ISS Paterson offers the globally respected International Baccalaureate curriculum within a small school community that lives up to its international name.
Bigger is not necessarily better, and smaller schools such as ISS International School (Paterson) offer a certain community spirit that can sometimes be lacking at sprawling campuses in Singapore. What this International Baccalaureate school lacks in terms of state-of-the-art classrooms, outdoor space and Olympic-sized sports facilities, it makes up for with small class sizes, a central location and a truly cosmopolitan student population.
ISS opened more than 35 years ago, making it one of Singapore’s oldest and most well-established international schools. Today it has two campuses, one serving the elementary and middle schools (Kindergarten 1 to Grade 8, PYP and MYP) at 25 Paterson Road (off Orchard Road) and the high school campus at 21 Preston Road (off Alexander Road). Its elementary and middle schools are located on the Paterson campus in River Valley, where it teaches IB’s Primary Years Programme (PYP) and Middle Years Programme (MYP) from Kindergarten through to Grade 8 (four to 14 years); students then have the option to study the IBDP at the ISS Preston Road campus in nearby Bukit Merah.
The Paterson campus will close next June when its lease with the Singapore Land Authority expires. ISS will relocate students to its high school campus in Bukit Merah after “making the exciting decision to unify the school”.
Located in Telok Blangah Hill National Park, the Preston campus will become an all-through school for KG to Grade 12, with a maximum capacity of 650 students to help maintain the school’s intimate, close-knit and “village style learning community”.
ISS Paterson in River Valley has all the advantages of a central location with the benefits of an intimate, village-style school. As a small school with just 500 students, ISS Paterson can offer small class sizes, more opportunities for every student to take part in extra-curricular and leadership activities, closer student-teacher interaction, and a family feel. In the words of one parent, “At ISS, we’re like a big family. Everyone knows everyone else’s name, and we look out for one another.”
Head of school Dr. Margaret Alvarez oversees both campuses, and there is a middle principal, Michael Taylor, and elementary school principal, Elizabeth Loadwick.
Realising every student’s potential
There’s a lot of talk on the ISS website about “realising potential” in each and every student. The school sets out to achieve this by keeping class sizes small with as few as eight students per class. There’s also an excellent student support system including an onsite student counsellor, university advisor, guardianship and boarding services, pastoral care programme, and an after-school ROW (Reading, Organisation, Writing) club for learning support.
ISS also delivers a strong and established "English as a Second Language " programme. Each students' level of English language proficiency and progress is closely monitored with a differentiated approach taken for each and every student. At the MYP level, ISS has the Preparatory Course for High School, a one-year preparatory course of study that prepares students with limited academic English for entry for entry into either IBMYP 4 or 5 (Grades 9 and 10) and subsequently to gain entry into the IB Diploma programme (Grades 11 and 12). Students undergo intensive English instruction at the same time as they learn core secondary subjects such as mathematics, science, humanities and elective subjects such as the arts and physical education.
As stated in the parent-student handbook, students are expected to take at least one co-curricular activity (CCA), commit to a community service project, act as a buddy for new students, recycle materials, e-waste, spend time with others during breaks – and get plenty of sleep. (All parents will happily support that one!)
ISS expects learning to continue beyond the classroom; Grades 6 and 7 should complete one hour’s homework plus reading daily, and Grade 8 up to 90 minutes’ homework plus reading daily. There’s also an academic honesty code and a house system to encourage healthy competition. It all makes ISS feels like a very traditional school – and one with a close-knit community that can be so appealing to expat families.
An international school
There are plenty of schools with international in the title, but some feel more international than others. ISS is one of them. The school was founded in 1981 by a member of Singapore’s post-colonial government, Chan Chee Seng, to address the shortage of international schools in the country. ISS is part of a larger ISS educational group, which includes the Beijing International School of Singapore (BISS) in China. Today, this family-owned, not-for-profit school has kept its appeal to students from all nationalities.
It is one of only a few international schools in Singapore to offer a purely IB curriculum, and not mix and match with other curricula. It has a teaching staff from 19 countries including the UK, US, Canada and Australia. Also, it supports students with English as a second language and strongly encourages bilingualism; all students from K1 through to Grade 8 study Mandarin, although this is the norm in many private schools here. For parents living overseas, the school offers a guardianship programme that places students with ISS-listed guardians, as well as a boarding house service.
The Paterson campus is on the smaller side and does look slightly dated next to the newer schools on Singapore’s education scene. However, it does offer all the basics for a quality education, from a well-equipped library, music and art rooms, and wi-fi enabled classrooms to an iMac lab, basketball court, shaded play area, a small playing field and canteen. Its leafy surroundings are a bonus too. The school year runs from August to June.
ISS has the benefit of many years’ experience in offering the IB programme to expat students. As well as the core subjects taught as part of the IB curriculum, the arts, PE, extra-curricular activities, and Service as Action / CAS, feature very strongly at ISS too. this ensures a holistic education for all their students. Evey student is given an equal opportunity to participate in all such activities to enable them to identify their strengths. Hence, there is student participation in public art exhibitions; scriptwriting, improve and drama; and a biannual Arts Showcase.
PE lessons, including swim classes, are mainly held off campus as the school has limited sporting facilities. Students are introduced to a wide variety of sports including badminton, taekwondo and ultimate frisbee. ISS also fields teams in basketball, football and volleyball for the Athletic Conference of Singapore International Schools (ACSIS) league.
Languages offered include English, Mandarin, Japanese and Korean, and a multitude of other mother tongue languages from Grade 6 to Grade 12. While it may not have the most modern technology labs, ISS is wired with technology. K1 to Grade 6 students work with MacBooks, Chrome Books and iPads in lessons, and Grades 7 to 8 have a 1:1 MacBook programme (students are required to purchase their own MacBooks). Students also use the online learning platform ManageBac to receive and submit assignments.
Action as Service is an integral part of the curriculum at ISS, and this initiative encourages students to apply what they learn in the classroom to real world issues. Projects in Vietnam, Cambodia and Singapore have included creating a basketball court for an orphanage in Indonesia, building boats for children to go to school in the Philippines, and working with animal welfare groups. At the very least, all middle and high school students take part in one Week Without Walls activity.
Students are also encouraged to sign up to the school’s extensive ECA programme, which runs clubs on campus every day from 2.30pm. Activities cover the arts, sport, sciences and creativity and range from aikido through to volleyball; there are some interesting clubs to engage bright young minds, such as street magic, fun science, DJ programme and ISS news team.
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