The Invictus group branches out from its family of affordable schools to offer a new (also low-cost) virtual school for primary-aged students.
Invictus International, which has campuses in Singapore, Hong Kong and Cambodia, launched a new online primary school called Invictus Family in 2020. Open for Grades 1-6 (six to 11 years old), teaching is based on the UK National Curriculum and Singaporean maths, and all lessons are taught live on Zoom.
Invictus Family is open to students of all nationalities and living in all countries; families should consider which time zone they are living in, however, as all live lessons will be delivered according to Singaporean time. As the school expands, Invictus plans to "offer more flexible hours to ensure reasonable learning hours, especially for younger students".
Invictus Family is offering a permanent alternative to the conventional classroom, and its opening is timely. During the Covid-19 pandemic, the online model of education has become even more popular in some parts of the world, and Invictus hopes to appeal to those families who prefer the freedom and flexibility of distance learning.
As principal Nicholas Duggan explains, students may prefer the online learning model that has been trialled by schools in Singapore for the past few weeks during the circuit-breaker period.
“For some students, learning in a virtual classroom may suit the style of learning, which requires greater independent learning skills. Convenience is another key factor in choosing virtual learning. It may just be due to the geographical location of students, where it may be impossible or impractical to travel to study.”
The biggest missing link in a virtual school is social interaction. So, what happens to the social aspect of learning when students are not attending a physical class, and don’t have the opportunity for face-to-face interactions with their peers? Invictus Family promises that students will meet in real-time through video meets and chats and, if living close by, they can meet up for play dates.
Another weakness of virtual schooling is its lack of accreditation. While Invictus is registered with the Committee for Private Education (CPE) in Singapore to deliver a private education within the city-state, it is not accredited to deliver a virtual platform (online schooling is currently outside the remit of Singapore’s CPE). Parents may find some reassurance in the fact that Invictus offers the support and accountability of an established international school group though.
Teaching will follow the UK National Curriculum and Singaporean maths. Invictus Family has not chosen to follow the International Primary Curriculum (IPC), which is known for its creative and thematic approach to teaching, and is taught at Invictus physical campuses.
Typical of many virtual schools, Invictus Family delivers synchronous (live) lessons for most of the daily timetable. Duggan highlights the importance of this two-way mode of teaching, saying, “Many platforms depend heavily on asynchronous (on demand) learning which removes much of the live interaction that we feel is so important.”
Many physical schools combined live lessons pre-recorded tutorials and webinars to deliver their distance learning, whereas a virtual school such as Invictus Family is live for the entire school day and follows a structured daily timetable like a physical international school.
Not every subject lends itself to a smooth transition to online learning, though. And, as distance learning has taught everyone, specialist subjects such as PE, art and languages are challenging to teach beyond the classroom.
Duggan reassures families that students will "have the right tools and space to do these subjects, and they will be guided by the specialist teacher. Where needed, images, music files and PE videos of student work is shared with the teacher for grading.”
While virtual schools offer a very different option to home schooling – parents are the full-time teachers in the latter – they do require some degree of parental involvement. Younger children, in particular will require more parental guidance.
Duggan hopes to reassure parents though by saying: "At a certain age, children are not able to self-regulate and the parent will need to help the teacher prior to and with any follow-up directions. However, during the instruction and monitored work online, the parent is not involved."
Invictus Family principal Nicholas Duggan is also principal for Invictus’ new Centrium campus in Singapore, which opens in August 2020. He has experience as secondary school principal of Yew Chung International School in Beijing, headteacher of St George’s British School Malaga, and headmaster of the first British Independent Boarding School in India, in partnership with King’s College Taunton in the UK.
Invictus Family has a small faculty recruited from Singapore and the UK, and Duggan is confident that with a teacher to student ratio of 1:25 (the same as its physical campuses), students will get all the support needed.
He says: “When you think about it, a teacher in a classroom is either presenting to class, or moving around groups of students with assigned work, perhaps grouped by ability level, or speaking individually with one student. This is exactly the same using video conferencing with options for private conversations which the teacher controls.”
Cost is certainly a key factor when considering a virtual school. Invictus has successfully established an affordable school model, with fees at its physical campuses in Singapore costing $17,000 per year. So, it's no surprise to see hugely discounted fees at its online campus; fees are $5,570 (USD 4,000), $10,000 less than its Singapore campus.
Duggan says that students can access an Invictus education for “considerably less than the on campus full-time study option”.
Just like a physical international school in Singapore, the academic year runs from August to July. Students are encouraged to attend a free trial class to experience Invictus Family first-hand and participate in the online learning before enrolling.
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