin.
In Lycee/high school (Grades 10 – 12), IFS students work towards the French Baccalaureate (Bac) and the French Baccalaureate International Option (IOB). As mentioned before, IFS is the only school in Singapore to offer these qualifications.
In Grade 10, students are taught a set of general classes (up to 35 hours a week) in French, history, and geography, two modern languages (the second modern language is compulsory for all pupils), maths, physics, and chemistry, earth and life sciences, PE, and moral and civic education. Grade 10 students in the International Stream of Lycée can study for IGCSE exams in Language (A) English, geography, history, and English literature. There are many international schools in Singapore offering IGCSEs, but it is important for a non-native English speaker studying at a bilingual school such as IFS to achieve a Grade C in IGCSE English; this is often enough to “satisfy the language requirements for some universities in English-speaking countries”.
In Grades 11 and 12, students prepare for Le Bac. This provides students with a globally recognised university entrance qualification; the vast majority of students from IFS (around 60%) attend a French university, with the second most popular destination being the UK (20%).
As you’d expect from the French curriculum, learning is developed using research, problem solving, analysis, and a combination of group work and individual study. Teaching focuses on independent, analytical thinking and cultural knowledge, and there is a strong foreign language policy (usually English). Another positive for some French families is that IFS follows the French curriculum consistently from KG through to high school; there is no deviation to another curriculum.
Importantly, IFS is certified by the French Ministry of Education to deliver the French curriculum to students from kindergarten through to high school. And, as a member of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE), it offers its students a simple and easy transfer to French schools throughout the world.
Beyond the classroom
IFS offers students a well-rounded education. Just like any international school, IFS has a broad sport and arts programme taught by specialist teachers.
The school offers more than 60 extra-curricular activities with a choice of French or English in the afternoon and on Saturday mornings; students participate in inter-school (AEFE network), local, and international sports and artistic events. Grade 10 students can join the ADN-AEFE exchange programme, which gives them the opportunity to spend time overseas, living with a family and studying in another school within the AEFE network.
Assessment and academic results
In line with the French education system, all students take the French National brevet Diploma, (Diplôme National du Brevet or DNB) at the end of Troisième (Grade 9, age 14/15). Students in the International Stream can opt for the French National Brevet Diploma International Option (DNBI).
In 2019, 80% of students received Bien/Très Bien in the DNB and 94% were graded Bien/Très Bien in the DNBI. This is a good indicator of the strength of IFS’ bilingual programmes. 70% of IFS students achieved A* – A for one or more IGCSE exams.
IFS is the only school in Singapore to offer the French Baccalaureate (Bac) and the French Baccalaureate International Option (IOB) – and it is doing it well. In 2019, as well as reaching a 100% pass rate for both the Bac and IOB, more than 75% of IFS students achieved their BAC and IOB with distinction. The IOB program is a rigorous programme and series of exams in which English language and literature, history, and geography are taught and examined in English by English speaking teachers.
Leadership and faculty
IFS has been steered towards becoming a more international school by the current principal Christian Soulard. Previously principal of the Lycée Français International de Hong Kong, Soulard joined IFS in 2017 and he has brought with him experience in bilingual French-English teaching. He is supported by a predominantly French leadership team and international faculty.
Campus and facilities
IFS has a large campus to match its student body. Facilities include 60 classrooms including exam rooms, four libraries, four large performance halls, drama, music, and dance studios, technology suites, science laboratories, canteens, parent café, and dormitories for the youngest students.
To deliver its sports programmes, IFS has two 25 metre swimming pools, two full-size rugby and football pitches, three gyms, including one with a climbing wall, multiple large outdoor playgrounds, a running track, and a badminton court.
The kindergarten, elementary, and middle and high schools, each have a dedicated entrance, which helps to ease any congestion during drop off and pick up times. They also have their own facilities such as canteen, play areas, and libraries, which avoids any part of the campus feeling overcrowded; allows students to have greater access to age-appropriate resources; and helps to give students a sense of belonging to their part of the school. It’s also an exciting time for the school as it looks to expand with new kindergarten and other educational facilities.
Admission and fees
IFS is positioned as a mid-range school in terms of tuition fees, which range from $17,215 in kindergarten to $26,990 in high school. Fees do vary slightly between the different pathways; for example, the Classic stream is cheaper than Anglais+. Admission costs of around $5,000 are lower than many international schools, and there is no capital levy.
In terms of entry requirements, students from a school accredited by the French Ministry of Education are considered on the basis of their previous school records; all others must undergo an assessment. Non-French speaking children up to 12 years old can apply to IFS; after this, they would struggle with the French curriculum. From 6 years old, students who don’t master the French language must undergo an assessment.
In line with French schools, the academic year runs from September to July.
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